I’ve been barraging the hubs with the worst Russian puns today (What did the Russian bath attendant do to the tourist loudly complaining about the heat? He whipped him with birch branches and said “Next time I’ll banya!”), but you can credit him for the ridiculous name of this post.
Today marks exactly two weeks that I signed a contract with the Edge Fitness Clubs here in CT. I hadn’t used my apartment’s fitness center since August because it was too depressing to consider putting sand-leaking training weights on a 20-lb bar and later staring helplessly at the bench-less cable machine trying to magic a shoulder exercise out of it. I like weight lifting, but I didn’t like weight lifting there. So now I have all this fun equipment to play with! Between finally (finally!) getting to use a squat rack and bench rack, and taking a bunch of new classes, I’ve definitely gotten my money’s worth so far. And I haven’t even popped into the cardio cinema yet.
My favorite new thing is Zumba, and I’ve gone to 3-4 classes a week since I signed up. Up to now, I’ve had a miserable track record when it came to combining dance and fitness: Dance off the Inches was full of fake enthusiasm and steps I couldn’t understand, Bollywood DVDs were confusing, and Cardio Ballroom with Juliannne Hough was just frustrating. When I took a ballet class at Yale, everyone else appeared to have studied dance in the past (including a handful of advanced dancers who performed in Yale ballet and would wear pointe shoes and leotards to class – intimidating much?). Between the slim-limbed flexible undergrads and the muscle-backed ballerinas, I felt like the hippo in Fantasia. So that didn’t last long.
Zumba is such a different experience. The instructors are very clear that as long as you’re moving, you’re doing a great job. They’re fond of inclusive phrases like “this is NOT an audition” and “your body will not move like this person’s body,” which is really encouraging to somebody like me who just isn’t familiar with dance moves. Most classes have a mix of Latin and hip-hop songs, but it depends on the instructor, as does the intensity and complexity of the moves. One of the instructors was an intense maniac whose hair is drenched by the end of the class, but the room was so full and the moves changed so fast for me that I didn’t break a sweat and wanted to leave in frustration after like 20 minutes. Several other instructors use more kickboxing moves and simpler and more repetitive dance steps, and though they’re superficially not as intense as Sweat Lady, I get a great workout because I can actually follow along.
The other class attendees have been making a big difference, too. The women fall across the entire spectrum of fitness, from people with no flexibility to badass fifty-somethings who wear shirts that say “biceps don’t grow on trees,” all enjoying themselves in the same room. I love watching how the other women up the intensity, bust out X-rated moves, and enthusiastically do their own thing. It makes it so much easier for me to just throw myself into it. There’s a particular woman who has long legs just like me and gets into the moves, and I’ve been taking TONS of cues from her. Am I bending the right way? Look at Leg-lady. How high should I jump? Look at Leg-lady. Do I really look like a baby deer flailing around on an icy pond? Yes, you’re doing it wrong, do it like Leg-lady is doing it. I’d like to thank her for existing, but I haven’t found a way to do it that doesn’t sound completely creepy.
All this gym time is paying off, too. My tightest sweatshirt has gotten noticeably looser around the middle, and I’m seeing and feeling bones in my hip area that I haven’t noticed in like 2 years. (Not that I’m trying to having gross jutting hip bones, of course.) It feels great to be making progress after trying unsuccessfully for so long. I’m really excited to see where I’ll be by the end of the year on that whole front.