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Posts Tagged ‘exercise that isn’t torture’

Recently, I did something I’d never done before: I went to an exercise class.

Maybe saying “never” is inaccurate. First of all, it’s possible that I just don’t remember taking a class before. I recently talked to my dad about hiring someone to stretch the carpet in our upstairs hall and he said that I’d done that a few years ago and the person I’d asked said it wasn’t possible. Welp. Just blocked that right out of my head didn’t I. And then my husband referenced in an off-hand way the time he cut his finger so badly we had to go to the emergency room. Um. Whatnow? I have zero recollection of this supposed emergency injury. So I admit there could be an exercise class or two knocking around in my history somewhere.

Does this count? I know I went to a yoga class once, when my husband was in medical school. It was TERRIFYING because I was less outgoing then than I am now (not that I would ever in a million years describe myself as “outgoing”) and I went without a friend. And the instructor was very off-putting for reasons I cannot fully recall or articulate, but seem to be related to a) how clear it was he wasn’t wearing underpants and b) how he loudly declared that gas and other body noises were a common part of the practice, so let ’er rip and that was deeply unsettling to a Very Self-Conscious and Easily Embarrassed Twenty-Five-Year-Old. Also the class was crowded and I had no idea what I was doing and it was enough to put me off exercise classes of any sort for more than a decade.

ANYWAY. My friend asked if I would go to this class with her, so I automatically had a higher comfort level than with Yoga Gas Guy. Plus, I have done many a workout video in the intervening years and I feel more confident about my endurance and capability when it comes to exercise.

But it was a new experience, and I had to overcome a lot of internal resistance to say yes. So in case you are similarly curious about trying a class, but are deathly afraid of it, here’s my experience.

It was one of those barre classes, which is supposedly a combination of yoga, Pilates, and ballet. For years, I’ve heard about these barre classes and reacted with narrowed eyes and deep suspicion. Anything involving ballet should not involve me, is my general feeling. But I went online and read the website, which was very helpful: it explained exactly what to bring (water and sticky socks if I wanted them) and that all props would be provided. I didn’t know what “props” meant, so I asked my friend if I needed to bring a mat and it turned out that’s one of the props. (The other props turned out to be hand weights, a resistance band, and an exercise ball.)

I got there early and met the instructor and told her I was a newbie. She was super nice and told me things that went straight out of my head. Okay. Whatever. I used the bathroom, exchanged my shoes and normal socks for sticky socks (these are the ones I use; they are perfectly adequate and WAY less expensive than the $20-per-pair [!!!] socks you can buy at the barre place) (don’t buy these ones; the sticky spots don’t cover enough of the foot and I kept slipping when I wore them), and went into the room. Excuse me: studio.

It’s a big room with mirrors on three sides and a long ballet barre running along the mirror. We all got a couple of weights, a towel, and a resistance band, and went and picked a spot at the barre.  (The exercise balls were already tucked up on the barre all around the room.)

One of my worries about classes was that I would be the only one who didn’t know anyone. But that either wasn’t the case or didn’t matter. My friend had another friend there too, so they talked while I looked around and tried not to be too nervous. A lot of people seemed to know each other, but just as many seemed to be there by themselves. Some people chatted, some people just stood there silently.

One of my other worries was that I would be the only person with my body type. It doesn’t MATTER, of course, but I am self-conscious of my body and I was fretting that everyone would look like my friend, who has a more standard-of-current-beauty-trends body shape. I made myself go anyway. And it was okay. There were LOTS of different body types represented. The women were all different ages and races and shapes. That was a big relief.

When it came time for the class to start, the instructor put on a headset microphone and went to the front of the room – which turned out to NOT be the front of the room; any of the walls that had a mirror was fair game for being the “front,” so the only way to avoid being at the front was to stand in one of the far back corners, which I wouldn’t advise because it makes it so hard to see yourself in the mirror. She had all of us spread out all over the room and then she led us in a series of exercises. These were varied: yoga-type stretches, squats, modified burpees, 80s-style aerobics moves. It was fast paced and very hard, but she moved from exercise to exercise so quickly that it was still do able. And people were kind of doing their own thing. She would sometimes shout out a modification if you were having lower back pain or if your knees aren’t super great or if you are a beginner. And people were doing the modifications. Then she moved us to the barre, where we did some core and leg work with the exercise ball. This was SO HARD. My legs were shaking like crazy. But the instructor’s legs were shaking too, and so were my friend’s. So I figured it was just part of the deal. Then the instructor pulled out some yoga mats and we did floor work, some of it with the resistance band. And then we did some stretches and it was over. It went by surprisingly quickly. She played upbeat music at a nice loud volume the whole time, which I enjoyed.

One of the other things I was self-consious about was messing up and feeling stupid. But that quickly became a non-issue. I noticed what other people were doing, but more in a general sort of way. Like, I had the sense that some people were facing the barre for some of the thigh exercises while others had their backs to it, but it didn’t really register that Specific Woman was doing so, if that makes sense. So I don’t think anyone was looking at me, specifically, and critiquing my warrior pose or whatever.  Mainly, I was watching the instructor to see what I should be doing and to match her rhythm… or I was looking in the mirror at myself, trying to make sure my knees weren’t bending out over my toes or my back was straight.  And I figured that everyone else was doing the same. That helped me relax a little.

It was an hour-long class, and by the end of the hour, my legs were so weak that I literally could not walk down the stairs. Luckily, there was an escalator to the ground floor, but my friend walked down it and then had to stop and wait for me because my legs were no longer obeying my commands. And then I had to drive my stick-shift car home and it was nearly impossible.

But I really enjoyed the class. It was different from my normal workout video or treadmill routine. And I liked being pushed to do things I wouldn’t normally try on my own. So I signed up for another 10 classes, and I have been going about once or twice a week. I wouldn’t say that it’s fun, but it is very satisfying.

One of the things I hate about exercising is that the results aren’t immediate. Dieting is different: if I burn more calories than I take in, I see an immediate result on the scale. But exercise takes so much MORE than dieting – there’s all the time it takes, and the energy you have to put into running or barreing or whatever, not to mention the mental wheedling/cheerleading/bullying you have to do to get yourself to do it in the first place – and yet you have to wait for WEEKS, MONTHS EVEN before you see any difference at all. So I am not going to say that this class has in any way helped me lose weight. I haven’t really seen any body changes at all, but then again, I haven’t been going that long. But I think the class is enjoyable on its own. It’s challenging and a change of pace and all that.

I am not sure I will buy another block of classes when I’m done with this one; it’s very expensive and I have yet to decide whether it’s worth it. And I don’t know that I want to ask for it for Mother’s Day or something like that; that seems like a gift designed to make me feel irritated and sad, even if I ask for it specifically.

Oh! The other thing I wanted to tell you is that I have very sweaty palms. And feet, which is why I need the sticky socks. But my hands are also very slippery. I already owned a bunch of yoga gloves, and they are fine (and really inexpensive!). But they pull at the webbing between my fingers. So I got some yoga paws to try out and I like them much better.

The only problem with the yoga paws/gloves is that no one else wears them. Well, I think one woman – in her sixties, I would guess – does. But no one else does. And I know I shouldn’t care at ALL, but it does make me feel self-conscious. As does the fact that seemingly everyone in each class I’ve attended wears head to toe Lululemon. Great. Good for them. I am wholly intimidated by Lululemon, which seems geared to people with Not My Body Type. Plus, it seems to be Very Expensive, and my general feeling is that a legging is a legging. (Which is not to say that I’m right! Or that I think people shouldn’t buy Lululemon! If I had the budget for it and the confidence, I would be all over that shit!) (And I get that it is more like Investment Clothing and will probably last a LOT longer than my Cheapo exercise wear. But for me, right now, high-end athletic wear is a Startling ExpenseTM Swistle.) Anyway, the point is that I end up feeling really… left out? is that the word?… while wearing my Kirkland-brand leggings and my cheap Amazon sticky socks. It’s STUPID. And yet I still feel weirdly insecure. It’s the same way that I sometimes feel inferior when I’m driving my 2003 Honda in the school pickup line behind a chain of Mercedeses and Range Rovers and BMWs and Lexuses. I like my Honda. It’s a good car. It’s fully paid for. But when everyone around you has something that you don’t, it feels like you’re being singled out. Not that anyone has ever said anything, good or bad, about my car! Good ol’ peer pressure or the perception thereof! It’s so dumb! And yet such a powerful, irresistible force! Man, I really though that when I was Nearing Forty I wouldn’t care so much what other people think. And yet… SIGH. SO MANY INSECURITIES OMG.

Well, I am continuing to enjoy my classes despite my Costco leggings and yoga paws. I am hoping that I am giving off a No Fucks Given/Beat of My Own Drum kind of vibe rather than a Wildly Out of Place vibe. Not that anyone is even LOOKING at me long enough to even pick up a vibe; they are all too busy looking at their own form in the mirror and trying to keep up with the instructor and fretting over their own insecurities. It really DOESN’T matter, one single ounce. And it makes me super mad that I’m even thinking about it at all.

Maybe I need to scrap the exercise class, after all. My treadmill never makes me feel insecure about what I’m wearing!

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I did not think of it quickly enough to add to Friday’s post, but I am IN LOVE with this workout video:

Shape: Best-Ever Hollywood Workout

 

Shape best ever Hollywood

Photo from amazon.com. Every time I put this in my DVD player – EVERY TIME – I think about Paul Hollywood, of Great British Baking Show fame. I think I might prefer a Paul Hollywood exercise video. Especially if it involved cake.

I really hate going to the gym. Likewise, I hate exercise classes of any type. If I’m going to exercise, I’m going to do it in my own home where no one can hear me huffing and grunting or see how inflexible I am.

It took me… nearly 40 years to figure to this out, but my library has a lot of exercise videos that you can just… CHECK OUT! For FREE! So for the past six months or so, I have been adding two or three of them to my pile of books every time I go to the library. Some of them, as you may imagine, are terrible. Others are so good I plan on buying them.

The Shape: Best-Ever Hollywood Workout is my current favorite. It has lots of benefits:

  1. The “star” or “host” or “exercise guru” or whatever you want to call him is Gunnar Peterson, and he is not annoying at all. Some of the stars of these videos make me want to turn off the video. They can be too peppy or too aggressive. Jillian Michaels, for instance, is constantly reminding you that you have to WORK to see results. Don’t just sit there and eat ice cream while she’s working out. You have to DO THE EXERCISES. You want your abs to look like this backup exerciser right here? Well, you have to WORK to get them. Rock hard abs aren’t FREE. Sigh. It’s true and a good reminder and all that but it annoys the crap out of me. I’m DOING THE VIDEO, all right? Lay off me! Gunnar Peterson doesn’t really do any reminders like that. He basically says, “Do this exercise” and then he does some counting down to the last rep and then he moves on to the next exercise. Once in a while he’ll say, “Great job” or “Don’t let your arms gets sloppy” or something along those lines. That’s it.
  2. It has OPTIONS. There are two 20-minute workouts for the whole body and two 10-minute “targeted” workouts (one for your arms, one for your buns and thighs). I like to have options. It gets boring to do the same thing over and over, and so this allows me to rotate things.
  3. It’s FAST. You can do a whole workout in 20 minutes! Or 10 minutes, if you want to! And even in 20 minutes, I get my heart rate up and my muscles are noticeably sore the next day. I feel like it’s a worthwhile 20 minutes. And if you have 30 minutes, you can do one of the 20-minute workouts and then one of the 10-minute ones.
  4. It doesn’t really require special equipment. You can use hand weights, if you want. But usually one of the two backup exercisers isn’t using weights at all. You can use a yoga mat, if you want. Depends on how hard your floor is. But that’s really it. No exercise bands or balls or whatever else the kids are using these days.
  5. The exercises go by really quickly. If I’m doing a plank, I get to the point where I don’t think I can hold it much longer and it’s over. I’ve tried (vaguely, lazily) to count how many repetitions of each exercise you do, and it’s not many. Maybe 10, tops? It’s doable, is what I’m saying. So if there’s something you hate, you can get through it pretty quickly.
  6. It’s fairly low impact. I have bad knees, so I steer clear of anything high impact. One of the workouts has a small section of jumps, but it’s very fast and hasn’t bothered my knees at all. And you can skip it if you aren’t interested.
  7. There’s an option for “customizing” your workout – i.e., you go to a menu of all four workouts, and you can select which ones you want to do. And then they will play automatically. I feel like this should be #20 on the list, because it’s not really that great. I mean, it prevents you from having to press a couple of buttons on your remote, that’s all. But it’s a nice idea, I guess. I still end up fast forwarding through the cool-down of the first session and the warm-up of the second session. There’s only so much warming-up and cooling-down I can handle.

Disadvantages:

  1. This is a DVD, from 2010, which is nearly a DECADE ago. So if you don’t have a DVD player or a PlayStation that can play it, you are out of luck.
  2. Somehow, even though it’s a DVD, it’s still $14.98, which seems like a lot for a piece of near-defunct technology. I am still going to buy it, though. But maybe you could get it used, or check it out from your library. Or, for all I know, it exists in the ether in some digital form that you can access for free.

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