Once again I found myself surrounded by a sea of senior citizens who had bodies so taught their limbs looked like Twizzlers. I was the youngest in the group by at least 40 years and the least in shape. We were all decked out in our finest lululemon leggings and workout tanks. The instructor yelled into her microphone, “Squeeze those glutes, touch your toes, lifts your hips, suck in your abs,” at such a rapid pace I was still squeezing my glutes by the time others were waiting for what came after the ab sucking. I had a million excuses floating around in my head to explain why I was the slowest one in the introductory barre class. But I was always the slowest one no matter what the class.
I was the snail in Soul Cycle peddling and huffing while people pumped their legs to the beat of the blasting techno music.
I was the beached whale in pre-natal yoga who lay flat on her mat while I watched pregnant butts lift up to perfect points for downward dog.
Some instructors try to view me as their potential success story. They’ll scream, “C’mon! Faster! You can do it! Hold it longer!” But soon enough they give up. They realize that while others need a slight tweak to adjust their form, I need a completely new form. They end the class looking defeated.
After class, I feel a compulsion to stop by Dunkin’ Donuts for a sweet treat, or grab a chocolate bar at the closest bodega. Always a snack that’s not normally part of my diet but that symbolizes my ultimate FU. I don’t need to be the best in the class. While those losers are running back home to make a vegetable salad or sip a green juice, I’m having the last laugh relishing my Snickers.
Every time I go, I start off inspired, I spend the majority of the class embarrassed, and I leave with my middle finger dangling out of my jacket pocket.
One would think that after enough of these experiences, I would stop working out. Or at least stop working out in group settings. It’s true that I clock most of my exercising hours on the elliptical machine at the gym while watching the Bachelorette. But I can’t help throwing myself into the shark tank and seeing myself flail. A part of me wants to motivate myself. Another part enjoys self-flagellation.
Mostly, I’m hoping that I’ll surprise myself by fitting in. I want to be one of the lithe bodies that casually bend and flex in Kama Sutra-like positions even though I have never been able to touch my toes. Or be the one in the class that others look to when they can’t get a good view of the instructor.
I keep putting myself in these sweaty rooms because I think the more I go, the more comfortable I’ll be in them. I may never be confident enough to sit in the front row at Soul Cycle, but maybe one day I’ll leave the class without muttering, “screw it.” Eventually, I might stop by the juice bar on my way home instead of getting ice cream. Ultimately, I’ll know I made progress when the instructor smiles at me and says, “good form” – or let’s not get crazy – if he says, “just lift up your hips a little higher. There, you got it.”
Until then, I’ll keep going and hating it.