Saturday, February 26, 2011

Shaping up, Part 2

A minor correction to part 1: I said I wasn't doing this for my health, but the more I think about it, I kind of am. According to my therapist exercise is a good way to manage ADHD without medicine. I'm not hyperactive, so I don't need to exercise to burn off steam, but I do have really poor impulse control, especially when it comes to ridiculous, moderately skanky clothing (e.g., "OMG sequined hotpants ON SALE!!!") So really, the least I can do is make sure I look decent enough to actually wear the things I buy.
I'm not putting too much effort into my diet yet (I'm eating girl scout cookies as I type this), but I have started going to the fitness classes at my gym. And I have to say, the YMCA, God bless it, is the best place to start working out if you have no idea what you're doing. Fact: I am no good at moving. I may be a musician, and I may have curves, but when I move there is zero sense of rhythm and negative grace. I have done the occasional step aerobics class, and some basic choreography in high school productions, but that is about it. But at the Y, that doesn't matter! Come as you are! We'll help you get fit, and we'll watch your kids while you do it! Heck, we'll even get your kids fit! Our prices our reasonable, our classes are user-friendly, and you won't feel ashamed to take your clothes off in the locker room because everyone looks the same as you or worse!

Even so, I was nervous about going to a class that would require a lot of coordination, so I started out last Saturday with Bodypump, an awesome class where you and a bunch of old ladies and moms do strength training moves, like lunges and chest presses, to music. Squats are a little unnerving when you already feel bad about your butt, but by the next day I could feel that every single muscle group we worked was sore. This is a great class: no complicated moves, no beautiful people who are better than you, lots of fun and immediate payoff. I went again today and I did more weight this time (two kilograms more, but it's a low weight/high rep thing, so I felt good about it.)

Then on Tuesday night, high off the successes of Bodypump, Ryan and I went to a Zumba class. Oh, Zumba. How can I begin to describe this? On Facebook I called it Jazzercise plus ethnic music minus leotards, and I think that may be all you need to know. Here's a video:

Now imagine what you just saw with the type of people who work out at the Y (the aforementioned moms and old ladies). Also, we were all Minnesotan, so there was no yelling, just some polite clapping at the end of each song (none from the Lutherans, I'm sure).

I had watched a few of these videos before class so I had some idea of what to expect; however, I was not prepared to walk into the fitness studio and see it completely dark except for a few strings of Christmas tree lights and one of those spinning colored light things. Because Zumba is a party, y'all! Except that with the few people standing around, waiting for class to start and making small talk, it looked more like a junior high dance (were those good exercise? I remember being sweaty and smelly but I think that was from being surrounded by equally sweaty and smelly teens. There was also the unknown, uncomfortable feeling in the lower abdomen from dancing too close to boys. I'm sure I burned a few calories praying about that.)

Once the class started, though, I realized the reason for the dim lighting. You can't see anything, including yourself. So, for example, while on some level I knew I looked like a Barrel of Monkeys character (a monkey, not the barrel) while we were doing snake arms to the Indian song, I couldn't see it, so it didn't matter as much. And that helped a lot. I was actually enjoying myself - still struggling, and a bit out of breath and confused, but for the most part having fun.

And then, about halfway through the song, something awesome happened. Proud Mary. Quite possibly the greatest song choreography of all time, and we danced to it. And from that moment on, I FRIGGIN' LOVED ZUMBA.

Here's another video. This time, imagine it with the moms, the old ladies, and me, with a big stupid grin on my face.

(Another semi-related story: The circles I ran in during college were such that I ended up at a lot of gay parties. One such party was at the apartment of a recent graduate who was a well-respected member of the drag scene which Ames, Iowa for some reason had. Late into the night, when I was too drunk to fully appreciate it, Proud Mary started playing and the host, apropos of nothing, got up and started doing his routine to it. He wasn't in drag, and he was probably just as drunk as I was, but his lip syncing and dancing were flawless. And when you see a large, drunk, gay man give a performance like that, one that Tina Turner herself would have been proud of, man, that's something that sticks with you forever.)

I went back to Zumba on Thursday and it wasn't quite as good as the first time, probably due to the fact that I was standing near a lamp so I could sort of see myself in the mirrors. But I think now that I've gone twice I know most of the steps, so I can start working on swinging my hips a little more. That should help with the awkwardness. And most importantly, now in addition to my short-term goal (get in shape for swimsuit season), I have a long-term goal: Get me a pair of Tina Turner legs.

Because I will buy a pair of sequined hot pants; it's only a matter of time. And I will most likely wear them somewhere inappropriate (a dive bar? a friend's theater production? church?). But if I can stick with this workout plan, at least I know I'll look good. Psychotherapy: It works, people. I am proof.

Shaping up, Part 1

Here's what's been happening. At the beginning of February, I went to Fort Myers, Florida with my mom. It was awesome. I almost never go on trips in the winter so I forgot the novelty of stepping off of a plane into weather that's 80 degrees warmer than when you stepped on, not to mention several orders of magnitude more humid. Florida is awesome in February.

(Quick semi-related story about this: I went to college in Iowa, and when it was time to go back after a break my mom would drive me down. We'd leave in the morning around 8 AM, drive straight through, and arrive right before noon. WITHOUT FAIL every single time we did this my mom would remark on how much warmer it was in Ames than in Bloomington, because, in her words, "it's in a whole different planting zone." Not because we were four hours into the day. Not because the sun wasn't up when we left. Not even because Ames is 200 miles closer to the equator than Bloomington. Planting zones. I thought about asking Mom how many planting zones Florida was away from home but really, why open that can of worms again?)

My goal was to spend as much of my time there in my bikini and I think I did pretty well. (Maybe too well, once you stop and realize you're essentially wearing the same spandex-y pair of underwear for five days straight. Whatever; I rinsed them out.) We went to the beach twice, kayaking once, and on a whole bunch of nature hikes (or as we call them in my family, "death marches." Guys, listen to me: Do not go on vacation with my mom) and if you've seen my pictures of the trip there I was in my swimsuit the whole time. As someone who hates pants and probably doesn't get enough Vitamin D, I'd say this trip was a huge success.

But here's the thing: Once you get back from vacation and you've had a couple weeks to distance yourself from the experience, you start to notice things. For example, I noticed that my swimsuit doesn't cover as much of my butt as it used to. And while I'd like to blame that on the repeated washings on the trip, I'm pretty sure that spandex doesn't shrink. So that means I've either got some fabric that's displaying properties it's never been known to have, or I put on some weight, and I'm guessing it's the latter, because fuck you, Occam. Fuck you so much.

Fact: Asses should not have double chins.

Now, I know that I am not overweight by any stretch. I weigh about 15 pounds more now than I did in college, and in college I was borderline underweight. I don't want to go back to that; I have boobs now, and that's pretty cool. But things are starting to expand, and I don't have the best habits (my idea of eating healthy is "maybe if you're going to have nachos for dinner again you should eat a piece of fruit, too). So now, faced with the prospect of a whole season of bikini-wearing; now, when I can make this a purely vanity-based project and not have to think too hard about my actual health, I have decided to start exercising more.

And now it's on the internet, so I have to stick with it. Otherwise I'll be no better than a politician, and I don't think I could live with that shame.

Okay, I just got back from the gym and I've sat here for too long without taking a shower. Stay tuned for part 2, in which I recount my first experience with Zumba (spoiler alert: It was awkward).