By Carly Naaktgeboren
I always associate a very specific smell with walking into it; it’s a tangy metal mixed with sweat and chlorine kind of scent. And the sounds, oh the sounds. It’s like gorillas mating in the wild. I don’t know why, but guys seem to feel some inner caveman desire to lift hundreds of pounds above their heads and then throw them on the ground with a resounding and disturbing grunt, over and over and over again. If this isn’t bad enough, I’m always bobbing and weaving in order to avoid running into people with whom I’ve had awkward encounters in the past, like, everyone you don’t want to see is always there. It’s like they know or something. And somehow these unpleasant parts of an ultimately unpleasant whole do not deter me from entering the jungle known as the rec center (or maybe yours is the health club).
We walk into the activity room to a bunch of girls stretching in their cute Under Armour tank tops and Victoria’s Secret leggings, or the even more counterproductive spandex shorts and belly shirts. I’m dressed to impress in knock off soffee shorts I’ve had since I was thirteen and a tie dye t-shirt I’ve made into a cutoff that reads 6th Grade Band on the front. To my left is some sort of zumba pixie who looks like she weighs ninety-eight pounds, is extremely tan, and keeps bouncing up and down before we’ve even started. In front of me is a curvaceous girl who keeps bending over slowly and swooping her body back up like she’s in a music video, (who are you trying to impress behind you? Me?). To my right are my people: Daniel and Becca, dressed about as stylishly as me and already laughing uncontrollably.
The first song begins and our instructor immediately starts moving her feet at lightning speed, clapping her hands on an offbeat, and then swinging her hips all over the place. For those of you unfamiliar with zumba, it’s exercise’s take on Latin dancing, lots of lower body movement, lots of shimmying, and lots of just moving quickly in a general direction because you have no idea what the heck you’re actually supposed to be doing.
I can’t see the instructor over the girl in front of me, so I try to watch her for the movements. Of course, she’s right on tempo and is successfully pulling off the sexy workout thing. I once thought the sexy workout thing was a myth, because I’m completely incapable of it. I mean, I’m not really a sexy lady, I’m kind of awkward and seem to have no understanding of movement, as I am both clutzy and uncoordinated. I don’t have that “I can shake my ass and make it not look like I’m doing it to be funny,” gene. Luckily, neither do my friends. I look over and Becca is hunched down low, trying to see the instructor but just getting more behind because of her position, her white shirt expanded with sweat to the point of looking like a blanket on her back. Daniel seems to not be able to tell the difference between his hips and his shoulders. We’re all moving our butts around in circles and he’s standing there swiveling his upper body, confused when we laugh at him. The song changes to something with a distinct bird caw-cawing continuously during the chorus, this makes us laugh harder. As I’m trying diligently to follow the instructor and finally gain the confidence to dance with gusto, I throw my arms up in the air and step forward while everyone else in the room starts grapevining to the side. We all laugh again. We always have fun at zumba because we’re all genuinely terrible at it and get the gift of being forced to watch ourselves be genuinely terrible at it in a giant mirror. Man, I really hate people who are even remotely decent at zumba.
We immediately go to the weight lifting section of the third floor, because the first floor is all men who drink muscle milk and, like, eat whole cows and stuff. The second floor runs the risk of a cute guy or two lifting casually, usually they’re even more attractive because they pretend to not care or they’re just starting out as guys who say “leg day,” like it’s cool and their discomfort and vulnerability makes them all the more charming. Enter me, back in my old, faux soffees and a different cutoff, this one is a disgusting brownish green color and says, “Follow the Yellow Brick Road: Peet Junior High Cabaret 2007,” on the front. This is why we go to the third floor. This and the fact that we like to lift approximately fifteen pounds and lay on our mats on the floor for lengthy periods of time between different abdominal exercises instead of actually working out.
I walk over to the machine that’s supposed to get me arms like Michelle Obama and adjust it to twenty pounds, I’m feeling ambitious today. I crank the seat up so I can actually lift the weights and lock it in place. I sit down and the seat immediately drops, chinking loudly. And it echoes. And I sort of fall off. Apparently I didn’t lock it as tightly as I thought I had. I try to focus on whatever music is playing on my iPod and keep thinking, “it’s cool, it’s totally fine,” over and over again, like a new mantra. I hear snickering and look up, relieved, to see it’s my friend from work who says, “I’m glad I came here today if only to see that.” We have a good laugh. I walk away from the machine and go to another one, but test the seat with my hand first before popping a squat this time.
Even gym misfits need to get fit! Exercise is important, so grab a great support system and get moving. Friends are all you need to have a blast and feel comfortable working out. Make a schedule, try fun classes, and learn from each other. In my fitness experience, it's always been better to have someone to laugh with (and at) you than to go it alone.