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Dance fitness: I don’t have the rhythm!

Line dancing photo taken from

Line dancing photo taken from

Like so many others, I found myself at the gym in January trying to honor my commitment to do more good things in 2015. The gym was running a special and The Hubs got us a family membership for cheap. As part of the special, you could do some complimentary health assessments.

While I remain too mortified to give specific details, let’s just say the sweet boy doing part of the testing felt pretty bad when I burst into tears.

“Usually, we take off two pounds for clothes during weigh in … but I’ll give you three since you’re wearing a sweater.”

I must have still looked pitiful because he said, “OK. Four, four. You’ve got suede boots on.”

I am almost back at my pregnancy weight. I hated the way I felt and looked and waddled when I was pregnant with Parksalot. I was virtually unrecognizable. You know all those beautiful preggos you see running around, all glow-y and still wearing their heels? Um, not me. My swelling during that miserable summer was so bad that I can no longer eat hot dogs, cocktail wieners or brats. I know what that sausage feels like as it rolls off the assembly line. Miserable and stttt-reeeettt-ched!

Next up on the assessment, a meeting with Mandy, one of the trainer/coaches at the gym. She tests body composition, endurance and strength. I have great endurance — no surprise there; I’m a mom. But I don’t have nearly enough muscle strength. Again, no surprise since I can barely lift my kids anymore. Then I answered a million questions on a physical and mental health questionnaire. After everything was said and done, my results were in. My cholesterol is fantastic. My sugars and blood pressure are perfect. I am as healthy as the average (wait for it, wait for it) 50-year-old. Aw, cripes.

Mandy teaches several classes at the gym, and she thought a fitness class might be a good way to get me to come because I would make friends with other class members and have some accountability. We looked at the schedule to see what classes worked best for my schedule — which is a fancy way of saying which classes worked when there was child care at the gym. We settled on the Monday-Tuesday-Friday Shuffle dance fitness class.

“That’s a fun one,” Mandy said. “It’s a lot like line dancing.”

So, OK, go ahead and mock me if you will. But line dancing is a dance craze I completely missed out on. Back in the day, we just sort of hurled ourselves around to whatever techno music was blasting across the dance floor. And I learned to do a passable two step in College Station when I worked at Texas A&M. But whenever a line dance like the Electric Slide or Achy Breaky came on, I got the heck back to my table where I could make fun of those dancers with a cold beer in hand. Seriously? Coordinated country-pop dancing? How embarrassing.

According to Wikipedia, line dancing started in the 1950s and many of the “contemporary” line dances are just variations of dances from the ’60s and ’70s. Yep, it’s the dance that refuses to die. At weddings and work parties the world over, people are still doing them. The Chicken Dance? It’s a line dance. The Hokey Pokey? Macarena? Yep, line dances. Only they’re doing them without me because I don’t know any of the steps. But now that I’m older and have kids who love to dance, it looks kindof … fun.

So I showed up for Shuffle. Ummmmm … I think it should have been called the Silver Shuffle. Folks. It’s a class full of gray hairs. So I am frantically texting my girlfriends before class starts, convinced I am way too young and spry to be in here but now I don’t know how to politely extricate myself from the situation. I am at the very back and will have to walk past all the people who have cheerfully come over to introduce themselves to me. And now Mandy is there. All perky and beautiful and so genuinely proud of me for coming.

She tells us we are going to start with the Electric Slide. How hard could this be? But as we get further into the class, I remembered nearly breaking a leg learning the grapevine in aerobics. Then I realized that this class might actually be hard. Imagine my surprise to discover that I have no rhythm. None. And I certainly have no rhythm when I am trying to count steps and memorize patterns and remember which wall I need to be facing, all at the same time! Next up, the Cupid Shuffle. Dangit. More grapevining. Only now there’s stomping and hopping.

So, I was quite relieved to hear the opening notes of the Santana/Rob Thomas “Smooth” hit. Surely I was gonna rock this one … . Turns out I can’t Samba either. My feet won’t take that extra little step and my hips don’t roll worth a darn.

Sporty Spice texted to see how the class ended. My reply? “Those grannies kicked my butt.”

I’ve been going a few times a week now. I still stink at it, but it really is a lot of fun. And Paul, the token man, is really helpful during the Cupid Shuffle. As I invariably slide the wrong direction, he’ll say, “Your other left, Melanie, your other left.”

Last week, we added “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars. It has vertical jumping and drill feet. I now suspect Mandy was a Lakers Girl or something before graduate school. “Uptown Funk you up, Uptown Funk you up,” is right. I believe she is secretly trying to kill us.

I feet sweaty and silly and really uncoordinated. But I also feel — lighter somehow. Which isn’t possible. Somehow I have managed to put on two more pounds since Christmas. But I have laughed so much with my little retirees. We all feel a little foolish trying to master hip rolls with lasso arms, like something out of an episode of “Senior Girls Gone Wild.”

It’s one thing to say I want to do something “good” just for me, but another to actually do something about it. I think as women, it is especially hard to carve out that “me time,” especially when it doesn’t really feel like “me time.” My girls are missing, and so is the bar tab and the masseuse. On top of that, I always have the nagging sensation that there are at least 20 other things that need to be done for my family that are way more important than I am. You know, laundry and cleaning and groceries and errands.

But I feel pretty proud of myself for sticking with something that I’m not especially good at, something that makes me uncomfortable and feel unsure of myself. And maybe that commitment is “good” enough in itself.

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