Friday, September 23, 2011

Step it up!

Published on (click HERE for the link)

I’m always encouraging my kids to try new things. So once I had more or less figured out the cycling and Pilates classes at my gym, I decided it was time for me to follow my own advice and try something different. The following description of a step aerobics class caught my eye:

Step/Interval: Step it up! By varying intensity levels with intervals, you'll use the large muscles in the legs to burn fat and calories. Using hand weights for added resistance, you'll also build and strengthen your upper body! Great all around workout!

I looked carefully for any small print about needing previous stepping experience but found none. Burning fat and calories sounded promising, the class fit my schedule and I had learned how to fly under the radar in gym classes in case things proved too difficult. So I decided to give it a go.

I mean, how bad could it be?

Seconds after Pat Benatar belted out her first, “Hit me with your best shot,” I found out how bad it could be. Things were already proving too difficult, and I realized that it is categorically impossible to fly under the radar in step/interval classes on account of the thousands of lights and hundreds of mirrors.

I came very close to leaving right after the first song, but I thought about how great it would be to tell my kids the story of their mom trying a new class, so I stayed.

And thus commenced the single most humiliating hour of my life.

You see, I ran into a few complications.

The first was understanding the instructor.

With startling volume and precision, she started barking orders like, “Around the World,” “Corner to Corner,” “Grapevine,” “Helicopter” and “Mambo Cha-Cha-Cha.” Other than surmising that she was calling dance step names, I was at a complete loss.

The second was actually performing the steps.

I was surrounded by ladies who appeared to have mastered stepping right along with drinking out of sippy cups. Following them could have been within reach if not for the insanely fast tempo. Before I had observed and was able to execute one simple turn, the steppers had jumped, kicked and twirled a minimum of a half dozen times before returning to starting position. Where I still happened to be.

The third complication involved the full-length mirrors adhered to both the front and back walls.

Picture yourself watching dancers moving together in perfect sync on a stage. If one of them steps out of sync, it jolts you out of your revere, compelling you — almost against your will — to watch that dancer exclusively from that point on. With a sympathetic tongue click or two, you feel embarrassed for the poor thing and wonder why she ever got on stage in the first place.

Now picture yourself as that poor thing, only this particular dance lasts for 60 excruciating minutes.

My only respite was when we did intervals on the mat. I have never been so thrilled to do sit-ups and push-ups and lunges in all my life. But the intervals would inevitably end too soon, leaving ample time for more humiliation.

Despite my plans to skedaddle out of there the minute class ended, I was caught in a bottleneck at the door. Looking straight ahead, I avoided all eye contact, especially with the stepper be-bopping her way in my direction.

"You did a good job today! You really did," she said to me, huge smile on her face.

I’m no step aerobics expert, but I suspect she was sugar-coating the truth. Dozens of steppers in that room had performed beautifully that day, and I was most certainly not one of them. Her well-intentioned comment proved helpful in that it confirmed what I already feared: my disastrous stepping debut had been witnessed and noted by every single smiling stepper in that classroom.

Mercifully, Pat Benatar and the Bee Gees had drowned out the sounds of sympathetic tongue clicking.

I still encourage my kids to try new things. But if they try something and decide it might not be the best fit, I’m willing to listen.

Having been there myself, I completely understand.


  1. I read this on KSL and loved it! I can completely relate. My general motto is "I knew everything about being a mom... until I became one."

  2. I can feel your pain! I've been in one of these classes. I was an athlete in my younger days-can't call me that now-and thought I could do anything including step aerobics. Boy was I wrong! I was completely lost and if my friend who was just as clueless as I was hadn't been there to laugh with me I would have felt just like you. I emailed her your story and we both had a good laugh.
    p.s I also love your "counting to ten" story. It has to be my favorite.