I like to have a solid gym routine, and when I’m feeling especially motivated I like to do multiple classes, back-to-back. I got used to this while we were living on the base, where everyone who walked into the Marine Corps gym seemed to be super motivated (if not borderline crazy) when it came to working out. I made friends of the people in my classes, and as a group we welcomed newbies and dominated the evening Zumba, kickboxing, pilates, spin, and step aerobics classes. My favorite nights were those when I could lead in with kickboxing and then follow it with an hour of step aerobics with free weights. Those two hours were bliss for me after a long day spent at a desk at work. They left me exhausted but energized, and feeling like I could kick the living daylights out of anyone who dared to mess with me.

Clicky clicky for an article about the group fitness program at my old gym.

So I’ve picked up the same habit here, since we’ve moved to small town USA and without a job I can fill my spare time with even more trips to the local YMCA gym. Except the difference here is that I’m no longer working out with Marines and Marine spouses who are trying work off the stress of their husbands’ or wives’ never-ending deployment schedules. Here, most people show up for a class and then either leave halfway through or stick it out until the end but not at full speed or capacity. It’s a family gym, after all, and everyone works out at different speeds and intensities. To make up for this, I’ve started doubling up on my classes again as a matter of necessity.

I didn’t really think anyone noticed, until one Monday night after a stability ball class (which B and I usually do together) I hopped into the group of Zumba dancers in the next room. I was shimmying and shaking my way through the second song when I noticed a woman standing outside the door waving to her friends and then pointing at me. Eek! My old self-conscious nature quickly surfaced, and immediately I started missing my steps, distracted by the fear that she was laughing at how silly I looked. Then I saw B walk past the door on his way to the weight room, and as he heard the women he turned, laughed, and said something to them which made them laugh as well. Later, he told me that he’d heard the women remarking at the fact that I had any energy left to dance for an hour after the first class we’d all done together. When B saw them pointing at me, he told them that he’d noticed my routine, too, and that he also thought I was nuts. Then he proudly exclaimed, “By the way, that’s my wife.”

I still suffer from what Sarah calls ugly duckling syndrome; no matter how fit I may be, I still carry with me the image of my former non-athletic, awkward self who hated walking into a weight room because she was sure everyone would laugh at her for only being able to bench-press the bar. I tend to recognize that syndrome in others, so when I see them faltering I try to offer words of encouragement. With men, this takes a different form. Instead of being soft and encouraging, I challenge them–in a friendly way–to keep up. Somewhere along the way I decided to start challenging two guys who always show up together to the Tuesday/Thursday core class, and they decided to start challenging and joking with me, in turn. So when they see me slowing down while we’re running, or they see me stop in the middle of a series of crunches, they crack a joke about what a wuss I’m being. And when I saw them faltering during a series of very tough gluteal exercises last week, I shouted “Buns of steel, men! We want buns of steel!” at them until each of us fell to the floor giggling. (OK, so maybe that one was counterproductive, but you get my point.)

Last night after the core class, I felt like calling it quits. I was tired, and my guts were telling me they were unhappy about something I’d eaten during the day. As luck would have it, just before I turned to walk out the door, the incredible duo stopped to ask if I was going to do step or spin next. Without hearing my answer, one of them proudly announced that I’ve motivated them because they always see me doing more than one class in an evening. Pursuant to their goal of losing weight, they’ve decided to follow suit and up the ante. Now, not only are they doing the core class and the spin class each Tuesday and Thursday, but they’re also now doing the very rigorous Boot Camp class that follows! And apparently they hold me accountable for inspiring this insanity!

With that announcement, I decided I had it in me to stick with the program. I promptly told my guts to shut up as I hopped on a spin bike. I successfully pushed through the 50 minute class and limped out the door, delivering a thumbs-up to my friends in the step aerobics class as I walked away.

Now I’m hatching a plan to show up on Tuesday evening and harass them through the first two classes, then down a dose of Spark and surprise them by being right there when the Boot Camp class begins. I may still be an ugly duckling, but I’m a competitive one.


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