I have found my workout heaven.
It's a place where I'm accepted, I belong, and I feel motivated to do my best.
But first, let me tell you what my workout heaven is NOT:
1. Boxing gyms. I tried one because a friend found a coupon for a free class. It was probably the most intense workout I've ever had -- sprinting, running, more lunges than I've ever done in my life, and then punching and kicking a bag as if it were your worst enemy. It's possible I might have been so exhausted that I shed some tears -- or was that sweat?? -- no, they were legitimate tears. Meanwhile, the instructor didn't explain the terms -- something about upper crust? I thought that was a bakery -- and I felt a bit stupid.
2. Running on the street. I might someday become that girl who suddenly picks up running, little by little, and then runs marathons, but so far that hasn't happened. For now, it's hard, and then the whole world -- and all of my friends in my neighborhood -- have to watch me suffer.
3. Sports. I wish I liked playing sports for exercise, but again with the whole embarrassment thing. Remember how in college they had the professional level, then the "club" level for the pretty serious kids, and then the "intramural" level for the kids playing on teams with their dorm-mates? I need a level below that, for people who don't always remember the rules of sports but need a ball to hold and a team to be a part of to distract them while running.
After trying those and many other workout activities unsuccessfully, my ears perked up when my coworker mentioned her Aqua Zumba class. I used to like swimming, I thought. This could be good. I signed up in January and I've been going weekly ever since.
Aqua Zumba -- a water aerobics class -- meets at the Lutheran General Hospital Fitness Center in Park Ridge, Ill. It's sort of on my way home from work, and for $5 a class, it's certainly worth it. I arrive in the pool 20-30 minutes early and swim laps, recalling my front crawl, breast stroke, side crawl, and, my personal favorite, the "Monkey-Airplane-Soldier" strokes from my swimming lesson days.
The members of the class trickle into the pool, chatting, and then the music starts. The instructor leads us through a warm-up and then into our upbeat Zumba moves -- but we're all under water. Dragging your arms in the air might not do anything in real life, but under water, there's resistance and it's a real muscle workout. Running a few feet outside is no big deal, but running a few feet under water -- it's quite different.
Our instructor dances to fun Latin songs with an occasional "Uptown Funk" thrown in there, and I appreciate the no-pressure environment. Can't kick your leg all the way up in the air? No problem. Starting with your right arm instead of your left? No biggie. Need to take a break? Who cares? We are told that we are doing a good job, and we're even encouraged to sing along with the music.
I follow the moves, I tune out, I make next week's dinner plans in my head, and I enjoy some brainless, stress-free time to myself.
Oh, and the best part -- I'm the youngest, skinniest, fittest, most in-shape person in the class. When I go to the gyms in Lakeview, I'm surrounded by girls who are much better at it all than me; but here, in the comfort of the Lutheran General Hospital Fitness Center, I'm the one to watch, the most flexible, the highest jumper. It might not be fair, being 30 years younger than most of the other people, but you know what, it's doing wonders for my self-esteem.
So, one of these days, join me in the pool -- I'll show you my new moves to the latest Pitbull songs and I promise -- no lunges.