You’ve got to be a pretty brave person to go to a group exercise class, and I am not that brave person.
See, I’m usually a loser loner at the gym, on a mission to exercise as quickly and efficiently as possible with as few people paying attention to me as possible.
But sometimes friends (who are more secure than I am) trick me into going to a group class (IT’S SO FUN! A GREAT WORKOUT!) and the experience has resulted in one bona fide panic attack and several teeny tiny ones.
Last night was my third ever group exercise class and all three made me feel awkward and uncomfortable for a least a little bit.
In the most extreme case a few years ago — a step class — I left in the middle of class out of sheer embarrassment and un-coordination, and ran to the bathroom and burst into tears in the stall.
In my defense, I was hungry, tired and on day 24 of a 28-day something cycle. (A "triple threat.")
I only went to the STUPID step class because my twin sister, Joy, and friend Samantha had talked it up so much about how it was SO FUN and you SWEAT SO MUCH and OMG it’s the best thing since breathable sports bras.
There were about 20 people in the class, and I seemed to be the only one who didn’t know how to do the dance routine exactly right.
Everyone had stepped up on their little platform and threw their arms left while I stayed on the ground and went right.
And turned red.
I then spun around in a circle, but NO! we weren’t on the spin yet.
When I realized I was the only one turning, I stepped on my own feet and had to hop on one foot to regain balance.
Mortified, I realized that everyone was able to see me — the uncoordinated monster — in any of the THREE MIRRORS that lined the room.
What made it worse was that Joy knew all the steps perfectly. Hello! We’re twins! We’re supposed to be EQUAL! Everything she can do I can do (better)! Haha. Just kidding.
The third time I screwed up with EVERYONE’S EYES ON ME, I left the class and hysterically cried in the Gold’s Gym bathroom.
“I looked like a MOOSE!” I told Joy when she fetched me from the stall after class.
Once Joy convinced me to leave the bathroom, I made a beeline for the exit, pointing my red face downward in case any of the other people in the class recognized me.
“I’ll just say it was me who screwed up,” Joy said.
“I’m never coming back here again!” I wailed, very much like Billy Madison when he gave up on fourth grade because he couldn’t write in cursive on the blackboard.
After that, I stuck to solo circuit training and treadmill running.
The second and third group exercise classes (both of which I attended with a more rational, non day-24 cycle brain) were still uncomfortable.
But that was because of the men.
Men spectators during group exercise classes should be illegal, especially during a pole dancing class.
To be fair, the guy was there because of me. He was the photographer for the newspaper I worked for, and I was doing a first-person article about whether or not pole dancing classes turn impressionable young ladies into strippers.
I didn’t want my co-worker to see me workin the pole, or falling off the pole, or stepping on my own feet — especially this particularly cute co-worker — so I coyly twisted around in a circle, looking totally serious, unable to let go and have a good time.
Doing the “wrap around move” or reviewing SAT questions?
Once the photographer got a usable shot and left, the class got significantly more fun. I remember that distinctly.
I stopped caring about how my inner thighs looked, or if my underwear was showing while I spun around.
(For the record, pole dancing makes you really, really dizzy. I have no idea how the ladies of the night do it without RALPHING all over the place).
Last night, I took my first-ever Zumba class, which is a dance class where you follow the instructor, mimicking her every move.
I went because the instructor was a friend of a friend and she’s trying to build up her Zumba class base at a new exercise studio in town that caters mostly to men.
And she was very cute and easy to follow and even had a routine for the Saints theme song STAND UP AND GET CRUNK, a song I very much love.
…Here we come to get you…
But just as I was enjoying visions of Drew Brees and Jeremy Shockey in my head, I looked to the right and saw a guy spectator in the Zumba room.
AND he was good looking.
He appeared to be the gym owner and was probably just monitoring what the class was all about, but seriously, we were booty popping for 30 full seconds while he stared at us.
...Here we come to get you...
(Surprisingly, booty popping was not an exercise we practiced in pole dancing class.)
I have no problem booty popping, but when I’m in stretchy pants under a florescent light with a big mirror and a cute stranger judging staring, I turn into an insecure mental patient.
I was overly concerned and paranoid that the other people in the room were judging me on my dance skills that I lost focus and my brain almost exploded. I had to stand still for a moment to collect myself.
Thankfully, I wasn’t horrible enough to go cry in a bathroom stall. It's only because I once bought a Cardio Salsa DVD from the $5 bin at Wal Mart and used to do it in my living room. Alone. (Zumba is very similar to Cardio Salsa, only with less bongos.)
Aside from the mild panic attack, Zumba was fun and I got sweaty and my booty certainly hurts today.
I might even gather my courage and go again next week, in part to support the instructor, in part because I’ve been eating my weight in King Cake and also, I really like dancing to STAND UP AND GET CRUNK.
Gotta get the booty pop down for next Saints Season.