projects and writings of Tracy Burkholder
It’s 1991. Let’s say early October. My friend Amy and I meet in the hallway of our dorm. We look at each other and try to convince ourselves that we should do what we agreed to do. I fit my thumbs through the torn wristbands of my sweatshirt, hug my hands into my armpits and nod. Let’s do this. We stuff keys and cigarettes into our pockets and trudge across the manicured green to the student center.
Inside, we weave our way back to a room that we’ve never been in. High ceilings, wood floors, bright lights. We feel awkward. Or at least I do and hope that Amy does too. This was a bad idea. Our reasons for being here suddenly seem simultaneously vague and overambitious. I can’t stop staring at how weird and unbearably ugly my feet look in glaring white, barely-used sneakers, but it’s better than staring at the other women in the room. Women who look like they want to be here.
And then the music starts and there’s no going back. We are doing this. We are doomed. For the next hour we are stuck in this room with Madonna and C & C Music Factory blaring from a boombox. For the next hour we are doing aerobics.
In 1991, it looked kind of like this (minus all the coordinated lycra unitards):
That hour was painful, both physically and mentally. In my senior year of high school, I’d given up a lifetime of swimming in favor of more time with my boyfriend, more time with my carefully cultivated angst. I still walked everywhere, hours and hours and hours of walking, but breaking a sweat was nearly unheard of. Needless to say, Amy and I left class that day (and the handful of other days we made it there), exhausted and defeated. With the sweat evaporating off of us, we smoked our way back to our dorm and tried to pretend we’d never done leg lifts to Pump Up the Jam.
Over the last twenty plus years I’ve become less sweat-averse. I’ve joined a number of gyms, taken Nia classes, bought and actually used (for a few years) my own elliptical. I hike more, bike more, jogged for a while and now have settled into a life of yoga. But no aerobics. No hopping around and pumping my fists in the air to Top 40.
Over the last few years, I’ve had a few friends that sing the praises of Zumba. “It’s more like dancing than a workout,” they’ve told me. They assured me that it was way more fun than aerobics, that you just get into a groove and it, almost accidentally, ends up being good exercise. Maybe for them, I thought. Zumba yourself silly, lovely ladies. To me, it still sounded an awful lot like those miserable college classes.
Then, several weeks ago, I developed tendonitis in my elbow. The more vigorous yoga classes I’d been taking were making it worse. I had to stop. Zumba still didn’t sound like the answer to my cardio needs, but in the spirit of trying something new, I decided to give it a shot. Maybe, by some weird fluke, I’d be swept away by the sheer joy of shaking my booty to Shakira.
The Zumba studio was fancier than that old gym. There was a stage, a disco ball and a man who did lights and music standing behind the instructor. But there we all were in our workout outfits and ugly sneakers. There we all were jumping around, back and forth with our hands in the air, being asked by an insanely fit blonde if we were “feeling it” and then being reprimanded if we weren’t feeling it loudly enough.
Nope. In my book, it was still aerobics. I guess if I was into latin dance music, it would be more fun. I thought about going to the U-Jam class in the same studio, but I’m guessing that since I’m not all that into hip hop either, the results will be the same. Unless someone has a fitness class that only uses disco music from 1978, I’m afraid I’m stuck with turning on my itunes and dancing in my living room until my elbow gets better. For the sake of everyone (especially my housemates), let’s hope that’s very soon.