Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Ultimate Fitness Smorgasbord Buffet

Ah the holidays. They sure were fun, weren't they? Everyone loves being crammed into a house with all their least favorite family members to sit around dead trees, pretending to be excited about getting things they don't need and staying up stupidly late to drink champagne and watch "Full House" reruns to bring in the New Year.

Or maybe they don't. I know the holidays are well over and done with, and I am pretty darn happy about that. I don't really like holidays. At all. But there was one benefit to the whole ordeal, and I am not referring to the endless desserts that sat out on the counter on a 24/7 basis (guess who gained a few pounds in December?) Instead I refer to the fact that you have people (AKA parents with jobs and money) around to take you to all sorts of fun new fitness classes and all the leisure time in the world to enjoy them. It's the ultimate fitness smorgasbord buffet.

Before you get all judgmental about what a fitness freak I have become, just hear me out first. I took a lot of different and new classes over the holidays when I was away from my pole and desperate to keep in shape against the hoard of chocolate being forcefully shoved down my throat (my hands made me do it, I swear!) Now I feel the need to share my experiences in these classes, so as to perhaps inform you, dearest readers, about all your exciting fitness choices out there in the big wide world. So, here goes nothing.


(Excuse me while I have a lot to say about yoga)

If only I were this cute when I did yoga
 Yoga was the first new class I took up over my winter break. My dad, a true yoga addict, has been asking me to go with him for years now. However, the thought of attending a class where I would have to sit next to my father and watch him sweat all over his mat in nothing but tiny spandex shorts has all but appealed to me. But since I was thousands of miles away from my pole, I knew I could use it. So I went.

Ok, so I admit, yoga isn't exactly a new thing for me. Part of living in one of the healthiest cities in the healthiest state in the US means that yoga is a staple. Everyone does yoga. Yoga studios are more frequent on any given block of the city than Starbucks. I have taken yoga on and off since I was a kid. "Down dog" and "sun salutation" have been a part of my vocabulary for as long as I can remember. But the truth is, I don't really like yoga. I like stretching, but I don't like yoga. Here is why.

Everything about yoga is like the deep sea fish with the little light on it's forehead that lures in the prey. You show up to this beautiful, light-filled studio where there are fancy grass-smelling soaps benefitting children in Haiti and yoga clothes that look so comfy you might die, especially when you look at the price tag (it's all freaking cotton, why is nothing under $50?). The receptionist is always a young, smiling woman who greets you kindly. And I mean always smiling. To the point where it is rather suspicious, like she has some special kool-aid or maybe cocaine in her yoga bag. But you don't think too much about it, because you are distracted by everyone walking in the door, who are also beautiful, young, and thin as rails. You peer into the room next door to see the spacious studio with it's flawless wooden floors. You think, "Yes, this is the place for me. This will transform me!! I will be a beautiful yoga student like all of them!"

So you sign the waiver, not even looking twice at the fine print that says "We retain the rights to suck your soul in the next 75 minutes" and head into the studio to put your mat down. You don't want to seem like a chicken and hide in the back, but you don't want to be right up front either. So you put your mat in the middle. However, so many people come in late and try to take spots behind you, you keep scooting up inch by inch every time someone new walks in, and the next thing you know you are right next to the teacher. When you finally can't scoot up any further for other students, you lay down, closing your eyes, enjoying the warm air, and you look forward to how relaxing the next hour or so will probably be. This is yoga, the ultimate de-stressor, so it's gotta be relaxing right?

That is when the yoga instructor comes in. She starts playing some awful music like children singing or weird trickling noises that make you need to pee. On top of that she interrupts your peaceful nap by talking. For being so into the whole "meditation" thing, yoga teachers talk a freaking lot. They sit there and sermonize about being a better person and finding your inner self and peace and not shaving your legs and blah blah blah. Will they just shut up already? You are starting to get irritated when bam! That evil deep sea fish starts to eat you and you begin actually doing yoga. Which, surprise! is actually really difficult and painful and not at all relaxing. Every pose strains you in some new way as you discover yet another position in which you are weak as a newborn and as flexible as a 90 year old man. The fact that the warm air in the room has suddenly turned into blazing heat because there are 25 other people in the room all desperately trying to look like better and more accomplished yogis than the others doesn't help. There is always someone right next to you who seems to be the instructor's little disciple, can do everything perfectly, and will smugly demonstrate for the class as needed, which is inevitable. Since they are right next to you, they can see you doing everything poorly and improperly and you are certain they are making fun of you in their head. Oh, and the yoga instructor still won't freaking shut up.

This is the average attendance of every yoga class in Boulder, CO ever. 

The class continues like this for an eternity, and just when you think you are going to suffocate and/or drown in the sweat-doused air that you have just sacrificed no less than half of your bodily fluids to, you think you can hear the instructor telling you to lay down on your mat. It's difficult to tell, with the roaring noise that signals your eminent death in your ears. Of course, you have to crane your neck around to see what everyone else is doing, since you are so far in the front. To your pleasure, you find that it is finally time to lay back and relax in the one pose you are actually capable of like you originally thought you were going to do. Except the instructor still wants to keep talking. In some cases, they will even take you on an imaginary journey. One time I was lead through a snowy forest to a log cabin where there was a blazing fire, a flannel robe, and a laz-e-boy for me to sit in. I tried really hard not to puke at the cliches at that time. I try not to pay attention to these shavasana journeys. I just attempt to tune everything out and actually meditate, which isn't hard when my whole body has just been screaming at me for over an hour.

And that is yoga class. In the locker room after you might hear people talking about how they are going to go home and whip up some organic pad thai from scratch for dinner, which will make you feel really good about the peanut butter and jelly you were looking forward to. If you are lucky, that stupid smiling bitch receptionist isn't there to mock you on the way out.

The best and the worst of yoga, depending on who you are sitting behind


The masses were just calling my name.
There is this new exercise fad sweeping the nation right now that includes doing tiny little contraction exercises while standing near a ballet bar, because for some reason that appeals to people's, "inner ballerina," even though it is really nothing like ballet. Well, I don't think I really have an inner ballerina. Ballet always kind of scared and/or bored me. I'd rather just flop around on the floor and still call myself a dancer like I do now. However, I wanted to try this trendy new class to see what it was really all about.

The brand I was experimenting with (which doesn't at all make it sound like a drug) was BarreAmped. Having never done any of the other kinds (Pure Barre, Bar Method, etc) I can't tell how different it is. But I do know a few things: 1. It is a legitimate and good workout 2. You don't actually need a barre to do the workout. You really could do almost everything standing next to a counter or with a chair or table in your own kitchen. Actually, a lot of the abdominal work I would recommend doing in easier to carry out, but still just as effective positions. Like on your back. Like a normal person. But I digress.

I know it is a good workout because it is invariably painful. Don't worry, not in the "I am doing this wrong" painful kind of way, but in the "holy crap why won't my body stop shaking" way. This is the signature of barre. When you go deep into your plie* (or really just squats), your legs will begin to shake uncontrollably. When everyone in the room starts to do this it kind of looks like an earthquake and is really entertaining, because you can pretend you are in the awful 2004 movie "Fault Line," which was really stupid and therefore funny.

The point that annoys me the most about barre is the weight-training portion of the exercises, in which you do normal resistance training type moves, but only making small movements instead of going through the whole motion. This makes any amount of weight ridiculously hard to use, so even just the 3 lb weights make you want to die. Hundreds of people's voices who have advised women to "lift heavy" because that is actually more beneficial screamed in my head at me, yet those 3-pounders were still too much. I could only think of my scientific anatomy teacher who always told us not to use pink little dumbbells and lift real weights as I struggled to hold up my pink little dumbbells and felt like a weak-ass pansy.

We're on the same boat, buddy

So barre, all in all, is a good workout, but definitely not one that makes me feel like a badass. I might still keep doing it, if I can pull the money out of my ass somewhere in the future.


The remaining new classes I tried are all part of a special, branded group of classes developed by Les Mills. I have no idea who or what Les Mills is, except that they like having really silly names and weird fusions. Also their promotional material is the most shiny, hardcore, and ridiculous advertising I have seen in a long time. Please excuse me while the rest of the blog entry becomes basically one giant incidental promotion.

Even their marketing team knows what kind of women take this class. 

Body Flow is a yoga tai-chi pilates fusion class where everything is timed to predetermined music and you move through an assigned set of movements, each song focusing on a different part of the fusion and it's subsequent subsets (there are multiple yoga songs, for example, some focusing on balance while others focus on opening your hips, etc, etc). All of it is apparently timed to breath and heart rate and some fancy schnoz like that. It's kind of weird, but not too bad, really, as far as classes go. I was happy to find at least one class that didn't make me sweat out my melted inner-organs.

In this particular location, the instructor stands on a little stage and wears a microphone headset like Britney Spears and everyone in the class is at least middle aged, if not a senior citizen, so it was cool to be one of the most flexible people in the room. For the first time ever, I got to think things like "Hell yea, look at me, I can do a full wheel backbend. Who's your daddy??"It was a nice and easy class, and therefore I would definitely file it under the "booty call" section of my fitness experiences.


This ad just about sums up anything I could ever say about Body Combat

I admittedly only took this class once, on a special open house day where I took four classes back to back because I just damn well felt like it, being such a badass and all. Body Combat was the second class I took that morning, so I wasn't horribly fatigued by this point. But boy, was I after.

Do you know that "practice" level of fighter-style video games where there aren't any opponents and you can just go play with a character and figure out all their controls and combos? That is what Body Combat is. The overly angry tiny woman with tattoos and badass braids leading everyone on stage with her Britney Spears headset is so intense and the music is pumping so loud you really feel like you are a video game character, especially because you are continuously punching at nothing in the air in front of you like it is your worst enemy. Some people actually wear gloves because it is so intense.

I felt a little bit like some fraternity brother who had just watched his favorite football team score a touchdown and I was doing some testosterone-fueled victory dance, punching the air and feeling all psyched and angry. The instructor kept telling us to take it up a notch and go harder, but since I wasn't actually making contact with anything, I couldn't tell if I was actually working more or if I was just turning into more of a man in my bubble of testosterone. I did know that if I looked in front of me, I could see myself in the mirror, flailing around and messing up the choreography (this one was choreographed as well), so I tried my best to just scowl at the floor or my imaginary opponent, knowing that it was totally a matter of life and death that I fight my very best. I could not lose. No literally, I could not lose.


Lifting 20 lbs and swooshy water makes everything more legit

Body pump was the third class on my crazy day of fitness frenzy, and by that point I was getting just the tiniest bit tired. However, I was fortunate enough to have an instructor who was the poster-child-monolith of every ripped, male DVD instructor ever. He was so into the workout, red faced and screaming "AND SET!" after every set was completed like the announcer to Mortal Kombat, I could see the veins popping in his forehead. I was so afraid of this man that I did my very best not to skimp on the workout.

Body Pump's gimmick is about using a bar and discs for weights to make you feel really hardcore and badass, even though you only have a few pounds on it. It is kind of silly, too, because for this particular version of the class, half the time we took the discs off and just used them as regular weights. Why we didn't just use dumbbells, I have no idea. Once again, the voices of infinite fitness wisdom past in my head screamed at me that you should "go heavy or go home!" knowing that doing squats with 15 lbs on my back wasn't really all that different than just doing squats with nothing at all and that if I really wanted to make a difference I should go downstairs into the weight room and max out doing only a few squats at all. But at least they weren't pink.

I did, in the end, get a pretty good workout from this class, and I might actually partially attribute my recently strained bicep to overdoing it in this class. I never lift. I am a shame to fitness freaks everywhere.


RPM, or in other words, spin class, is one of those mythical fitness classes I had always heard about but never actually been to. I guess I always just thought it was for grown-up, professional women or something. You know, boring people. And now I can see why, because it is something that creatively is satisfying in absolutely no way whatsoever. It is really not a very stimulating class. You stare at a wall or your instructor or the back of some sweaty person in front of you while you pump your legs on a stationary bike for an hour, changing the resistance at will of your seemingly sadistic instructor.

Doesn't this sight just make you sad? It makes me sad. 
There is just something about getting on a bike and going no where that makes me sad. And I normally hate biking. I know that is a sin to my city of origin (besides being full of yoga nuts, it is basically the biking capital of the USA), but really, me and wheels have just never got along. I haven't been on a real bike in a long time. But besides not going anywhere or seeing anything interesting, being on a stationary bike wasn't that different. The seat was like any other bike, designed by some masochist somewhere who likes to cause major discomfort in genitals of men and women across the globe, so you have to try and discretely adjust your vagina while no one is looking every five minutes. Once you pump up your resistance high enough, it's just as difficult as biking up any hill. The good part was that I didn't have to worry about balancing or falling over and scraping my oh-so-beautiful face into oblivion.

Overall, it is a really difficult workout. For that reason I enjoyed it, but I totally could have used some cartoons on in the background.

The fact that the bike is stationary... Wait a minute. I think this ad is mocking me. 
So that, my friends, is what I did with my winter vacation. I also took a fair share of pole classes, ate a lot, and did some writing and stuff. Oh, and travelled all over the eastern seaboard, from Florida to New York. But no biggie. This was the important stuff. I hope you have learned something about weird, branded fitness classes now. They are weird.

I think, in the end, all these classes were nice. They worked me well, made me stronger, and all that jazz, but none of them were as much fun as swinging yourself around on a pole or slithering all over the floor like a water spider. I really just can't get enough of that... So back to the old grind it is for me! And by grind, I mean exactly what you think I mean. (Get your thoughts out of the gutter, will ya?)

*It took me a stupid amount of time to look up how to spell "plie." Definitely no inner ballerina here. 

1 comment:

  1. Nice post! It inspired me to get back on a post that I wanted to write about how Yoga should just be called "stretching". Keep up the funny stuff!