Friday, September 19, 2008

Fists of Fury

I've always been a bit apprehensive about trying new things that involve physical exertion. But now that I'm a 'runner' (yeah, I know that doesn't really seem right to me either) my confidence in that department has been slowly increasing with each morning of jogging, and has left me susceptible to the influence of other, more experienced, exercisers.

Anyone who has seen my normal day-to-day movement is well aware that I am almost totally lacking in any sort of physical grace. I was not a natural in a tutu and was never encouraged to take a gymnastics class. I bump into things; I fall; I have an unnatural number of bruises from door jams and low coffee tables. I once got distracted by a man on one of those motorized scooter carts, and just fell to the sidewalk, shredding my hands and my favorite jeans. That's only one example. I have actually walked into poles and hit my face on street signs. I am not what most would describe as 'coordinated'.

When Elizabeth invited me to the Turbo Kickboxing class that she co-teaches, my initial reaction was, "NO FREAKING WAY!" But she's so sweet and encouraging, "You can do it!" and "It's not hard, really!" that I couldn't help but trust her. She wouldn't lie to me, would she? I stressed again and again - I am not coordinated, I do not catch on fast, I know we've just met, but I am seriously impaired when it comes to following any sort of choreography. I cannot even line dance. She must have seen a special light shining somewhere inside me, waiting to kickbox its way out, because she persisted, and I finally started to believe her: I can do this! It will be easy! And fun!

There were a lot of women in the aerobics studio (the word 'aerobics' should have been enough to tell me that I was in the wrong place) waiting for class to start when I arrived. Most of them were already sweating. Meaning they had just been working out before coming to TURBO KICKBOXING. Elizabeth strapped on her headset mic and I darted to the back of the room. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and thought, "Oh my god, I look terrible, I really need to kick and box some ass tonight". And then I quickly took five steps to the right, out of view of the wall mirrors, and next to a nice older looking lady, in attempt to boost my failing confidence.

The dance music started pumping and Elizabeth mentioned something about Phase 33. She started calling moves into her mic and the whole class went into synchronized action. And me? Let's say musicals were real life, with everyone singing and dancing in perfect harmony, and I was a space alien dropped into one of their numbers. I had no idea what was going on. Everyone was punching and kicking and turning and dropping and kicking and punching. I tried desperately to keep up, all the while feeling the weight of my ass being thrown up and down and back and forth. My natural reaction in times like these is to just laugh. And let me tell you, I was really yukkin' it up in the back row. When I couldn't keep up, I just kept moving and punching and occasionally kicking. I'm sure I looked like a freaking epileptic octopus - legs akimbo and arms a'jiggling. I hoped no one would look at me for fear that they would start laughing too.

About a half an hour in, the music stopped and everyone proceeded to 'shake it out'. I was relieved that the class seemed to be ending early, as I couldn't picture myself enduring the remaining 15 minutes of self-imposed humiliation. But Elizabeth did not take off her mic. She simply changed the CD and asked if anyone had any questions about Turbo. I looked at the older woman beside me, who would have been a smiling chorus girl in life's musical, by the way, and said, "That, what we just did, that wasn't TURBO?" She smiled and the music started bumping again and off we went.

But I made it. I didn't die. I did manage to pull a muscle in my neck during the cool down. THE COOL DOWN. As everyone shuffled out, Elizabeth, barely sweating, asked me what I thought, and all I could muster was "Uh, yeah, that was not a beginner's class." She smiled her sweet smile and I had to forgive her. After all, I did get a good laugh at myself and I was sweating out half my body weight so I must have burned some calories. My legs felt like they had 50 lb weights strapped to them and I celebrated the accomplishment that was walking out to my car.

I took the longest, hottest bath of my life when I got home and dreaded waking up the next morning with screaming, seizing muscles. I am all too familiar with that brand of pain from all of my previously failed attempts at overzealous fitness. But the most amazing thing happened: I wasn't sore. Not until the next day, which was kind of like thinking you dodged a hangover only to have it appear a day later than expected. Kind of not fair, but you knew you deserved it. And it wasn't even that bad. The good kind of sore even; the sore that means you worked it but you didn't break it.

Elizabeth wants to know if I'll come back. She must have a lot of faith in me. Or she's just not going to tell anyone that we know each other. I have to admit that there were moments when I was actually getting the routine that I thought, I could do this - just need a little practice and I'll be kickboxing my way to flat abs and buns of steel in no time. I think I'll go again. Partly due to peer pressure and partly due to testing my own limits. I will, however, remain in the back of the class and I can't guarantee I won't laugh at myself the entire time.


Elizabeth Frick said...

I am the Elizabeth mentioned in this post. And I must confess that Heather did not embarrass herself - she made a valiant effort indeed!
And hey, she's coming back! Anyone else out there up for some kickboxin'???

Heather said...

and that is how she gets you folks!

Cara said...

I will come but only if I can take pictures of Heather so that she can put them in her "Fists of Fury Part Two" post.

And for the record, I had already heard this story and STILL laughed out loud reading it tonight.

JJ said...

I wish I could have witnessed the event. Particiapte? No, just observe and laugh. I did a step class at the Y once and the lady was screaming into that damn head mike so loudly that I couldn't comprehend her, so I was always about 3 steps behind. And there's something about waving your arms in the air that just makes everyone look silly. Oh, what we do to look good.

Emily said...

when you get here to canada-land, we're going to run 20k (that's canada-talk for kilometers) every morning. No crying allowed. I hope you like your eggs raw.

Cassandra said...

Oh dear. I need this in about three months but I'll probably have jelly legs from being totally out of shape.
Glad to hear your going back, I'll look forward to part two of fist of fury. :)