afterexercise

Livin’ on a prayer at the YMCA

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by Katie Fox

Katie is a writer, a teacher, a mezzo-soprano, and a lover of all things red. She and her husband Shaun are passionate about mentoring and equipping artists of all kinds. Find her online at katiefox.net.

The bass is pounding. Beads of sweat are running down my arms, and I screw up my face in a herculean effort as I lift the bar once more.

There are only four kilos of weight on each end, but it feels like a million. My legs are trembling and my muscles are screaming in pain.

I’m at the YMCA, sweating it out in my twice-weekly BodyPump class. I’ve never been one for group exercise, but I joined the class about three months ago, thanks to the persuasive voices of a few friends.

I had dropped my older daughter off at her homeschool PE class, and kissed my younger daughter goodbye as she toddled off to play in the childcare center. I had my earbuds and my iPhone ready; I couldn’t wait to hit the treadmill and listen to some podcasts, or maybe catch up on a few TV shows. Little did I know…

Half an hour later, carried along by some sort of endorphin-driven mob mentality of mamas, I found myself in the group exercise room, setting up my mat and my weights, making crazy eyes at my friends and wondering what in the world I had gotten into.

It was hard. SO hard. I couldn’t do everything the instructor asked of us in that first class. I could barely walk to the car afterward. I was sore for four days. I hadn’t pushed my body like that in years.

Three months on and I’m still going. And you know what? It’s STILL hard. I thought it would be a lot easier by now, but it’s just not. Today was no exception.

I’ve realized that there are a few things that do make it easier, though – so much so, that I actually enjoy it. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Friends

I have friends in the class, and that makes all the difference. I would have never set foot in there in the first place without their cajoling. Now, knowing that we will all be in there, suffering together, actually makes it…fun! I look forward to that time with them almost as much as I would look forward to grabbing a cup of coffee. Almost.

Music

Bon Jovi is the best. I love it when “Livin’ on a Prayer” comes on in class. “Whoa….halfway there! Take my hand and we’ll make it, I swear!” YES! There’s just something magical about that power anthem that helps me push through when it’s the hardest. The music energizes us all. A great beat or a driving bass rhythm can work like a charm when I feel like I just can’t push my body anymore.

Getting Reacquainted With My Body

Prior to taking this class, I liked to take occasional walks, do yoga, swim laps…nothing that ever pushed too hard or asked too much. Now, I have sore muscles in places where I didn’t know I had muscles. I see new definition in my calves and quads – oh, there are muscles in there! Huh, who knew? I feel stronger than I’ve felt in years.

I’ve got a long way to go. I often lie on the floor after class, during the stretching, and feel tears streaming down my cheeks. Tears of joy and pride for what I just accomplished, mingled with tears of sorrow for how very hard it is for my too-long neglected body, and tears of sheer exhaustion.

But I hope that I’m establishing a habit that will stick for years. Today, for the first time, it so happened that none of my friends could make it to class. I went anyway, on my own, surrounded by strangers. And I did it. That alone is worth celebrating.

What helpful or surprising things have you discovered about exercise and caring for your body that you can share with us?

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Comments

  1. If I had know then what I know now, I would never had stopped or ever interrupted my workout sessions. I believe it is a lifetime commitment to keep our bodies healthy. As a 56 year old grandmother, I want to be able to play and keep up with my two granddaughters – so I am back at working out after a four year hiatus that I wish I had never taken.

    Thank you for your encouragement, Katie, to get back out there. I am proud of you for persevering for three months! Keep up the good work!

  2. I’ve recently discovered the amazing benefits of rebounding, and starting it (with my kids, who love to join me) has really changed my life. More energy, better blood circulation, I feel great!
    And you only a couple of minutes 2-3 times a day..anyone can do it!:)

  3. avatar
    Melissa says:

    Hi Katie,

    I smiled from ear to ear when I read your article. I’m a BodyPump instructor and love hearing a participants’ take on the experience of class. My wish for every participant is the joy & sense of accomplishment you have found: friendship, music, community and an appreciation for your body. Being grateful for what you are capable of at any point in your fitness journey is the key to making strides. Whoa-oh!…. you are MORE than halfway there! (love that one btw….)

    Keep up the good work!

    Melissa
    Cumming, GA

    • Thanks, Melissa! Your comment made ME smile. :) I love this: “Being grateful for what you are capable of at any point in your fitness journey is the key to making strides.” I’ll remember that!

  4. avatar
    Jerilyn says:

    I found something I love doing! I don’t dread the gym. And while I appreciate my rest days, I am always excited to get back into the weight room!

  5. Loved reading you had tears streaming down your face! I’ve gotten back into some weight lifting, and on certain days, tears just flow. For me, the exercise is some kind of mechanism for releasing all the built up junk going on in my life. I can be really irritated or angry before a workout, but then some type of chemical reactions explode in my brain, tears flow, and I come out of it feeling a million times better. Keep up the good work, and know that others are shedding some good tears, too. :)

    • Yes, I think that must be it, Crystal! Our bodies and our hearts are so interwoven, aren’t they? Glad to know I’m not the only exercise-crier. :)

  6. I started going to the Y regularly about 5 years ago, swimming laps with my husband. Almost 2 years ago I need a total knee replacement. That taught me a LOT about my body and its ability to withstand incredible pain and also my ability to work through the exercises to regain even better range of motion than before. Once my incision had healed I joined a special deep water exercise class and have been going ever since. Your comment about the friends being very important is so true. Unlike you, I didn’t know anybody in the pool that first day and the head of the program was very strict and almost scared me away, but the actual teacher in my class and the aide who taught me the exercises were both very friendly. Since then I have come to cherish the friendships and they are the reason I get up off the couch, even in our bitter cold winter, and get to the Y for that fabulous hour+ of exercise and companionship. I have organized a few group meals – potlucks at the Y or restaurant outings – and they have been really fun. I would encourage anyone to try one of these group classes – whether you are young or, like me, turning 65 soon. There are women in the shallow water class who are in their 90s and you can tell that they are glowing as they climb out of the pool.

    • Thanks so much for sharing your story, Mary. I have family members that have had knee replacements and I know that recovery process wasn’t easy. Good for you!

  7. I’m not sure if there is anything out of the ordinary that I can share. My biggest motivator is being strong and healthy for me. I like feeling that way and know that I am a better mom, wife and co-worker when I feel good about myself. It’s not about being skinny, its about being healthy. I love going to a gym with classes that I enjoy because it is my excuse to schedule “me” time 3-4 days a week. My husband plans around it and my son now knows that it is mommy time. It is nice to hear that other people sometimes find thier self crying. That usually hits me towards the end of yoga!

  8. So I’m not the only one that gets overwhelmed with emotion after an extremely hard workout? I have begun to love going to the gym, but seldom push myself to my limits because I hate the uncontrollable raw emotion that follows. I feel incredibly embarrassed by my lack of strength and endurance and yet so proud of myself for getting out there again. I feel selfish for taking the time for myself and yet I know that I am not a good if I don’t. Thank you for sharing and helping me understand that this is all a normal part of the journey.

    • Oh, it’s so hard, isn’t it? I think I have finally started to embrace that uncontrolled emotion. It took me by surprise at first – I definitely wasn’t expecting it! But yep, I think it’s all totally normal. And not selfish at all! So, you go, Heather! I love what Melissa said above in the comments: “Being grateful for what you are capable of at any point in your fitness journey is the key to making strides.”

  9. avatar
    Lindsey says:

    Yes! I’ve been doing BodyPump 3x per week for almost 2 years now and I LOVE it.

    I love the music that revs our regular group up, I love pushing myself, and I love the sore feeling for days afterward. I NEVER thought I’d be one to crave exercise, but here I am. I was pretty sick at the beginning of the year and had to stay away from the gym for 4 weeks…man was I cranky and ready to get back to it.

  10. I work out with a similar group at my local Y, and I’m so grateful for the way they push me, challenge me, and encourage me.

  11. I need to have people around. I’ve done the treadmill/stair climber thing, but I just don’t push myself as hard in that environment as I do with an instructor and other people by my side. My husband and I are now 80+ days through a 90 day workout challenge. It’s not always glamorous and I’m never excited to hear the alarm at 5am, but it is WAY easier on the mornings when we get up together. Plus, I keep telling myself, “This is 80 more workouts than I did last year!”

    I love that you give yourself permission to be totally beat and then proud of what you’ve accomplished. I think sometimes we are a bit afraid to push our bodies… maybe we don’t want to try something hard and fail, or maybe we don’t think women/moms should be exhausted on purpose. But you’re doing it, and that’s awesome. Go Katie!

  12. About 2 years ago i knew I had to loose weight. I was miserable and sick all the time. Part of that journey was joining the YMCA. I also started cycling because every time I ran I hurt myself. I am not very graceful. Anyway, the first few weeks I was so sore. Then one day I was at the park with my kids and I went to pull my daughter out of the kiddy swing and I almost threw her over my head! I stood there a moment, just holding her before me in awe. I was stronger.
    I started to realize how every thing was getting easier. I felt better. I was recording my progress and something said I was an “athlete.” I thought I would pass out from sheer joy!
    I fell off the wagon not too long ago, but I am trying to get back now. I went yesterday and hoping to go tomorrow!
    So cheers! Keep up the good work!

  13. You’ve inspired me, Katie! I could definitely use a more structured weight training program. Maybe I can join your class when I get back, if we find a house anywhere near your Y!

  14. I too have never been one for group exercise classes but you may have just motivated me to try one! I love running and getting out on a greenway where it’s just me and the open trail…..currently I’m pregnant so I’m not doing a whole lot of anything by way of exercising but I will be getting back into it as soon as I can!

  15. I’m not even half-way there yet! I actually signed up with a gym, and then committed to a twice-monthly personal trainer…and the gym and the trainer and I still haven’t come up with a workable schedule. It is my fault for not following through, but I’m struggling with the motivation (beyond the $$ monthly I’m spending for nothing right now). I’m going to use your post as encouragement to call the gym tomorrow and get pushy about a trainer that will fit into my timeframe between taking my granddaughters to school and picking the littlest one up from preschool. That’s what I told them I needed initially, and they need to make it happen. Thanks for the encouragement! – Fawn

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