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It’s been many, many years since I got sweaty in a dark room in the company of strangers.

Back then, I was a nightclub dancing fool (the dancing and the fool parts were the direct results of generous amounts of liquid courage). Now, it is morning and I have come to my gym to squeeze in a workout before I am required to don my family’s chauffeur’s hat. The field house, with its indoor sports friendly carpeting, is halved by an enormous plastic divider. Light from the empty half of the room trickles through the mesh at the top of the curtain. I am confused. Are we exercising in the dark?

My confusion turns to hilarity when I realize that yes, indeed, we are going to get our hearts pumping and adrenaline flowing whilst lined up in rows in the semi-dark. They have set up a stage, lit it with alternately flashing colored lights, and hung inspirational posters behind and beside it. Airbrushed images of insanely fit people seem to be saying “Unleash Your Inner Warrior” and “Smiling is Optional, Quitting is Not.”

Five months ago, I posted about the beginning of my quest for less squishy abs. I joined a gym. Bought work out clothes. Dragged myself to group fitness classes. I have done these things before, only to have my self-motivation drop faster than an italian grinder with a side of potato salad down my esophagus. Group aerobics have never been my thing. In college, I tried workout videos. Cindy Crawford in her red leotard was beautiful but in more of an aggravating than inspiring way. Eight weeks after Liam was born, I went to a “Mommy and Me” class where you used your baby as resistance weight. I spent more time getting the two of us ready to go to class than I spent in the class itself. The Step classes I took were dreadfully embarrassing; my two left feet work independently from my arms and my keen sense of direction results in wrong-way shuffles, skips and turns. Plus, I couldn’t stand the perky instructors. For god’s sake, don’t clap and whoop and look like you are enjoying this misery!

That is how it was until I stumbled into a Les Mills Body Combat class at the Edge Sports and Fitness.

I was hooked after the first class. The music is loud, the instructor is powerful. I can only dream of my arms and abs looking like hers. She encourages participants to grab their (imaginary) opponents and throw them to the ground. She yells at us to visualize our punches connecting with our targets: “Are they bleeding? Keep going!” (Obviously, I am more pro-Jillian than Bob.) I may have accepted Body Combat more easily than some because the moves feel semi-familiar to me from practicing Tae Kwon Do. But punching and kicking are purposeful movements for anybody. They are not useless movements designed solely to keep uncoordinated cynics like me in perpetual motion. They are not perky. If I am ever accosted in a dark alley (and I don’t freeze), I will attempt to defend myself by blocking and punching and kicking.

Practicalities aside, there is no question that Body Combat is still a group fitness class. And sometimes, the trappings of group fitness cannot be ignored or overlooked. Such as when they are having an all morning “release party.” My suggestion for when this happens, do as I did: Laugh at yourself and all the other people who have drunk the proverbial Kool-aid. Then get down to business and kick some ass.

P.S. Points to those who know from whence this title came!


It’s my least favorite time of year again. Swimsuit season.

Unless you are a woman in competition for your own reality TV show, you know what I mean. I will venture to say, without scientific research, that most women are critical of how their bodies look in spandex. It doesn’t matter who you are or how much you weigh—even bikini clad women (how I envy you!) think they have trouble spots.

I am an average height and have a medium build. I like to eat. I don’t like to exercise. I have a horror of aerobic classes due to a marked lack of coordination and an aversion to perky people. I look decent enough in regular clothes but am reluctant to let myself be seen in skin-tight scraps of fabric that are supposed to simultaneously conceal my problem areas and flatter my assets. Call me a skeptic but that does not seem possible. Catalogues and internet sites are full of “miracle suits” for sale; women’s magazines have swimsuit style guides for all body types. Who do they think they are kidding? Am I really asking too much for a suit that makes me look good, is comfortable, is appropriate for chasing children and yet stylish enough to wear on a cruise? Let’s not forget that I’d prefer it to be affordably priced. My three children may aspire to higher education.

I have been wearing the same swimsuit for seven years. It does not meet any of the above criteria except one. I have tried others: the swim mini (can you say grandma?), the boy short (there’s a reason they call them “hipsters”), and, in desperation, the floral halter top (sing it with me – ‘Do your boobs hang low, Do they wobble to and fro’) but I keep coming back to my plain old one-piece. Now that I am really thinking about this, there were two summers that it stayed bunched in the bottom of my sock drawer. Those summers I was nursing babies and my bosom was a size that could not be constrained. What a shame it was that my stomach was uncontainable too.

About every six months, I swear to myself that I am going to get into shape. It usually lasts a couple of weeks and then I am too (insert any of the following adjectives: tired/busy/lazy/bored) to continue with the program. My biggest success thus far was in January. For my birthday (at my request!) my husband bought me three sessions with a personal trainer. My trainer was awesome and for a month, he really motivated me to work hard. I saw results – my jeans fit better, muscles I had forgotten I had made an appearance, my mid-section started looking less muffinish and more pancake like – and then we got the dog, deconstructed the kitchen, and I just…stopped working out.

This time, too embarrassed to contact my trainer, I joined a gym. Tomorrow is day one (for the 47th time) on my quest for less squishy abs. Stay tuned. I’ll keep you posted.

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