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This is the first week in 31 months where I’ve had to make myself look presentable before 7 a.m. Three days in a row. And counting. So now you know it’s true: I’ve made the leap back into paid employment.

KidsVT, that esteemed magazine whose editors kindly publish words I’ve written, printed an essay where I did some reflecting. On my life. And the lessons I’ve learned recently. Follow this link to read it: From Working Mom to Stay-at-Home Mom… and Back Again.

To prepare myself for the shock of reentering the workforce, I spent the last 30 days of my “mommy sabbatical” focused not so much on my family but on myself. I hosted and went to mommy coffees, sweated liters of water during Body Combat, lunched out, went skiing, practiced taekwondo, attempted yoga, caught a few shows, ran a 5K, went on a Downton Abbey sleepover, and otherwise thoroughly enjoyed the company of an amazingly wide circle of women (and a few men) who I am so incredibly fortunate to call “friends.” It was an amazing month. Thank you all!

Oh, don’t worry. I hardly neglected my family. I also made elaborate dinners (a departure from my usual scrounging around in the fridge for edibles), scrubbed the house, hoed out the kids’ rooms and spent quality time with the OINKdaddy. On three Wednesdays in a row, I let Small, Medium and Large play hooky (One child at a time – I’m not totally insane!). We spent our days together doing whatever they wanted to do (snowboarding, arts and crafts and skeet ball – guess who wanted what). We had a ball and I hope they will forever remember our “Mommy Days.”

Because they weren’t just these last three Wednesdays.

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!

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