Thursday, December 11, 2008

Jazz Up Your Life

I have been going to Jazzercise for over a year. I don't think I am a typical Jazzerciser (althoughI'm not sure what that is). The thing is, I didn't really know anything about it and I honestly thought it was like an old-lady workout. I had been taking Pilates and yoga classes and walking the dogs and jogging occasionally and I thought I was in pretty good shape. Well, I went with my great-aunt Beth to her daughter Amy's class when I was visiting them in Portland. And it kicked my butt. There were some old ladies there, but this was a serious workout! Still, it was fun and we did a little bit of everything -- aerobics, weights, resistant tubes, stretching, strength-training. Mixing it up meant that the hour flew by, and as someone who loves having exercised more than I love exercising, that is important to me.

So now I go to Jazzercise regularly (3-4 time sa week) and I like it because every class is different, it is a great, sweaty workout every time, the atmosphere is very pleasant and low-key, and something (or someone) funny always happens there -- especially at the morning classes, which seem to draw more "characters" than the evening ones. See the (not comprehensive) list below:

* The Socializers. There are quite a few little old ladies who come and some of them really bust a move but others are just there to socialize -- like this one lady who "works out" in tapered jeans and mock-turtlenecks and those old-school Reebok high tops. She leaves before the strength training everyday. I'm not sure why she bothers, but I guess that any sort of moving around is good even if she's not breaking a sweat in her turtleneck.

* The Fashionites. Clothes are all over the place at Jazzercise. Most of us wear yoga pants or capris with a tank or t-shirt. But not all of us... in addition to Mock Turtleneck, there's also Pantyhose With Shorts (I do not make this up), Same T-Shirt Everyday, and Neon Sweatsuit (which today morphed into Christmas Sweatsuit. 'Tis the season.). But my favorite is this old lady who rocks out in a different cute matching, usually pastel-colored Adidas or Nike ensemble everyday. Very put together, but she also gets a real workout in.

* Monday morning's instructor is The Drill Sergeant. She doesn't even need the mike (and we are in a huge room). She is tall and thin and her legs are so long and her kicks could go up past her shoulders. So she's leading our motley crew of old ladies, stay-at-home-moms, and other random exercisers (like me) and she goes all medieval on us, shouting things like "Why are we HERE?" (no reply, as we are all panting) "We are here to SWEAT SWEAT SWEAT!!!" and I'm looking at the little old lady in the jeans and turtleneck with her hair in a pompadour and thinking "Well, maybe not all of us." (In fact, Mock Turtleneck told me this morning that the reason she cuts out before the strength training portion of the workout is because her husband likes his bagel at 10am everyday. I did not know what to say to that, so I just smiled and nodded.)

* Of those in attendance, I like to stand behind those I call the Hardcore Jazzers. For example, there is this Swedish woman who must be in her sixties. She is very fit and she comes in regular clothes and then strips down to those super-tight bike shorts and a fitted tight tank top and always goes to the front row. She means business. She knows all the moves, she never opts for low-impact, and she had already attended 100 classes (thereby earning a piece of chocolate) in like April.

* Then there are the Dancing Queens -- the ladies who aren't just there for the workout, but who really like the dancing part of it. So they just do their own groove thang even if they are not following the cues. Which can really confuse me if I am behind one of them. They occasionally make up their own moves or embellish the routines with ballet-arms or jazz-hands and basically just rock out with their serious-dance-faces. They are fun to watch but sometimes it's awkward.

* And there's the Completely Uncoordinated Chick. Bless her heart. I don't just mean the beginner, or the person who hasn't quite mastered the triplet or who odcasionally gets mixed up on the single-single-double pattern. I mean the lady who is just two beats ahead or behind in every single move. Most of us couldn't be this bad if we tried. I can't even look at her or I get completely thrown off as she thrashes around. It's the effort that counts when you're exercising, so I guess she's burning the calories, but it can be quite distracting, so I usually try to distance myself.

So what can I say? The rest of us fall somewhere in the middle and are really just there to do something besides sit all day. Everyone I've met there has been nothing but friendly. The routines are challenging and I get good and sweaty every time. It's far less expensive than Pilates and I don't dread going. Even when there are things I'd rather be doing, I am always so glad when I fit in a workout. So I'm a bit of a Jazzercise evangelical. Get your workout, your people-watching, and your groove on -- all in one hour. And, believe me, it does not matter what you wear.

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