January 11, 2018

First class

Filed under: bloggery,things Rhiannon likes — Rhiannon Lassiter @ 10:52 am

So, I’ve decided to dust off this blog to stimulate my writing muscles. Trust me, I am always writing the novel – it’s just that some of that is thinking about the novel, deleting sections of novel and wondering why I chose such a difficult idea.

One of the things that’s interesting about the current book though is that more than anything I’ve ever written before it takes from thoughts and experiences I’m having right now – rather than nostalgia or hypotheticals.

And, as I start the new year one of those is physical fitness. I’m writing about a character who has become very invested in working out and I’m drawing on my own experiences for her story.

I had “attend a class” on my goals list for a long time before I actually did it. I wanted to want to go. That was as far as I got. But working out can be very boring, I will never forget the incredible achievement that couch to 5k was for me, it made me feel as though I could do anything. And then when running 5k became boring instead of miraculous I told myself I needed a change of pace.

I added weights to my workout but then the gym suddenly included classes in my membership and I didn’t really have an excuse not to go anymore. I started in December, accepted a Christmas break with relief and began again in January.

I originally planned to do classes in the evening but it’s really hard to motivate yourself to go out at night. I chose my gym because I had to walk past it on my commute back home and if I took gym kit with me to work I had everything I needed to walk in instead of just past. Now I’m on sabbatical I have the choice of mornings or evenings and so far mornings have been a sprinkling of people and evenings have been rammed. If you’re new to classes a workday morning might have a lighter attendance and be less intimidating.

My gym offers a range of classes.

One of the most popular is Les Mills body Pump which for a long time I thought was French is actually named after an Australian Olympian named Les Mills. This is a busy and can be a scrum to get the equipment and find a place. You need a mat, a step, weights on a bar and other weight plates to change in and out for various exercises.

Here are some social rules. You’ll be taking up space and other more organised people will know what spaces to go for.
Travel lightly; leave everything but a water bottle and a light towel in your locker.
Enter the class quickly and get a mat. Find a gap for your mat and dump your towel and water bottle on it.
Ideally you want to be able to see the instructor in the mirror at the front. You can go forward and know other people can see you, go backwards and risk only seeing the rest of the class. It doesn’t massively matter because people will be of focused on their own performance, not yours, and in an intense class the mirrors can steam up.
Once you have your mat, choose weights. Don’t make the mistake of trying to match your weights to those of the rest of the class, always choose the lowest when you start. Don’t change up during class either. It takes a day to recognise the effects that a class will have on you.
Steps are made of risers and a crosspiece, check what number of risers the others are using and choose that or add a couple to increase the level by one, steps are used for horrible press ups and tricep dips all of which are easier if you start from a higher level.
Once you’ve got everything you need bring it back to your mat and check your position relative to people around you. You need enough space to move forwards and backwards and side to side at full extension. You will also need a space to lie down by your step and use it for the horrible press ups. People will be accommodating during class but they will be better at keeping their weights and bar and step tidy then you so learn what space you need.

If you’re starting a new class Body Pump is a good choice, it’s intense, it involves a lot of different exercises, it uses music but doesn’t rely on it, it’s basically being bossed about to do a lot of different weight training exercises in time. Everyone probably finds different things hard and for me the tricep dips and push-ups are extremely hard but the most actively painful are lunges where it amazes me how my legs just suddenly give up with no intervention from my mind at all.

I tried a bunch of classes and I think Body Pump is currently right in the middle for me in terms of workout and enjoyment. It’s a good class and it does the job but there are other I prefer and others I fear more.

The worst is the Tabata Circuit, it’s only half an hour long but it feels like forever, you use your own body as the weight so all you need is a mat. The circuit is alternating horrible push-ups and dips and squats and star jumps and things so horrendous I don’t even know their names. The first time I did it had to do it on my own, the second time the only other person in the class was some kind of boxer.but the class is at a convenient time and I leave it shaking so I’ll stick with it. The first time I even stayed on for another further half hour of indivisible punishment but then I could barely walk the next day.

The best is Zumba. Zumba is the class I will keep forever. People tell you it’s good and you don’t listen because these are the same people telling you that yoga and running are awesome. Or will go wild swimming in rivers in February and mill ponds in October so naturally they are not to be trusted. But Zumba is awesome and everyone who told you to try it was right.

At my gym Zumba is a mixture of club dancing, Latin moves, workout stuff and being the Fonz. Just imagine you are cool like Fonzie and you can Zumba, you can even jump that shark. Zumba involves following the movements of the instructor at speed to music with breaks every ten minutes or so to drink water and breathe. It’s intense and fun and energising and unjudgemental. You do some sexualised movements like swishing or pumping your hips or sliding your arms up and down your body but those are time keeping moves as you breathe a bit before the next step.

In Zumba, as in every class, you will sometimes feel you are late or going the wrong way, push through it. These steps repeat and the changes repeat too. Keep trying to keep up, it doesn’t matter if you are off or late, watch the steps and try to get part of it, when it comes around again you’ll get a little bit more. Remember that everyone else has been to this class before and they know the moves, that looks intimidating but it’s inspiring too, they learnt it, you will too. And Zumba is lovely, it’s full of sass and fun and you sweat like anything. If only everything was Zumba.

But it’s not on every day so my second favourite is aerobics, that’s a more chilled out body pump with moderate weights and no step, There is some synchronised movement as in every class but you’re not a itself dancing like Zumba and you have a bit more time to compose yourself between exercises than in body pump. My two classes so far have been with different instructors and although the first was more fun they both pushed various exercises to a point where they felt effective but not too hard. Where Body Pump pushes you and then you keep on going, Aerobics laid off and tried something else.

My childhood PE lessons ever taught me any physical education so I’m learning this stuff as I go. I got fat and I didn’t mean to and didn’t notice because of reasons, and then things changed and I changed. Learning to run 5k rewired my brain so that I now believe a lot of things are possible that I could never have imagined, Today I’m the slowest person in the class, with a whole differ colour of weight on my bar always a half step behind. Tomorrow I won’t be.

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