Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Fat Girls Guide to Surviving Aerobics Class

This is a guest post by my friend Anna Edwards (of "buying porn for old people" fame).  Anna is an excellent gardener, a passionate crusader for human rights, and apparently does not wear a tennis bracelet to exercise class.  Amen.

A Fat Girl’s Guide to Surviving Aerobics Class
It’s resolution time again, and if, like me, you have resolved (yet again) to lose weight, exercise five times a week. . . . blah, blah, blah. . . . this is a guide for you.  I have struggled for years to overcome my insecurities about exercise and aerobics and have developed a few guidelines that work for me.
1)      Get a sports Bra!  Seriously.  There is nothing worse than watching helplessly as your girls perform a dance routine independent of the rest of your body.  If you weren’t self-conscious when you walked into the class, you are now.

If you have committed to buying a sports bra, go ahead and get the right size (ugly though it may be).  I recently found out that my C chest was really a D chest thanks to a bra fitting.  (I was in such denial that I asked for a second opinion).  Let’s just say wearing the right bra was both comfortable and empowering.  Once I knew the girls were okay, I could get on with my life.

Oh yeah, that demi-bra that is so comfortable is not going to work either.  Let just say, having a wardrobe malfunction mid-sun salutation is not a good time.  (I am so grateful that this happened pre-YouTube.)

2)      Get comfortable shoes.  You don’t have to buy top of the line tennis shoes, but having comfortable shoes will make all of the difference in the world.  Plus, you won’t be able to miss class because you shoes don’t fit.  (In my house, this is a viable excuse).

3)      Wear clothes that are comfortable to you.  Wow, I detect a theme.  I don’t subscribe to the notation that you have to wear designer workout wear to enjoy an aerobics class.  Except for the annoying woman wearing the tennis bracelet, full-makeup and Juicy Couture sweats, no one will notice what you are wearing.  

4)      Stand at the front of the class.  I know this may seem counter intuitive, but hear me out.  There is nothing more demoralizing than looking ahead at a sea of skinny women doing aerobics.  Standing in the front offers a number of benefits, including the elimination of the aforementioned sea. 

First, you can actually see the instructor and the intricate, crazy choreography.   This won’t keep you from losing count or getting out of sync, but it guarantees that you will pick up the steps quicker, maybe even in a single class. 

Second, from this vantage point, you will notice that you are not biggest klutz this side of the Mississippi River.  Since you can actually see the instructor, you may have a leg up on those skinny women in the back.

5)      Don’t fear the mirror (even in the front row).  The mirror can be your friend.  It allows you to see the annoying women in the tennis bracelet stumble on the last turn/high kick/dance move (insert smug smile here).  It also allows you to monitor your movements and check your alignment so you can avoid injury.

If you really can’t deal with the mirror, most studios have a “dead spot” in the room, where you can’t see yourself clearly (yes, even in the front row).  Note:  these spots are prime real estate in aerobics classes, so plan to get to class early to snag the best spots.

 I also spend most of the class with my eyes trained on the instructor to make sure I’m moving (for the most part) in the same direction as the rest of the class.  This significantly reduces the time I have to evaluate and judge my appearance.

6)      Pick a class you actually like.  I know this seems obvious, but I have dedicated hours (weeks even) to aerobic activities I hate.  I have tried step classes several times over the years and wondered why I always feel stupid and useless . . . . It turns out that I despise step classes with a hatred usually reserved for Hitler and other nefarious public officials (who will remain nameless, thank you). 

Life is too short to waste time on activities you hate.  Exercise should be hard, but have an element of fun.  Keep trying classes until you find something you like.  I recently tried Zumba and found that, despite my genetic inability to dance, I loved it. 

7)      Drink water.  Seriously.  There is nothing to gain from getting dehydrated. (My husband will attest to that fact, just ask him about the Post-workout debacle of 2004. . . . Shameful.) If you are working out hard, you need to take water breaks.  Most aerobics instructors will not give you time for water breaks, so you need monitor your own needs.  If you feel like crap or have a headache after a class, chances are you didn’t drink enough water.  Exercise is hard enough without adding a (totally preventable) headache.

8)      Give yourself a break.  Nobody gets every step in an aerobics class right, especially the first time out (expect for maybe the annoying women in the tennis bracelet).  It will take time to figure out all the steps and even make it though a whole class without taking a break.  Be kind to yourself and honest about your limitations.  Pacing yourself will make sure you have the energy to actually attend a second (or third) class, which is ultimately, more important that killing yourself.
Finally, laugh it off.  Shit happens and it happens in aerobics class.  If you fart during a particularly intense toning session, blame the person next to you (it could work) or go to you happy place.  Whatever works.  Contrary to popular belief, this is not high school, and nobody will remember your faux pas.  If they do, you’ll have a new nickname to tryout. 
All Apologies:
I’d like to apologize to the annoying women in the tennis bracelet.  I don’t actually hate you; I just fail to understand your need to wear diamonds to an aerobics class.  We are all sweating, groaning and struggling just to get through.  Your perfect ensemble flies in the face of my wheezing efforts to stay upright.  I know, I know, everyone has the right to express themselves, but is it really too much to ask that you tone it down a bit.  Again, I apologize for any offense my comments may have caused by pointing out your unfortunate choice in apparel.  Thank you.