I’ve spent my entire life loathing exercise of any kind. I went through fleeting gym rat period in college, and a brief one again before my wedding, but for the last 13 years I haven’t really moved much except for the walk from the car to wherever I happened to be going.
I blame my friend Nina for planting the exercise seed in my head. After seeing a picture of her, a mother of four, looking better than she did in college, I was intrigued. Barre, she wrote. It completely changed her body. My friend Rachel, mother of two, had arm muscles I know I’d never seen on her before. Barre, she said. Try it. And then there was my friend Anat, pestering me to join her in a class at a nearby barre studio. You’ll like it, she promised, asking me again and again and again. Finally, I caved just to shut her up. It seemed to be the only way.
I wouldn’t say I was instantly hooked on the class (a mix of weight lifting, yoga and ballet,) but I tolerated it. And I went back a second time. And a third. I’m now five months into the classes and actually — I can’t believe I’m about to type this — kind of miss them when I skip a few days. It’s downright bizarre.
Though I hadn’t taken a group exercise class in over a decade, it was amazing that I immediately seemed to know everybody in that very first class. Not personally, thank goodness, but they were prototypes for the people in every other class I had ever taken. Much like a Weight Watchers meeting, it was oddly comforting finding the surroundings so similar.
If you’ve ever taken a group exercise class before, I’m sure you’ll recognize the following folks…
1. The Beauty Queen. The chick who arrives in full makeup, complete with bright lipstick and mascara. She works out hard, but doesn’t sweat a bead, and leaves looking every bit as fresh as she arrived. She’s also most likely wearing more jewelry than you ever do, never mind when you’re at the gym. She also smells good, even on her way out of the class.
2. The Over Achiever. The one who insists on doubling the weights or double stacking the step or taking two classes in a row. We get it. You’re in shape. Can you stop smiling now, please?
3. Miss Lack of Personal Space. The person who sets up her area right next to yours, despite there being ample room elsewhere in the class. You can’t help but stare at her ass because she’s thisclose to you, and you’d really prefer not to be staring at her ass. She’s also probably the one who picks a bathroom stall right next to you in an entirely empty bathroom.
4. The Frump. The one not dressed to the nines in over-priced workout gear, but rather the old, grungy t-shirt from who knows when. She’s been holding onto baby weight for years like she’s preparing for hibernation and would much rather be eating Nutella with a spoon than the back row of class. *
5. The GILF (Grandma I’d Like to Fuck.) Well, I wouldn’t want to fuck her, and neither would you, but you can see why someone might want to. Her physique is inspiring yet at the same time depressing because she looks a hell of a lot better than you do and she’s twice your age.
6. The Groaner. The one who vocalizes what everyone else is thinking. “Ahhhhhh!” “Ooooooph” “Grrrrrrrrrr!!!” It’s half annoying and half gratifying to hear her carrying on. She also rallies the troops to clap when class is over. She was probably a cheerleader in high school and definitely very loud in bed.
7. The Uncoordinated One. The poor soul who just can’t seem to do anything exactly right. She goes left when everyone goes right, steps forward when everyone steps back and somehow, despite her efforts not to be, always finds herself smack dab in the middle of the mirror. *
8. The Token Man. Of course men exercise. And if you’re not in an all female gym, you run the risk of standing beside one. But it’s rather jarring to see a man in spandex take a barre or step aerobics class. And by jarring, I mean just plain wrong.
9. Little Miss Important. She breezes in after class has already started, insists on checking e-mail on her phone during the 45 minutes she’s actually in class and bogarts the teacher by constantly asking about her form.
10. The Body. She has what you want. You want those arms. As yours. You want those thighs. As yours. You want that back. As yours. And you really want to give her your cellulite in return.
( * this is me.)