I consider myself pretty coordinated. I’ve been ballroom dancing for over 20 years and tap dancing for a little less than that. I enjoy the challenge of new physical activities. Then I met a step aerobics class.
I went out East to visit a good friend in New Jersey. She’d been going to this class for a while and wanted me to come. Being the good sport that I was, I said sure.
At that point, I wished I’d brought along some hipper-looking workout clothes, but I had something that would work. We walked the few blocks to the community center and my friend set me up with my step—or whatever the box-like thing you use in these classes is called. I surveyed the room—all women, my age or older. In my mind, I was preparing to impress everyone with my impressive coordination and athletic ability.
“Wow! Look at that gal from out of town. Doesn’t see catch on quick!” they’d all be thinking as soon as I started to move.
Things didn’t go as planned.
The music started. The teacher began to move. So did the rest of the class.
Step up, step down. Step right, step left. Arms going this way. Arms going that way.
For a good half of the class, I tried desperately to keep up with this routine that I’d never seen before. To do the steps and coordinate the arms. To not make a fool of myself. I was failing spectacularly. I was miserable. And I was so tense! I looked at my watch. Still half the class to go?
Right then and there I made a decision. This was not going well. To continue to press on trying my hardest to follow this routine that I’d never seen before was not going to work. I had to try differently. I let my arms drop down by my sides. And I only followed the footwork for the rest of the class.
The tension in me gradually subsided. I was able to follow and not feel stressed. And I actually enjoyed the second half of the class.
With the start of the New Year, have you decided to take the plunge with a new fitness, dance, or yoga class?
A good teacher will remind you:
- to work within yourself
- pay attention to your limits
- go at your own pace
But you have to remind yourself of these things as well.
Being in a group can help you to push yourself just a bit if you find it hard to find that motivation on your own. On the other hand, when you get in a group, it’s hard not to compare and push yourself to the point of strain to do what the others are doing. Even if it’s your first day in class. And everyone else has been coming every Wednesday night for the past 10 years! (Do you have unreasonable expectations for yourself, too? Or is it just me?)
A lot of fitness routines have several moving parts (like arms and legs, fingers and toes, hips and heads) and if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll realize that you need to give yourself time to learn the different moving parts. And then put them together.
One definition of stress is that it’s too much stuff going on at once for you to handle.
And how do you react to stress? With strain and excess muscular tension.
By breaking things down, you’re reducing the stress of the situation. And that can help you to reduce excess muscular tension.
If you give yourself permission to take the time you need to learn the routine, I bet you’ll enjoy your fitness, dance, or yoga class more. And find that you’re able to keep that extra strain at bay.
Your body with thank you for it!