Anyone who’s been to a yoga class and thought “needs more surfing” (and who hasn’t?) can hit up Surfset, a class where traditional mats are swapped out for surfboards for an increased core workout. POUND, a fitness program whose slogan is “Rockout. Workout,” offers “a full-body cardio jam session, combining light resistance with constant simulated drumming.” (Emphasis mine, but what the HELL). If you’re into a hardcore workout and hardcore music, look no further than Monster Cycle, a goth spin class based out of Manhattan.
Classic “ladies in spandex sweating while another lady in spandex yells at them” fitness classes seem to have gone the way of the high-cut leotard (along with the word aerobics). However, in beginning my summer fitness experiment, it felt best to start at the beginning. I sought out a class that promised no gimmicks, no equipment, no weighted drum sticks for constant, simulated drumming—just pure exercise.
Goodlife’s BodyAttack™ is a 50-minute “sports-inspired” interval training class that promises to burn an average of 735 calories per class. Set to high-octane remixes of classic pop songs, the workout is supposed to help raise your stamina, improve coordination and agility, develop strength through core conditioning, and enhance both bone density and lung capacity. The instructors yell things at you like “Sweat is weakness crying as it leaves your body!” and “I believe in you, but you have to show me that YOU. BELIEVE. IN YOURSELVES!!!” It’s exactly what I picture when I hear the words “fitness class” and not far from what I picture when I hear the words “personal disaster.” Naturally, I bring my dad.
Our instructor is a warm, exuberant man with the firmest legs I’ve ever seen. Like, orthopedic mattress firm; “my policy on ex sex” firm. The room is a heartening mix of hardcore regulars who came early to secure places at the front, and earnest out-of-shapers trying to hide at the very back. A mirror in the front means you have to look yourself in the eye while you bounce up and down, face red, wondering if you really can prove to this muscular man in the tank top that you do. believe. in yourself. My dad and I, both in leggings (a mutual distaste we both push past valiantly) take up a corner near some other dads and young moms getting back on the fitness wagon. We all make nervous eye contact and sort of dopey “Ha, ha, we’re all in this together” faces while secretly feeling, I think, quite competitive. No one wants to be the saddest dad in Dad Zone™.
Class starts off reasonably well: a lot of hopping around, reaching our arms to the ceiling and pointing in different directions as we step one way and then the other in unison, like a flamboyant army. Things take a sharp turn when we break into the more intense side-stepping and some kind of lunge/squat/jump combo that makes me feel like an old-school video game character about to fall off a cliff. My dad repeatedly stops to check his heart rate via his iPhone, and the dads all laugh about the REAL body attack being the cardio kind. The dads think this is very funny, but I find it terrifying and vow to send him some links on staying Heart Healthy into middle age. Our instructor maybe hears this and explains to the back row that “If you don’t feel up to it, remember you can always jump in place.” He is being as gentle and sympathetic towards me as he is to the others in the Zone, so I try to rev up my lunging so he knows my heart is fine.
To be honest, my heart is not fine. I begin jumping on the spot, during a particularly intense bit of movement that involves enthusiastic clapping and whooping at regular intervals. Eventually, I realize I’ve been hopping aggressively in place for maybe ten minutes, and everyone around me has started running in a circle with their knees very high in the air. I am being lapped by several of the new moms and even one of the dads. The instructor yells something about how BodyAttack™ is not about giving 90 percent or even 99 percent. It is about giving 110 percent at all times. I wish there was some way of telling him this feels to me like a hard and fast 500 percent—even with my modified Mostly Jumping™ version of the BodyAttack program. I’m doing that exercise thing where you alternate between contemplating the sweet embrace of death and being overcome by mild euphoria.
I try to picture our instructor giving me this kind of aggressive encouragement for my tasks of daily living: “Breakfast is about giving yourself over to a need for toast!”; “Are you going to leave those vague social emails unanswered? NOT TODAY”; “It’s time to give everything you’ve got… to Netflix!!!” I try to avoid watching my dad lunge. I think at one point I leave my body and take it for a nice mental latte somewhere else.
While the level of experience and ability in our sweaty workout studio varies widely, everyone is huffing and puffing and getting a hard, high impact workout at the fastest pace they can muster. The tunes are cheesy, the inspirational catchphrases even more so, but there’s no denying that I worked out much harder than I would have if I’d been running around in a circle (?) or doing jump lunges alone (??) in a park (???). My dad and I leave class with matching, bright red father-daughter sweaty faces, and then go eat a spinach salad because duh. The next day I wake up as sore as if my body has actually been attacked by a small but aggressive wild animal, and you know what, I really do Attack™ those vague social emails.
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