Feeling the burn

When I was a kid way back in the 1980’s, I remember my mom working out at home with a Jane Fonda video. She was a 30 year old then, who was just trying to keep on top of her fitness. Sometimes, I did the workout with her, not that I needed it at the time, but I think I got more laughs out of it than exercise anyway. One thing that always cracked me up was when Jane said, “Feel the burn” – and she said it constantly. I had no idea what she was talking about, but it was hilarious to me. I made fun of it every time.

Fast forward to the present. Now, I’m the 30 year old… but I’m not trying to stay on top of my fitness – I’m trying to reclaim it. Knowing this, a friend of mine decided to help out by emailing me about a Groupon for Jazzercise classes. I instantly reverted back to my childhood. I had heard of Jazzercise before, but I always pictured it like my memories of the Jane Fonda video – all legwarmers and leotards and mysterious “burns.” I laughed just at the idea of it, and I seriously doubted that jumping around to ‘80‘s music for an hour with a bunch of old women was going to take my waistline back in time.

My misconceptions about Jazzercise were almost immediately blown out of the water. On day one, I walked in to find women of all ages (60 year olds to teens) – none of whom were in legwarmers or leotards, I might add – doing actual dance moves to very contemporary songs (think top 40 kind of stuff). I had to do some fast thinking and fast stepping to keep up with the instructor and the regulars… picking moves up on the fly and listening carefully to the cues the instructor gave. I think I was so focused that I didn’t realize how hard I was working. By the end of the 60 minute work-out, I had done a mix of cardio, strength-training, yoga stretches, and kickboxing, which is apparently what Jazzercise is all about, according to their website. Who knew? Still, I didn’t really feel differently. Shouldn’t I feel tired… sore… something?

I pressed on to day two with a positive, if still somewhat skeptical, attitude. As we started into the routines and began using muscles I rarely gave a second thought to (or a first thought, for that matter), I discovered that I was more sore than I realized. Then, we did a killer leg routine that consisted of standing with legs apart, in a squat position, and pulsing for an entire song (Ke$ha’s “Blow”). If I didn’t already hate that song, I hate it now… when it was over and we were finally allowed to stand up and move around, my legs almost buckled. Good thing it was time for the mats after that, so I had a valid excuse to be on the floor.

Day three got even harder. I was definitely sore before we started. We did more awful leg routines… and by “awful”, I mean “challenging,” which is “good,” technically speaking. Then, after focusing on abs throughout the cardio workout, we dropped to our mats to do an all ab routine. By the end, my poor little abused ab muscles were shaking violently with each crunch. It had me using the Lord’s name… not in vain, but in a very real plea to get me through the last two sets without collapsing in dishonor. I woke up the next morning with muscles that felt like they were on fire. I actually reset the alarm for an hour because I couldn’t move, sneeze, even breathe without pain. As I lay there feeling like a broken down old woman, something occurred to me: I finally understood what Jane Fonda was talking about all those years ago – I felt the burn.

Nevertheless, I went back to class that night, and it wasn’t as bad as I expected. I have stuck with the classes and find myself really enjoying them. I now know within a few notes of a song when I am about to get my ass kicked, but I can still be surprised by a brutal routine when the instructors introduce new songs and new dance moves. Don’t be intimidated, though; you can make the routines as easy or as hard as you want them to be, depending on how many calories you want to kick to the curb. The Jazzercise website claims that you can burn up to 600 calories in one 60-minute workout, and if you think they‘re full of it (like I did), then you should probably know that my friend consistently burns this much and more (up to 800 calories), according to her calorie-burn monitoring device,. It shows, too… in a year of taking classes, she has gone from a size 14 to a size 8. Having just started, I have no similar, measurable results to offer yet, but I can tell you that after just a couple weeks of classes, I feel better, more energetic, and notice a difference in the way my clothes fit me. I’ll take it for now, and look forward to more results as time goes by.

All in all, Jazzercise gets the Unathletic Angela Stamp of Approval for Unconventional Fitness. It balances a challenging workout with some fun and camaraderie to help you get to a new, healthier, and hopefully slimmer version of you. If you want to try it for yourself, then check out the website to find a studio in your area and learn more about the classes.

Just one word of advice: if you find yourself in a Jazzercise studio and hear the song “Blow” come over the speakers – run, do not walk, to the nearest exit. Your legs will thank you.

~Unathletic Angela