No Pain, No Gain

I remember as a high school student hearing that some colleges required a physical education course for graduation. Ridiculous, I thought. PE was one of my most hated things about school—right after the crippling loneliness of having no friends. I didn't plan on engaging in any gym classes once the public school system no longer forced me to do so.

And then somehow at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts I ended up taking Fitness for Life, a course where we students basically putzed around the school fitness center. I do not recall if this was a required course or something about which I changed my mind. However, I attended the course, barely improved my fitness, and received a passing grade. The credit transferred over when I began attending the University of Hartford years later.

Never, ever did I think I would be graduating (God willing) with not one, but two PE credits. But then I found myself with 110 credits and ten more to go. For those of you not familiar with typical undergraduate courses, they earn three credits a piece. Three regular classes would leave me one credit short, so in came the six-week, one-credit PE classes. Zumba was the only one that fit my schedule and lack of hand-eye coordination. Easiest credit ever, right?

I had done Zumba before: both at home and at a four-week class offered at my job. I move with slightly more grace than a calf taking her first steps, but I thought with my previous experience that I didn't look completely terrible doing Zumba. However, two things missing from my earlier aerobic endeavors were a mirrored wall and a room full of women at least ten years younger than I am. Most people alleviate the awkwardness of such situations by hanging out at the back of the room. Since I needed to be able to see what the instructor was doing, this was not an option for me.

For six weeks, I struggled through my inability to commit dance moves to memory, slide across a wood floor in Nikes, or move my hips in a way that is remotely seductive. I noticed that I could not get into quite the same positions as the rest of the students because my thighs don't just touch, they meld together. I lamented my more sausage-casing-like clothing choices and prayed the other ladies felt too self-conscious to notice me. I kept a constant count of the remaining class periods. I think it was the most uncomfortable thing I have done to earn my degree, and I once had to write a memo about treatment-resistant gonorrhea. But somehow I got through it, and now—along with the Interpersonal Communication class I took over the summer—I have 114 credits.

I suppose I should sign off by saying life begins at the end of your comfort zone, or that you shouldn't feel uncomfortable exercising in front of others because we all had to start somewhere. I don't think I have actually learned or embodied any of that this semester, so instead I will leave you with these two bits of wisdom:

  1. "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" by Michael Jackson is a really long song. How many times does he sing, "Too high to get over, too low to get under"? I'd say around one thousand.

  2. If you feel awkward about taking a group fitness class, wear all black. It's slimming, it doesn't show sweat stains, and if you feel truly embarrassed, you can always hope a driver won't be able to see you on your way out.