Lesson #68: On Trying New Classes

by Rachel on February 3, 2011

The whole at-home workout thing? Was fun while it lasted.

For the past year, I’ve been content to exercise at home. I became a total workout recluse, relying on my own spin bike, outdoor runs, and Core Fusion DVDs and classes streamed through YogaVibes. Without a gym super close, no desire to run on a treadmill, no desire to pay a monthly fee to run on a treadmill, and no motivation to do anything but spin, run, and Core Fusion, I’ve happily been a free workout spirit. But if I’m being honest with myself, I admit that I’m having a hard time getting it up for the at-home workout. Sure, I can make myself spin and I do Core Fusion faithfully, but something is missing.

I need an instructor. I need new playlists. I need people.

I start to research my options. Eric suggested I join his gym to take spin with him, which is so cheap and close to my job, I can’t think of a single reason not to do it. But while I like Eric’s favorite spin class, that will only get me two workouts a week. And Zumba? Ain’t happening.

I start researching Define Body, which, as far as I can tell, is a workout just like Core Fusion. I think it’s exactly what I’m looking for. I also think that the per-month price is ridiculous, although I’ve paid close to it for gyms that weren’t really worth it. After further consideration, I find three main ways to justify it.

  1. If I want my per-class average to go down, I’ll need to go as often as possible. This will force me to commit, and, by extension, will force me to get in great shape.
  2. I need a hobby. Preferably a social one. After years of team sports followed by years of sorority life, I’ve come to recognize that I absolutely love hanging out with my fellow females. Making friends with other women outside of college is one of the hardest things to do, but a workout studio like this, with small classes and a regular group of devoted attendees, might be a good place to start.
  3. The kind of people who generally pay that much money to work out are the kind of people who need to get in great shape for upcoming weddings or to avoid a divorce. And women like that always have the best arms! I want to work out where they work out!!! And even though I do not drive a Lexus, we will have our vanity in common.

So, in one week, I join two gyms. February! NEW GOALS!!! WORK OUT EVERY DAY AND BECOME SOCIAL AGAIN!!!!

“It may kill me when all is said and done,” I tell Eric. “But I’m going to be the hottest dead girlfriend ever!”

Once I come up with this fabulous back-to-the-gym plan, it occurrs to me that, Hm…maybe I’m not in such great shape anymore after taking a year off from the gym. At home, I’m the only one there to push myself, and I haven’t pushed myself to do a single jump on my bike in…months. And I’m heading into the spin class with the instructor who regularly brings Eric to a I-thought-I-was-going-to-puke level. Goddamnit.

And then by some awful luck, I end up right in the front, between Eric and That Guy, the one who loves to go bananas and show off on his bike.

And I’ve already done two days of Core Fusion this week.


I step on the bike and clip in my shoes as one of my favorite spin songs comes on. It is fast. But clipped in, so I am I. Like, holy shit! My bike at home doesn’t have clip-in pedals, so I forgot what a difference they make.

Speaking of forgetting, moments later I forget everything else, from what happened at work that day to how to put both a subject and a verb into a sentence because that class is BRUTAL.

Forty-five minutes later, I feel slightly like I’m going to puke, but I also feel amazing. I surprised myself by hitting almost every one of the fastest jumps. I was generally too focused on not dying to look at what anyone else was doing, but when I checked in periodically, I was really happy to see that I was more than holding my own.

I’m feeling more confident, but the real test is still ahead.

As I pack my gym bag Wednesday morning, I go to a special part of my closet, for what I think of as my “class clothes.” Class clothes are shiny, stretchy, and sexy. They are made of performance fabrics, even though most of the women who can afford them are the kind of women who don’t actually sweat in them. They are expertly cut to tuck and suck and lift wherever possible. They are the workout equivalent of my “Sunday best,” worn only when being seen exercising by the outside public.

They are lonely. They’ve been asking me to take them out on nice dates more.

I pack new black pants and a pretty purple workout tank from Victoria’s Secret that Kara got me for Christmas. Not only is it the first built-in bra top that I’ve ever found that actually eliminates the need for a sports bra, but the cut is just…sexy. I love it, but I don’t really get to chance to show it off much. It’s like workout lingerie, and I’m getting ready for my hot date that night.

Wednesday is an incredibly cranky day. Due to the cold snap, Houston is experiencing “rolling blackouts.” While this sounds like the kind of shot I’d love to try, it’s actually just a term for when the power company shuts off people’s power periodically for about 45 minutes at a time, making it impossible to get anything done at work. Mostly, I’m just annoyed because I need my eyebrows waxed like WHOA. I’m bushy. I’m over it. And I’m fucking cold.

I get to the pretty little studio and, after filling out some new member paperwork, I head into the class.

Luckily, the “Don’t divorce me/MILF of the Year!” crew is nowhere to be seen. My class is filled with totally normal girls who look about my age or even a little younger. I felt like I was back in my sorority house — everyone was cute, but normal. They are not all crazy skinny, toned, tan, or beautiful. So then I start to wonder if this place is really worth the money.

Then a girl turns profile and I see her ass. It might as well have said, “TESTIMONIAL” across it. Sold!

Because I was filling out paperwork, I don’t get in to set up until a minute before the class starts. The instructor introduces herself, shakes my hand, and helps me get set up. The class is arranged in a U-shape against the walls, but everyone else has fit against the two long walls. Except me. I’m set up against the short wall, alone. There’s no hiding now.

It briefly occurs to me that I hope to fucking God that this class is like Core Fusion, because if it’s not…I’m going to be in the spotlight and I’m going to be That Girl.

Don’t make everyone feel awkward, I tell myself.

The instructor gets things started. She’s so nice, so pretty, but also laid-back and funny. I just keep staring at her arms. I want those arms. I will do whatever she says.

And for the next 60 minutes, I do. When she tells us to keep our backs flat, I keep my back flat. When she tells me to point and flex, I point and flex. I’m not here to be a rebel. Then again, not being a rebel means my legs are shaking like crazy.

Though I am there as the new girl, I actually know exactly what to do because the class is so similar to Core Fusion. There are some new (amazing!) moves, but I just get it. I’m totally not That Girl. Not by a long shot, actually. And that is so incredibly satisfying.

Even though I am doing a similar workout to what I do at home, the class gives me exactly what I was missing. Good music, a different instructor, the fact that I don’t have every cue memorized — it’s what makes it worth the money. And for whatever reason (probably because I’m less likely to drop a plank when there are 20 people around me), the workout is just better. The hour-long class flies by and I love it. OK, well I hate some parts (OMG glutes! GLUTES!!!!!) but on the whole, I feel so fantastic and not at all like I’m completing a chore, which is how I’ve been feeling at home. As the hour flies by, I forget about the blackouts, the cold, my eyebrows, and just feel clear-headed and like myself again.

I catch sight of myself in the mirror and realize I was stressed for no reason. I feel like I totally belong here. And just like that, I do.

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Whitney February 3, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Yeah. I had a “I think I’m in shape THEN” moment this week. And it totally revolved around those clip-in shoes. And I love it!

And I think a great song to have playing in the background of this post is “Welcome Back” by Mase (Mace?).


2 Dori February 3, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Love love love love love your review. Define sounds just like CF and I am so happy you had such a great experience! I was always so impressed that you were able to do so much CF at home because while I have to do a DVD every now and then, it is true that nothing gets you motivated or working or loving it the way a class does. And the basis you have from your year of DVDs definitely sets you ahead of other new students.

Question about that — did the teacher compliment you after class for knowing everything so well? Did she notice that you weren’t exactly new to this style of exercise?

I am so excited to follow your progress at Define!

I agree with all your reasons on justifying the cost. Also, this quote: “But while I like Eric’s favorite spin class, that will only get me two workouts a week” perfectly hits home on the response I posted this week to the NY Times article I was quoted in. My point EXACTLY.


3 Heather February 3, 2011 at 1:26 pm

I made it a goal to start actually going to the classes at my gym. I had total new girl anxiety, but I’m really glad I sucked it up because these classes are the only thing that gets me to strength train.


4 Jaclyn February 3, 2011 at 1:37 pm

I love classes! It’s really amazing what the group atmosphere does for my workout.


5 Bridget@PavementandPlants February 3, 2011 at 1:44 pm

I’ve the new girl in many classes and the anticipation of it is often much worse than what it actually is. Once you get into the workout, no one cares what anyone else is doing anyway!
I’m not a fan of classes, but I think that might be because the classes here are full of beautiful tan Texan 18-22 year olds. Talk about a complex. But I do love the gym because you’re working out around people, but not WITH people.


6 MelissaNibbles February 3, 2011 at 1:52 pm

That’s great that you found something similar to CF in your area! I hope you make lots of new friends.


7 erin m. February 3, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Group fitness rocks! Why don’t you teach!!?? Your account of “diving back in” is motivating for those with hesitation to try or return to classes. I love the enthusiasm of new clients and participants. They motivate me as an instructor.


8 Rachel February 3, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Honestly? Because I’m too lazy to find a new teaching job! I loved teaching spin and it was definitely an awesome experience and motivating in a lot of ways…but I do think it’s just not the same as getting your ass kicked by a new instructor who pushes you to get better. I think even if I started teaching again, I’d want to keep taking classes somewhere!


9 Stephanie February 3, 2011 at 2:58 pm

hehe. *I’m not here to be a rebel. *


10 Christa February 3, 2011 at 3:02 pm

Thank you so much for this post! I am being forcibly dragged (drug??) to my first Zumba class this evening and I am beyond petrified. That would probably be an understatement. Never in my life have I participated in a work out class. I am perfectly happy to lift my free weights and run till I barf. I know how to do those things like breathing. Potentially embarrassing latin/hip hop dance moves in a room full of strangers?? I am entirely too white and uncoordinated for that and quite frankly I’d rather run Saturday errands butt naked. Have you ever tried a Zumba class? I anticipate running from the room half way through frustrated and in tears.


11 Dori February 3, 2011 at 3:11 pm

I’ve tried Zumba a couple of times with different instructors. Everyone teaches it differently, but in my experience they have all been really basic and easy to follow. I am a terrible dancer and while I felt awkward, I was always able to follow along. They generally keep building up on the same routine.


12 Rachel February 3, 2011 at 3:24 pm

The thought of dancing in public honestly makes me break out in hives. I can barely go to weddings. The only dance fitness class I could take was a sexy, burlesque-style class at Crunch a couple years ago, and that was mainly because the lights were kept very low. As we were walking out of spin the other night, I pointed out the Zumba class to Eric and was like, “See that? No fucking way ever.”

But good luck tonight! I just am a really bad dancer and extra self-conscious because I’m half-black and people expect better from me.


13 Christa February 3, 2011 at 4:25 pm

The same girl that I am going to Zumba with tonight had her bachelorette party at a pole dancing class…2 bottles of champagne later I finally got up on the pole and had a fantastic time. Dang that sounds like my Friday night 2 weeks ago. Hahahah! I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes tonight :)


14 Christa February 3, 2011 at 10:22 pm

O. My. Gravy. There are about 835 things i can think of that I would rather do than participate in that “workout” (cause can you really call it that if you dont even break a sweat and leave looking the same way you did when you walked in??). My feet failed to be connected to my brain for an entire hour and to make it worse, the instructor kept looking right at me and asking: “you got it?”. Um, no bitch. I did not. I’m sorry, but my body doesnt do those little pops and shakes unless 2 of the 5 J’s are involved (Jim Beam, Jack Daniels, Johnny Walker, Jose Cuervo, and Jay-Z music).
So I stood in the back and just kind of shuffled and dealt with this new discovery of just how pathetic a “dancer” I really am…while wishing for dinner and that hour of my life back that I was in the process of wasting.


15 Rachel February 4, 2011 at 9:43 am

Literal LOL. That’s all.


16 Rachel February 3, 2011 at 3:33 pm

LOVE the feeling of falling in love with new workout classes! 2011: The Year Of Being Toned. And also being around “cute normal girls”… it’s so effing hard to make girl friends! Like what are you going to do, go up to a girl at a bar and say “Your pearl studs remind me of my time in Kappa, can we please be BFF?” No, just no.


17 Kionda February 3, 2011 at 4:01 pm

It’s great that you’re going back to classes at the gym. I need to follow your lead. I’ve never really been good at spinning even though it would be great for me. I’m looking into Bikram Yoga as well. Other classes I’m getting into are Salsa classes. That’s a great way to be social and get a fantastic workout. Plus it’s fun! :D


18 Marci February 3, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Have you seen Hank, the owner of Define? He is mighty good looking. I recommend you take one of his classes. I live right by Define River Oaks and have done their Define Mind class once at Lululemon, but also belong to two gyms and try not to add more classes. But I have wanted to try Define Body because a lot of friends like it. Sounds like we are close to each other.


19 betsy February 3, 2011 at 4:12 pm

glad I’m not the only one with *those* type of workout clothes! love it.

Keep us posted, I am dying for my gym to have spin!


20 Ashley February 3, 2011 at 5:05 pm

I just tried my first yoga class this week. Actually, it was my first class EVER. You’re totally right, no one gives a fuck about you because they are so worried about themselves. Do it girl~


21 Cameo February 3, 2011 at 6:44 pm

Thank You! for a thoroughly entertaining play by play. I agree – a class environment is so much more motivating and the results are evident. I am a member at Exhale so I do Core Fusion, Yoga and Core Cardio all the time. I have the DVD’s and have never used them once.


22 Lauren at KeepItSweet February 3, 2011 at 7:00 pm

You just made me crave a workout class so badly! I haven’t gone to a class in forever… I forgot just how energizing and motivating that can be. I do have a yoga pass to use, but that feels a little different…


23 Jessica February 3, 2011 at 7:07 pm

This month I had set goals to start new classes. I started bikram yoga and went to salsa classes. It was a great feeling. Sometimes its just about realizing that people are more focused on themselves than others.


24 Julia February 3, 2011 at 7:58 pm

Ok, this totally wasn’t the point of your post, but can you link to the Victoria’s Secret tank you love? I need some workout tanks that are sexy and strong, but are long enough and don’t require a sports bra.

Also, way to kick ass in class and make everyone, including yourself, proud :)


25 Rachel February 4, 2011 at 9:38 am

Ugggh, so I TRIED, but this is the thing — it came from the outlet store at Great Lakes Crossing. And apparently was like $7. I was SO pissed I didn’t wear it for the first time till after I’d left Michigan. I was honestly Googling VS Outlets in this area hoping to find it, because it’s seriously the most legit top ever. I will keep you posted!


26 Bethany @Bridezilla Bakes February 3, 2011 at 10:28 pm

I’m so glad that you wrote in-detail about these experiences, because these are exactly the kinds of experiences that make me REALLY nervous. You’re so encouraging. Your blog is very, “If she can do it, so can I!”

I bet it’s so fun for you to have these TWO new classes to look forward to this year! Hope you meet some great girls.


27 Rachel February 4, 2011 at 9:36 am

Yay! I hope that really does help you do it!


28 Caitlin February 3, 2011 at 10:31 pm

I really love this and I’m really glad you decided to start going! Your experience is a lot like mine with CrossFit. It can be intimidating. slightly nauseating but TOTALLY rewarding. In fact, just today, I felt like I was going to throw up and had a few tears welling up in my eyes, but I’ll go back tomorrow because it’s worth it. I’m usually the last one to finish the workout and I’m OK with that. I feel better than I ever have.


29 Angela February 3, 2011 at 11:06 pm

Being an extrovert (as am I) we need the energy from others to motivate. I thought I would hate group exercise, but I love it. I need that energy.

So glad that you had a great class!


30 Nikki February 4, 2011 at 8:00 am

Most health insurance plans will subsidize the cost of your gym membership – it just takes a little work to figure it all out. My insurance knocked my gym membership from $50 to $18. It’s definitely worth taking a few hours to sort through the paperwork!!


31 Aj February 4, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Dude the wealthy MILF crowd is THE crowd to befriend. They totally have the best toys and if you play nicely they share. Think swimming pools, jacuzzis, personal chefs, designer clothes that are soooo last season and they were going to give them to the maid anyway…

Or so a girl can dream.


32 Dori February 5, 2011 at 7:54 am
33 Anne Bender February 5, 2011 at 10:13 am

I am completely, totally, and unequivocally ‘that girl’. I have no rhythm and no clue, but I go at my pace which will get better as I get a bit more familiar. With age comes the not caring and while I am not that old lady who walks around naked in the locker room, I am comfortable (in my not so toned self) to walk around in my underwear if that is what I have to do.

I wish we had studios like Define Body or Core Fusion here in squat and pee nowhere, but it’s just not happening. Thankfully there are a few good classes at my gym at the time I need them (5:45am now that I’m working again). Besides, I miss being able to hold a plank for 2 minutes while just zoning out; having fairly flat abs; and my pants (I stare at them longingly knowing one day we will be together again).


34 ursula February 7, 2011 at 7:10 am

oh god. that is exactly why I haven’t joined a gym yet, cos I don’t wanna be that girl.
But this makes me confident! Maybe i should just do it and not worry about anything else…


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