Jabba the Hut

I tried a new exercise class this morning because I’m always reading how variety is good for both your mind and body. Typically, I run a few times a week and occasionally take yoga and dance classes. These activities are fun for me. Yes, I grumble a lot about running, but I’m out seeing the world, watching the seasons change. And I feel good afterward. Really good.

I had tried a barre fitness class at Ballet Austin a few months ago and smiled the whole time. The class was heavily based on ballet, which I love, and had some muscle-toning aerobics interspersed. My muscles had a satisfying ache afterward.

A friend and I had talked about trying another barre class at a private studio that’s closer to home. I had some free time this morning and needed a good workout, so off I went. This class bore no resemblance to the happy Ballet Austin class. Like jellyfish, we pulsed through dozens of tiny, repetitive movements. Much of the time, we were doing nothing but twitching a specific muscle over and over. I felt trapped in a psychological experiment. How many times can the subject contract her gluteus maximus before going into convulsions?

Within five minutes of starting this endeavor, body parts began to quiver. Only 55 minutes to go! Between grimaces, I sized up the women around me. Everyone shared my pained expression, though three women at the front who had perfectly sculpted muscles were contracting with the buoyancy of professional cheerleaders. And make no mistake, only women attended this class.

When the end — the blessed end! — arrived, I literally had to use my midsection to drag forward the noodle-y legs beneath me. The instructor asked what I thought of the class. “Painful,” was all I could think to say. She assured me that with practice, I would get much better at the twitching.

But why would I want to? I know this is a trendy form of exercise right now, and I can see from the women in the class that it is effective. But I feel insulted by the whole thing. The point of the class isn’t to have fun, just to look good, and of course only women can be persuaded to spend a few hours a week twitching their muscles in the name of beauty.

I know a lot of people exercise to look better, but almost every activity I’ve tried has some other redeeming quality. There’s often a sense of camaraderie or competition. I feel stronger after lifting weights and more at peace after doing yoga. But this barre class just didn’t translate into anything other than a tush that looks good in skinny jeans. I guess that’s enough for some people.

So here I sit, a pile of gelatinous muscles oozing across a desk chair. I probably won’t be able to walk tomorrow, but in a few days, I will be ready for a jog or some dancing. For joy.