Picture it. A Wednesday evening, a Saturday morning. A community pool at the local YMCA. The women gather, picking out their foam water-resistance weights, placing them on the side of the pool, and then gingerly entering into the water with squeals and groans. The music starts to blare, and they’re off!
A few months ago, I took the Y around the corner up on the offer to join at no application fee. I had been curious about them for the three years since I moved into my house. Having worked for the YMCA for five years in my twenties, I’ve always admired their mission and community spirit. But I had a good, steady gym membership at a place I liked. It was conveniently located and was open 24-7. In the last six months, though, it was getting harder and harder to make myself go for a variety of reasons, so it felt like it was time to make a change for inspiration.
I had no idea what I was missing.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you may remember a post from a few years ago about finding unexpected joy from the stage. Well, my water aerobics class at the YMCA is a similar experience in some equally unexpected ways.
First of all, a variety of women from all walks of life, but typically older and frankly larger than me, make up the population of this class. It’s unfortunate that, in a city as diverse as Atlanta, I don’t get as many opportunities to interact with people who are different from me as I’d like.
That said, I’m still sitting with that feeling I talked about last week ~ people are all the same, everywhere you go. There will always be the class clown, the person who is there early, the one who never gets there on time, the people who sit in the back of class and talk the whole time, and of course the overly officious, helpful white women who fall over each other to help pass out the pool noodles–teacher’s pets!
Speaking of teachers, they are another fundamental part of this experience. I mean it. The one during the week makes you count out loud, so the hour flies by in 8- or 10-count increments like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and her crank. Our Saturday morning teacher knows dance styles from all over the world, even motivating us by playing her djembe along with the music for the last part of class. Both teachers are equally full of infectious smiles and incorrigible energy.
The workout? There’s plenty of stuff I do that feels good to my body, like walking, riding a bike, or yoga. But honestly, I’ve never felt this good both during and after a workout. (Did I mention the hot tub I get to slide into when we’re done?!)
Well, I should say, I haven’t enjoyed physical activity this much in my adult life. You know you’ve found the right thing when the little kids keep poking their heads up over the dividing wall to stare, begging their dads, crying even!, to let them join the Old Lady Class. (Sidenote: I have always felt like a premature little old woman, starting with when I would frequently sit and drink orange juice as I waited to be the designated driver for my friends in college.)
Being in this class reminds me of when I took dance as a child. Also of this moment. I feel just as loose in my joints as I do after yoga, but twice as joyful. Probably because I haven’t just spent the hour mulling around on things, and then psychically beating myself up for not being present. But really, in water aerobics, the joy is turned up 3000% by the last thing…
The music! Flying spaghetti monster, our soundtrack is amazing! Whether it’s Motown or Madonna, Bollywood or Beyoncé, we always sing along out loud, looking around and smiling at each other. Really, how many things in this life encourage you, without pretense, to look in the eyes of strangers?
Cards on the table, I had a weird start to this year. But I feel like I’m digging out now, thanks to this experience 1-3 times a week.
I cannot express to you the unfettered joy of belting out “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”, whilst smiling straight into the eyes of a 70-year-old woman, wearing her glasses in the pool, as we both raise our weights above our heads, our arm flesh a-flappin’! I’m of a mind that a little bit of unfettered joy is what we all need right about now. I’m off to the pool…
P.S. A little update… I literally did finish this post and run off to class, but didn’t send because I wanted to come back and just read over one more time to see if I could catch a few more typos before landing in my friend, Eleanor’s inbox.
Our teacher, Linda, did not show up for class, so everyone got into a circle, and we took turns going into the middle and leading our favorite movement. Eventually, we found out that Linda was delayed because she had been in a fender-bender. We had a little moment of silence for her, and then kept on having our class until she arrived. She was very impressed when she walked in to find us there, counting down. This evening really brought it home for me.