Originally posted at Hello, Darling
I surveyed the women quickly filing in as I entered the cavernous gymnasium. They were all ages, and to my relief represented a broad range of body shapes and sizes. They were bedecked in varying styles of fitness attire, with many of the more stylish gals standing near the front of the gym. Those girls up front made me nervous with their slick ponytails, name-brand yoga pants and neon shoes laces. I looked down at my sneakers and pondered, “Are these even stylish? I think they were a few years ago.” I nervously tugged at my pre-baby black cropped pants, hitching them a few inches higher in an effort to tuck in my post-partum belly. On top I wore a baggy Harvard t-shirt my husband brought back from a recent business trip to Boston. I felt sloppy and disgusting, but I had to start somewhere.
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away I had been a ballerina and a college cheerleader. But the rigors of law school and later the grueling hours of practicing law at a large international law firm had taken their toll on my body – and that was before children. After squeezing out three babies in just over four years, my body was in shambles and my fitness level poor. Although a piece of me stood in awe of what my body had done by growing and then birthing my precious children, I also felt ashamed of my sagging belly and gigantic, milk-filled breasts.
The music started and I forced myself to make it through each song. I felt clumsy and graceless. My chest ached for a stronger sports bra, and I was terrified that at any moment I would pee myself. Dancing used to be so effortless. Why did this feel so hard?
Despite my discouragement I vowed to return, and I did. Slowly, over time, as I learned the dance fitness routines, I started enjoying myself.
It’s been a year since first stepping foot in that gym. Since starting the class I have lost 50 plus pounds and gained muscle tone and strength. However, the true measure of what I have gained is much greater. I am finding myself again.
I started my first dance class as a mere babe of two-years-old. I studied various forms of dance for the first twenty years of my life before the demands of studies and building a career ended dance for me. Each of my pregnancies brought significant weight gains (far in excess of medical recommendations) and my body became utilitarian. I lost all sense of myself as graceful and fluid. However, my fitness class reminded me of my great passion for dance. It makes me feel alive and free. For an hour a few times a week, I get to be a young girl again – moving, bending, stretching gracefully.
Now when I see a new woman sliding quietly into the back of the gym, nervously tugging on her pants, I give her a knowing smile and say hello. I don’t want my slick ponytail and neon shoe laces to intimidate her. I am her, after all – just more like myself.