The bass is pounding. Beads of sweat are running down my arms, and I screw up my face in a herculean effort as I lift the bar once more.

There are only four kilos of weight on each end, but it feels like a million. My legs are trembling and my muscles are screaming in pain.

I’m at the YMCA, sweating it out in my twice-weekly BodyPump class. I’ve never been one for group exercise, but I joined the class about three months ago, thanks to the persuasive voices of a few friends.

I had dropped my older daughter off at her homeschool PE class, and kissed my younger daughter goodbye as she toddled off to play in the childcare center. I had my earbuds and my iPhone ready; I couldn’t wait to hit the treadmill and listen to some podcasts, or maybe catch up on a few TV shows. Little did I know…

Half an hour later, carried along by some sort of endorphin-driven mob mentality of mamas, I found myself in the group exercise room, setting up my mat and my weights, making crazy eyes at my friends and wondering what in the world I had gotten into.

It was hard. SO hard. I couldn’t do everything the instructor asked of us in that first class. I could barely walk to the car afterward. I was sore for four days. I hadn’t pushed my body like that in years.

Three months on and I’m still going. And you know what? It’s STILL hard. I thought it would be a lot easier by now, but it’s just not. Today was no exception.


I’ve realized that there are a few things that do make it easier, though – so much so, that I actually enjoy it. Here’s what I’ve learned.

1. Friends

I have friends in the class, and that makes all the difference. I would have never set foot in there in the first place without their cajoling. Now, knowing that we will all be in there, suffering together, actually makes it…fun! I look forward to that time with them almost as much as I would look forward to grabbing a cup of coffee. Almost.

2. Music

Bon Jovi is the best. I love it when “Livin’ on a Prayer” comes on in class. “Whoa….halfway there! Take my hand and we’ll make it, I swear!”  There’s just something magical about that power anthem that helps me push through when it’s the hardest. The music energizes us all. A great beat or a driving bass rhythm can work like a charm when I feel like I just can’t push my body anymore.

3. Getting Reacquainted With My Body

Prior to taking this class, I liked to take occasional walks, do yoga, swim laps…nothing that ever pushed too hard or asked too much. Now, I have sore muscles in places where I didn’t know I had muscles. I see new definition in my calves and quads – oh, there are muscles in there! Huh, who knew? I feel stronger than I’ve felt in years.

I’ve got a long way to go. I often lie on the floor after class, during the stretching, and feel tears streaming down my cheeks. Tears of joy and pride for what I just accomplished, mingled with tears of sorrow for how very hard it is for my too-long neglected body, and tears of sheer exhaustion.

But I hope that I’m establishing a habit that will stick for years. Today, for the first time, it so happened that none of my friends could make it to class. I went anyway, on my own, surrounded by strangers. And I did it. That alone is worth celebrating.

What helpful or surprising things have you discovered about exercise and caring for your body that you can share with us?