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Sweat is pouring off my nose while I’m struggling to hold plank position, all while waiting for the next sequence of movements. My eyes are fixed on the wooden floor below my face to avoid any awkward moments. Here comes the next sequence. Quick downward dog, back to plank, then a hip rock to the right, rock left, back to center, and hold. Mary Sue is in front of me and I want to avoid creeper status at all costs, so I stare down at the floor and await audible instruction.
Booty man (I was going to link to this song but frankly, it doesn’t pass the PG test. You get the idea by the title. If you’re crazy curious – look it up) is playing in the background and the women seem to be loving it. Me? I can’t help but feel completely out of place. After all, I’m lone-wolfing it in a Dance Fusion class with 12 ladies ranging from ages middle-school to what I’m guessing are 50s. Now we’re back on our feet for grapevine (don’t worry, I don’t know what that is either…).
“Shake those hips!!” The instructor yells as she seems to stare through my face to the back wall.
“This is how they shake…” I’m thinking in the sheepest of tones. Then comes the thought, “Can’t we go back to plank? I’m strong and I can dominate plank… I’ll keep my eyes on the floor, I promise.”
Our instructor must not have ESP because my prayers aren’t answered. “Right, Left, right, right, left…” My brain is working on full tilt trying to follow along while my body is close to empty trying to play catchup.
This is a 3-front war and the enemy is closing ranks and surrounding me. The crazy thing, though, is that a tiny part of me loves it. What’s more, this is the fourth experience of its kind and I still haven’t quit. I think I’m crazy…
How in the world did I get into Dance Fusion? I blame thank Pete…
Pete and I, who both share an affinity for group workouts, were talking one day when he asked, “Why do you think guys never take those classes at the gym? You know, the Yoga, Zumba, and other cardio classes?”
He got me thinking
What’s the deal? I have good friends (all women) that take these different classes and swear by them. My friends are always raving about their excitement for Cardio Hip Hop tonight, then complaining about their soreness the following day. You know what that means? These classes must be working.
There are so many benefits to taking these classes – Improved health, bonding with friends, not having to design your own workout, pushing individuals further as a group, accountability, and a better physique all top the list.
Are us guys missing the boat here? Maybe the effects of these classes are best received by women and the health benefits aren’t strong enough for men to waste their time. More likely, the health benefits are ubiquitous across gender and men are too embarrassed or insecure to give these ‘out of the box’ classes a shot? After all, what guy want’s to get caught by a friend, family member, or, God forbid, a co-worker, in Pilates with the ladies? And what if he actually likes the class? That’d be a whole different story. Another thing – maybe the women would be uncomfortable with a man encroaching their 1 hour of personal time on Wednesday evening. No jack-wagon dare take away the Mrs.’ me time.
To answer these and other questions we need someone arrogant enough not to care about what others will think, sensitive enough to soften the blow of a man invading the previously woman-centric gym floor, and strong enough to keep up in order to not get laughed out of the gym.
I know such a man. He’s youngish and in decent shape. He’s married with 1 child, a daughter, so he’s somewhat comfortable with women in their environments. Although nice and compassionate, he can also be a bit of an … ass, from time to time. Yea, this guy is me.
I took action
The evening after talking with Pete I started calling local gyms and searching Facebook groups for classes I could take that typically only had women participants. There were awkward long pauses and strange looks but when I told the ladies I’d be writing this article, they were all pretty receptive. Some were even excited and one was thrilled… You know who you are.
Logistics, cost, and convenience all factored in when I settled on 4 classes – Pilates, a boot camp at my daughter’s school, Zumba, and Dance Fusion.
Below, I will break down my experience, the quality of the workout, and whether or not I would recommend the class to a buddy of mine (a guy of course), all while trying to figure out, “Why can’t dudes do Zumba too?” The accounts are in chronological order of when I took the class.
Sitting outside of the group fitness room I couldn’t help but glance to my left and see some dudes playing pick-up basketball. Further left, dudes pumping iron and running laps. Even further, more dudes swimming laps. That’s not lifting but it’s not Pilates either. “Am I really gonna do this?” My first personality asked. The second responded with, “Come on man. You’ve literally told a dozen people about this. Man up.” The Dance Fusion class in front of me is finishing up. It’s time.
Pilates – (translation) – pretend your core is a hollowed out carcass hanging from a metal hook in a freezer. Hey, look! There’s Rocky Balboa and Mick (his trainer) walking this way. What are they doing? Rocky is going to beat the bones out of that slab of meat (your core) for the next 60 minutes. That’s what they’re doing. Enjoy.
I got past the smooth tones of Dido and Alanis – that’s Morissette for those keeping track – and went through what felt like a cross between Yoga and Isometrics. This was completely core intensive, with touches of legs and plank-work sprinkled in. Everything between the knees and shoulders was SORE when I walked out of the room. Normally that would take a day or 2.
Here are some quick facts:
– 9 ladies with me and 1 other dude that apparently comes pretty regularly. The presence of this guy helped break the ice so that I wasn’t completely self conscious walking into the room.
– Upon introducing myself and saying, “First-timer!” 2 ladies spoke up and said they love guys walking into the class and acting macho. Typically they get ‘broken’ and don’t finish the workout.
– I did not act macho.
– This reminded me a lot of Yoga but there were a good number of moves I hadn’t done before.
– With a 16 month-old daughter, the wife and I have recently taken birthing classes (I’m really earning that Man Card today). With a stability ball between my feet, legs fully extended, lying on my back, and oscillating from right to left, I noticed the resemblance.
Moments you want to cry
Many more than 5
The other class participants and instructor were very good and appeared as though they’ve done Pilates many times before. That definitely pushed me to compete, not fall out, and want to do better.
Would I recommend Pilates to a friend and would I attend again – Most definitely yes. This was a hit, and if it’s any indication of what’s to come, I’m sufficiently excited.
Boot camp at Clara’s preschool (after hours)
This was the most awkward to setup. Not because of the staff but as Monica put it, “That’s where our daughter goes to school. Every day. I’m not sure that was the most appropriate idea.” Nonetheless I was asking for forgiveness rather than permission, and after checking with the higher-ups, the staff was welcoming and excited for the final product.
I went into this one completely in the dark. I’ve done boot camps before but they typically take on the persona of the trainer and participants. Because of this they can either be a walk in the park or the most difficult thing you’ve done in fitness.
What it was
The trainer (Kristen) is a certified personal trainer that works out of a downtown gym and sends her kids to this school. A couple/few years ago some of the staff figured this out and, next thing you know, they have a boot camp once a week for staff and parents to attend.
This is admittedly a cop-out workout because I love boot camps, I have done boot camps before, and it’s common to see a good mix of guys and ladies.
How this one made it in, though, is that up to this point no guys dared to venture into the class. Woman trainer, women staff, at a preschool… May seem intimidating to the outside dude – not this dude.
These ladies were definitely a welcome audience. After exchanging pleasantries, completing introductions, and yes, explaining the point of my presence, we got down to business.
What went down
Standard boot camp fare. Loved it. We had a 10 move circuit complete with different variations of squats, plank, push-ups, agility work, and an ab-roller. Been a while since I’ve used one of those. We spent 1 minute at each station and completed a total of 3 rounds.
It was nice getting back to a boot camp setting, as it had been a while since my last experience. People pushing each other, helping others learn the moves, providing words of encouragement, and even a little catching up on current events. Again we had a decent age range in the class – I’m not playing the guessing game with this though. A couple of Clara’s former, current, and future teachers were in the group and I wouldn’t want to risk missing badly on an age guess… We’ll call them a group of 21 year-olds.
This workout was heavy on cardio and upper-body work, with different variations of squats, agility and plank. It’s difficult to judge the quality of a boot camp on 1 workout because the schedule is completely revamped from one class to the next. However, Kristen seemed to have a great handle on workout design with the ability to focus just the right amount of pain on a specific muscle group. When outside they utilize tire flips, running, and other moves that aren’t available indoors, which makes me glad I was able to attend this day. Even without the tires and running, I was sweating heavily upon exit.
Moments you want to cry
I just flat-out love the boot camp setting and will continue to recommend these classes to anyone interested. There is so much versatility available and there’s no replacement for the community that comes from it. This was a ton of fun and I’m thrilled the ladies let me invade their world for an hour (I’m doing the baby-sign-language sign for ‘thank you’ right now).
One last thought
You never know who you may meet when branching out of your world for a moment. Kristen, like me, had gained some extra weight (unlike me, her’s was because of pregnancy), until one day she just decided to make a change. She lost 80 pounds and now devotes her professional life to helping others improve their life with fitness. I consider myself a pretty motivated guy, but seeing another story like this in person gave me fuel to learn more, work harder, and keep moving forward. I hope the same is true for you.