A few months ago, a college co-worker and friend, Leanna, started posting on Facebook about her crappy group exercise experiences. She never felt welcome, was bullied by the class cliques and, generally, you could feel her discouragement in every post.
“That would never happen in my class,” I thought. The only thing was that I didn’t actually have a class. I grew up teaching my own dance choreography to anyone that was willing to perform it. I’ve even coached my friends through workouts at the gym. I’ve always enjoyed training others but, for some strange reason, never really pursued it as something official in my life.
When my cousin Holly recently mentioned that she was going to get her Zumba certification, I jumped on board immediately. Holly and I had spent more than 15 years of our lives dancing together. We toured the country with our moms for national dance competitions. We practiced hours on end in the studio each week. We choreographed routines for our high school dance team together. After all that time, why wouldn’t we do our Zumba instruction together?
We left late on a Saturday afternoon for a drive to Wichita. I abandoned the monster dog in my hometown for a weekend with my mom, then picked up Holly in the small town next door.
Life does this funny thing where it will easily distract you from the most important people. Careers, dogs, houses, travel, marriage, kids – they’re all in constant competition for your attention. Sure, Holly and I are family – we were born into this special situation where we’d always be forced to run into each other around holidays, birthdays and beyond. But we are exceptional friends. Truly. Even when it’s inconvenient, we make time to see each other. Even when the visits are few and far between, we genuinely soak up every minute of what time we have together. And when we do finally find these super rare occasions to be on the road with just the two of us – we make up for lost time.
The entire 3-hour drive to Wichita was packed start-to-finish with the fastest catch-up talking I’ve ever managed. You know – when you finally run into someone you haven’t seen for awhile and are forced to smush 4 months of your life into a 10 minute convo. This was that. For 3 hours straight.
Laying in the hotel, we laughed at old stories and recapped our plans for the next day. Holly trimmed new bangs into my bright purple ‘do and shaped the pile of bright hair into a witchy circle on the floor. It was like our kitchen haircuts in college all over again. Soon enough, we were admitting our nerves and thankfulness to have each other there for yet another journey into a room of hyper-critical women in competition over dance moves. I emphasized that I would most definitely need coffee the next day. Like, priority number 1 if we didn’t want to include murder in our weekend. Then, we crashed.
Coffee in hand, we piled our luggage into the Jeep and laughed as we poorly followed Google Maps to the studio for our day of training. I’m not entirely sure if I was feeling the jolt from the caffeine or the general anxiety of facing all those women – but we stayed in the car for at least 20 minutes and watched one girl after another park and trickle into the front door.
Again, we were glad to have each other.
With a deep breath, we gathered our bags and slipped into the studio ourselves. Geared was plopped along a wall while everyone found a seat on the floor and waited like wallflowers for the instruction. In no time flat, we were diving into a full Zumba class and it was painfully apparent that I hadn’t been doing near enough cardio in my day-to-day.
Eight hours later, we were back in the Jeep, exhausted and ready for our drive home. Here’s the thing about talking for 3 hours straight, talking all night, dancing all day to loud-ass music and then sitting in a car for another 3 hours – you eventually lose track of what you’ve talked about. And you’re tired. So it’s like…let’s just sit in silence, right?
Another coffee was all the second-wind I needed to completely jam for the entire drive back to the country. We flipped through Spotify to share our favorite hits and talk through the dance line up we’d each be planning for our classes. Turn out – we both fucking love warm ups and cool down and each have about one billion songs we will eventually warm up and cool down to. And it’s going to be more inspiration than you can really handle.
Two months later, I still hadn’t found anywhere to teach. Holly had her classes on the calendar but was silently burning out on learning all the new choreography. After a mediocre-at-best audition, I texted her to check in. We picked up right where we’d left off.
In that conversation, I realized the genuine awesomeness of having someone that has your back despite all else. Someone who accepts that shit might not be perfect but is more than happy to remind you that you don’t suck at it. Or, at the very least, will admit that they’re struggling too. We were both in that boat at that moment.
That’s about the time that it occurred to me that the Leanna’s in the world need more of that, too. They need someone that doesn’t stand in front of the class and pretend to be perfect with their clique of other perfect people and flawless moves. Seriously, how high school are we? Instead, how about someone that emphasizes the fun and embraces the imperfection of working out in the first place. Someone like me. Or someone like Holly. Someone to just say “hey, we’re going to do this together and we’ll probably laugh all the way through it but at the end, we’re going to sweat and feel better about what we accomplish.”
In this whole journey, I just wanted to offer that to everyone else.
I got the call this morning. I’m going to be subbing, dancing and teaching classes at a gym near you.
Just like that – I have a class.