February 16

Maine Observer: When getting fit, it also helps to fit in

The need to get some serious calorie-burning exercise may make you join, but the group’s camaraderie will make you stay.

By Vicki Sullivan

We’re a small group of women, mostly of a certain age, trying to stay fit by taking aerobic dance classes at the South Portland Community Center. We don’t delude ourselves about our appearances or abilities. We’re here to stay active.

about the author

Vicki Sullivan lives and writes in South Portland.

What prompted me to join the class two years ago was to get some serious calorie-burning exercise. What’s made me stay is the camaraderie of the group.

Some of the women have taken this type of class for more than 20 years A couple of us are fairly new and in the fall we had two new arrivals. A few drop in and out or disappear.

I’ve taken exercise classes before. Years ago I took Jazzercise with the svelte Joanne DiMauro. I liked it. More recently I tried Zumba, but with this aging body I couldn’t shimmy or shake my booty. After the first attempt, at a Zumba marathon no less, three days later I could barely get out of bed, and that was aided by IcyHot and Advil.

This class is a good fit for me. Trained in Jacki Sorensen aerobics, our leader, Jean, is helpful and gracious. Never laughing at a misstep or paddle turn gone wrong, she always smiles and frequently bursts into song along with the music.

We do warm-ups (oh, those horrible crunches), dance routines and then our cooldown. The music is contemporary with an occasional remix of an oldies song thrown in. When I dance to Cher, I fantasize I’m 30 years younger and 20 pounds lighter and I’m a backup dancer for one of her concerts.

Then I come back to reality and remember I was never much of a dancer – too self-conscious and a wallflower standing on the sidelines at school dances at Mahoney Junior High.

Sometimes during a dance we form a line or a circle and I feel as if I’m at a party or a wedding. But I can’t be a party animal in these workout clothes.

Occasionally I’ll be in a store and over their loudspeakers I’ll recognize one of our dance songs. I pause a moment to think about which dance steps would go with it. Basic? Pony? Hustle? Cha-cha? Then I come back to earth and continue with my shopping.

As I’m dancing to “That’s My Kind of Night,” by Luke Bryan, I’m thinking to myself, “This isn’t my kind of night.” My kind of night is at home relaxing, not dancing in front a big, unforgiving mirror. But here I am anyway.

Then we dance to “Little Black Dress.” I can hear the pain in the singer’s voice. I think it would be nice to have a little (or not-so-little) black dress. But where would I wear it?

Before our cooldown, the hourlong session starts to wind down with a dance done to the song “Safe and Sound.” I think how lucky I am to have found a class I feel comfortable in, and this song seems to be a fitting tribute.

— Special to the Telegram

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