My relationship with fitness is one that covers a span of four decades. Like a centenarian who has seen many inventions and modern advancements, I have seen an incredible change in the world of fitness.
In the early 1970s I took dance lessons as a young girl. I loved moving my body and expressing myself through music and dance. I remember discovering Jane Fonda and her workout videos during that time and thought it was funny how repetitive dance movements could be considered a workout.
Nevertheless, I was intrigued by the fitness industry early on and would regularly watch pioneers like Kathy Smith, Richard Simmons, Denise Austin, and Gilad. Their enthusiasm was infectious, and I could tell this was the beginning of a fitness movement.
Dance was the one constant I had until my early 20s. I studied ballet, tap, modern, jazz, and hip hop – performing in numerous recitals and shows, which culminated in me becoming an NFL cheerleader in 1991. We cheered, but mostly danced on the sidelines.
During my stint as a professional cheerleader, I found out that becoming an aerobics instructor might be a perfect fit for me. Aerobics was at its peak in the 1980s and 90s, with gyms around the nation hiring instructors to lead every kind of class – step, slide, kickboxing, hip hop, etc. I investigated further and decided to study for and get certified in group fitness instruction through AFAA (Aerobics and Fitness Association of America).
This allowed me to combine my love of dance and fitness, while making some extra money. As I became a more seasoned instructor, the fitness industry had me hooked. I attended conferences all over the country, taught multiple classes a day, and later added more certifications like personal training, Johnny G Spinning, Aqua, Seniors, Prenatal, and more.
At the pinnacle of my fitness career, I was teaching up to 15-20 classes per week and training multiple clients a day.
Early on, the emphasis seemed to be on high impact, high intensity classes with lots of kicks and jumps. Then, it moved into more low impact exercises like sliding and spinning that resulted in a lot less stress on the joints.
When I got married and had kids in the mid-90s, I taught less and became a runner. The solitude of running was much-needed after chasing after my little girls all day. Upon completing several half-marathons, I decided to hang up my running shoes. My knees sounded like crunchy cereal when I bent them, and I needed two bunionectomies.
I evolved into more strength training classes, but my back just couldn’t take it. I had three bulging discs and one was so inflamed, it was pushing on a nerve. I ended up having to get an epidural, which gave me instant and long-standing pain relief.
I decided that after decades of putting my body through so much, I would go back to more mat-based exercises such as Pilates, yoga, and stretching. I also feel exercise has moved into more of a mindful relaxation practice and stress releaser than just putting your body through a heart pounding cardio frenzy.
I’d like to hear from you. What is your favorite workout?