Being the “new kid” is a very naked feeling. (And naked is not a state that the average overweight woman is eager to experience in private, much less in a crowd.)

When I first went to Balance Class at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, Virginia, I had to forcefully suppress my “new kid” unease. I knew my friend Steve, and that helped… but I still felt sort of obvious and awkward. Like I didn’t really belong. I felt like I was in a place I didn’t belong; imagine ME getting in the way of people who were working out!

You can definitely sabotage yourself; it’s so damned easy!

In my very first class, Barbara put us through her standard warm-up – a Ministry of Silly Walks series of ways to pass from one side of the room to the other. (You start out with a slow, modified goose step – one leg held up, balanced by the opposing arm; step forward and repeat with the other side. Next, walk across the room by stepping forward and holding the opposite leg’s foot as close to the butt as possible; opposite arm overhead. Alternate sides, stretching the thigh muscle as you go. Then side-step, all ten toes facing forward. Etc.)

These are astonishingly easy to do and made me feel more comfortable immediately – hey! I can do this! Now I know that I was cheating at a spectacular level. Done correctly, the warm-ups can exhaust me every bit as much as the rest of class. Pelvic alignment. Core muscles. No curve in the back. For me, mostly pigeon-toed.

But on that first day, I knew none of that … and I felt welcome and like I wasn’t in the wrong place after all. Barbara’s a great teacher and she hits you with the truth in tiny, manageable doses.

So flash-forward a bunch of moths. Today I paused long enough to towel the sweat from my eyes (we were doing fiendish squat exercises that looked SO easy when Barbara demonstrated them) and when I looked around, I realized that I knew every single participant in the class by name; that we’d all exchanged groans and giggles and complaints aimed at Barbara and compliments aimed at each other.

I realized that far from feeling naked and awkward, I felt entirely at home. These strangers had become my friends, and working out with them was damned hard and also fun enough to actually look forward to the next class. That’s a good thing to realize.


I asked everyone if they minded a photo to be posted on my blog; no one had the stones to object out loud, so here they are – my friends and allies. I wish Steve and Bob and Alma and Lynn and all the others had been there too, but this is a pretty representative sample of Balance Class. The photo is into the mirror, so you can see the  backs as well as the fronts of the same people. From the left, counting every single head:

That’s Beth’s back in the white shirt. Beth is extremely strong, and can keep going long after everyone else has begun to complain to Barbara because you can get away with standing still while you do it.

Next is me, peering over Beth’s shoulder. I didn’t intentionally hide myself in the photo; that’s just the way it turned out (and very typical of me in photos!).

Next is Mardy in the mirror, right in front of Barbara in the mirror, and Callie in the mirror. Mardy and I end up sweating next to each other often; we are Body Dynamics sisters. Callie has a sly, quiet sense of humor that never fails to crack me up (and she and I have matching shoes, although she wasn’t wearing her match to mine today).

Next is Robbie in the mirror, in orange. With great entertainment I note that because I was taking a panoramic photo slowly, the front of Robbie (in the mirror) is in an entirely different pose from the back of Robbie (on the right of the photo). This both amuses me and stands as a testament to Robbie’s really very annoying level of energy in Balance Class; she just doesn’t stop exercising, which makes the rest of us look like slackers. (Well, it may not be Robbie’s fault that I look like a slacker…) Robbie has agreed to provide music for next week; DJ Robbie Rob. Yay!

Then there’s the back of Callie’s head, and then Karen in the mirror. Karen is quiet; you can tell she’s a back-row whisperer. I would always elect to sit next to her in that back row, because she’s got a dry, quick sense of humor. Behind her is Barb, a long and elegant woman with some hip issue or other; she moves more gracefully than any of the rest of us and makes me ashamed to be complaining when both my hips are challenged by nothing more than laziness.

Then Nadine, in the cobalt shirt. Nadine is an assistant teacher for a yoga class, which is annoying because Nadine is almost to the age where you might realistically decide you could sit down for a while, but she has by far the deepest squats in the class. She never seems to have a bad day, and tells tales of her dog, Grace Kelly. That’s a great dog name.

Next in line is the back of Mardy’s head (no longer looking slightly to the side, as she is in the mirror), then just a glimpse of Rosemary in the mirror, and then the back of Karen’s head. Then the back of Rosemary, a woman who seems to be nothing but purely sweet. Surely she’s a human like the rest of us? Has she NEVER made a snarky comment or offered a complaint?! Impressive!

Silhouetted against the light is Marusha; she was the “new kid” three weeks ago, but she’s become a regular in no time. I can tell from her expressions that Marusha thinks she’s not very good at Balance Class; she’s wrong. She’s right there in the thick of it with the rest of us.

Look at Robbie doing the exercise (bend the standing leg into a squat; lift the free leg backwards, touch the kettle bell down on the purple block; stand up; pass the kettle bell behind your back; rinse and repeat). Not doing it in the mirror, is she? I am delighted by this.

There’s Barb in profile. And last is The Amazing Barbara, who wears layers when she teaches us because we get so overheated that she’s forced to turn the thermostat to increasingly arctic levels and she gets chilly. Well, you can see she has no insulation AT ALL. Sheesh – have a brownie, woman.

Barbara is awesome. Panoramic photos are awesome. Balance Class is awesome. And thank heavens, not a hint of nakedness in sight – physical OR emotional!

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