Keep It Steady

Keep It Steady

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Hello to a Better Body!

Keep It Steady

The mirror didn’t lie. I needed to lose weight. Tone up. Get stronger. Feel better. Waist? What waist? It didn’t exist. My chin had doubled and my upper arms jiggled. Even my legs, my best feature, looked flabby. I’d just passed my fifty-second birthday and my daughter’s wedding was only months away.

“Have you picked out your dress for the wedding, Mom?” That was my daughter’s first question when she had called the previous evening.

I hesitated. I’d already gone to a bridal shop to look at mother-of-the-bride dresses, but I hated to admit to Katy that I was appalled at the size of the dresses that fit me. I hadn’t tried on a dress in years and now I knew why.

“Not yet,” I hedged. “I’ll know when I find the just the right dress.”

JOIN JAZZERCISE NOW! The ad in the morning paper was printed in bright red and went on to describe a sixty-minute program that promised a cardiac workout complete with strength training and toning. I wasn’t excited about dancing around in my old sweats with a bunch of twenty-year-old girls in their tight little leotards. Wouldn’t it be easier to exercise at home in front of the television? That’s what I used to do when I wanted to exercise. Jane Fonda and I were practically best friends.

But now my husband worked a rotating shift at the lock and dam. Towboats push barges through the locks at any time of day or night. Joe’s schedule kept changing. While I didn’t work the shifts with him, his hours began to have an impact on me. Insomnia plagued me and my lack of sleep began to show as I went about my days in a general haze of sluggishness. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d actually exercised.

I knew I needed to make changes in my life. Not only was my body out of sync, but my spiritual life, my inner sense of wellbeing, was suffering too. I was too hazy to read my morning devotionals as well.

I glanced at the paper again. The morning Jazzercise class began in half an hour. Before I could change my mind, I found an old T-shirt and shorts, grabbed a pair of tennis shoes and headed out the door.

“Okay, ladies! Are you ready to work harder?” Kristal, the Jazzercise instructor, jogged to the middle of the stage, snapping her fingers in time to the music.

I felt like I had been working hard for hours, but I knew it had only been ten minutes. Sweat already beaded my forehead and I gulped water from my bottle. Suddenly, I wasn’t so confident about my latest decision to get fit. I couldn’t understand the words from the contemporary songs that blasted from the speakers and the dance steps were much faster than I had anticipated.

“Whew!” I commented to the gal next to me as we took a break before the strength training. “I don’t know if I can make it!”

She was about my age and I was relieved to note that most of the ladies in the morning group were middle-aged. No teeny-tiny twenty-year-olds in this group, although many of them were in super shape. Toned arms, flat tummies. And the smiles on their faces! Everyone seemed to be in a great mood.

“Of course you can,” she said. “It gets easier. You’ve got to keep coming, that’s all. Keep it steady.”

After the weight training, we stretched to a slow song and my muscles almost shouted out loud in pleasure.

Class ended as we all clapped for our instructor. “Good class. You guys are great!” Kristal applauded us, too. “See you tomorrow!”

“Are you coming back?” the gal who had stood next to me asked as I wiped sweat from my face with a towel.

Another lady stopped me at the door. “Did you enjoy the class?”

I had never met these ladies, but they were so welcoming, so kind.

“Sign me up,” I said to Kristal. “I’ll be here tomorrow.”

The next class was still difficult and my muscles were pretty sore from the day before. My heart still pounded and I felt pretty awkward as I watched the other participants out of the corner of my eye.

Geez, I thought. Some of these gals could be professional dancers.

Another song, another set of dance steps. Despite my breathlessness, despite my inability to keep up, a reluctant grin crossed my face. This was a song I actually knew and I was beginning to find a pattern in the choreography.

“Chasse, step, step,” Kristal chanted to the music. “Back again, chasse, step, step.”

A childhood memory flitted through my mind as I remembered from my dance class days that a chasse meant one foot chased the other. I glided my left foot after my right and swung my arms in rhythm. I step, stepped. I was dancing! I’d truly forgotten how much I loved to dance. For a moment, I felt almost overwhelmed by the sheer joy of moving my feet to the beat of a song. Bliss. Pure bliss.

“Keep it steady,” my new friend advised me again that day. “Don’t stop coming.”

Maybe it was the endorphins that kicked in after class. Or the songs I continued to hum in my car on the way home. Perhaps it was the encouragement from Kristal and the other ladies. But I hadn’t felt this good, both in mind and body, since my husband started his rotating shift work.

I was getting my life back in order. By staying true to my Jazzercise schedule, I was able to keep myself on track. I slept better, I was more careful about my diet, and my morning devotional time became richer.

“Have you found a dress yet, Mom?” Katy sounded a bit worried. “You’re running out of time. What if you have to get it altered?”

I was in my bedroom when she called and I smiled into the mirror. I’d lost a couple of inches off my waist, one of those chins had disappeared, my legs looked great and my arms were toned. Keeping it steady had really worked.

I’d found a dress two days earlier. It was a navy blue sheath with a bolero jacket and it was two whole sizes down from the last time I’d tried on dresses.

“I picked up a dress the other day,” I said happily. “It’s perfect. Absolutely perfect. The only alteration it needs is the hem. I think it’s time for your mom to show off her legs!”

~ Monica Morris ~

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