This summer I switched my workout regimen because I was hitting a plateau. I increased my daily cardio work, took out most of the lifting I had done and added yoga three times a week. And while I love yoga and do feel it requires amazing strength and flexibility and balance, I missed lifting. So I tried Body Pump, a group exercise class my gym offersbut I had never been interested in. [Actually it just changed its name to Group Power because of some wranglings in the upper levels of the corporation that puts out this pre-choreographed class. The fact that I am taking some corporate-produced, manufactured exercise program does make me feel a bit like a fitness automaton, but it is not the primary cause of my anxiety (after all I did once own Tae Bo tapes).]
I had avoided this class for a long time because I chose to lift in the actual gym. I had always done it this way but additionally I felt that I was making a statement. That area of the gym is dominated by men (though there are women who use it on a regular basis) and my presence there, I felt, in some way disrupted the idea that men had control of the space (many of the women I do see in the weights area are being tutored by men--sometimes one guy has a whole group following) while also countering the hegemonic notion that only men want to build muscle. Group power works all the muscle groups but does so using high reps and low weights--the mantra of middle-class suburban women who fear the dreaded "bulky" muscled look.
But I actually like Group Power. It's a one-hour class. It's a nice way to cross-train. I do sweat and get a workout. The music is annoying but I press on.
But I feel guilty. Am I falling victim to the cultural mandate for lean and toned? What about my small activist stance in being a presence around the weight room? There are men who do Group Power--of all ages actually--but it is a class dominated by 30-something moms and sorority women. It presents itself as "equal opportunity" but I continue to wonder if it really is and if I should continue to take it.