Step Class: A Love/Hate Relationship At Best

It took me nearly 27 years to muster up enough nerve to even walk into a step class, let alone to participate in one. By the time I was in my early 20s, I was a regular in spin and fit ball classes, but I had a million and one reasons why not to try step:

  • I was not coordinated enough, and I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of everyone else.
  • I was not coordinated enough, and therefore I posed a safety hazard to myself and the other participants.
  • I was not coordinated enough, period.
  • I didn’t know the names of any of the step moves, and by the time I had watched enough of a step sequence to attempt it on my own, the rest of the class would have already moved on to other moves, and I would have to watch again. See: not coordinated enough.
  • Step class seemed to be too steeped in the 80s to take seriously and/or to provide a decent enough workout. Jane Fonda, anyone? Charlene Prickett? Spandex thongs over spandex leggings? Sweet…
  • I was too endowed in the chestal region to want to spend 60 solid minutes jumping up and down. Right.

Only God knows what eventually pulled me into a step class. My anti-step class protective coating must have been weakened somewhat, leaving me vulnerable to the siren calls of the enthusiastic ladies on their way into the fitness studio. “Come on!” they encouraged. “It’s fun! And once you learn the steps, it’s a piece of cake! You’ll really enjoy it!”

I was dubious. Where these women saw “fun choreography” to “upbeat music”, I saw twisted ankles and flailing limbs. Besides, my life to date had been perfectly fine, and I had participated in nary a step class! Certainly, I couldn’t have been missing out on that much. Being possessed of a steely “Just Say No To Step!” resolve and an impressive capacity to stand firm in my convictions, even in the face of suggestive evidence otherwise… I soon found myself surrounded by mirrors in the fitness studio, waiting for the step instructor, and strategically positioning myself as far back against the wall as I possibly could. What had I gotten myself into?

‘This is not going to be pretty’, I thought to myself as the perky instructor outfitted herself with her headset and cranked the volume up on a Tears For Fears remix. I was right. I was the only person that evening who was new to both the particular step class and to step in general. I had to watch every Step Touch, every Grapevine, and every L Step move twice, three times, even 10 times before I felt comfortable imitating the move. And of course, by that time, all of the other (very sleek and coordinated) women in the class had moved on from the Basic Basic (yes, it’s actually called the Basic Basic) to the Revolving Door/Knee Straddle sequence. Needless to say… I sucked. After 60 minutes of playing catch up, yes– I was all sweaty, but it was mostly a worked-up lather of frustration. The only thing I was able to do with any degree of skill after a full hour of learning was to march, and even then, sometimes I was marching with my right foot first when everybody else was marching left… Not my most impressive performance, that’s for sure.

So how the hell did I end up going back to step class, a mere week after the disastrous first attempt? Was I a sucker for punishment? Did I have a penchant for 80s remixes? Was I that stubborn of an individual that I would return to a class I DID NOT AT ALL ENJOY, just to prove it to myself and to anybody else who cared that I could do a step sequence eventually, if only I tried? The answer to all of the above: hells YES!!

I was determined to master an L Step, and a Rock Step, and a Repeater Ham move. Positively determined. And I was dead set on whipping through a Spider/Pendulum/Side Legs/Charleston sequence with the ease and grace of a primadonna ballerina. I would do it if it KILLED ME!! Do you hear me?!– KILLED ME!!!

That was around six months ago. And since I first made up my mind that I would be the next best thing to hit the step class scene, it has not been an easy road. Steely resolve and youthful determination do not a step class hero make. I have messed up more than my fair share of Mambo/Cha-Cha steps (aside: seriously, who makes up these names?), and I narrowly missed breaking my ankle and falling over my step during one particularly challenging sequence, in which I attempted (in vain) to “Take It Around The World”. Sigh…


I think I’m falling in love with step class all the same. This is clearly not a deep or mature love, seeing as it’s based primarily on sugary Ace of Base remixes that take me back to memories of the early 90s, so let’s just call it a crush instead: I have a crush on step class. Ahem.

I realized this last night, when there were about 45 women (about 20 or so women too many) crammed into the fitness studio, doing synchronized plié squats and alternating leg lifts to the soulful remixed sounds of The Fifth Dimension:

Let the sunshine in! LET THE SUNSHINE IN!!!

Suddenly, I was overcome by the magic of the moment. Here we all were, reflected on three sides by the mirrored walls– hundreds of women!, kicking our legs out and hoping we wouldn’t deck the woman next to us in the head, moving in unison to The Fifth Dimension, and cycling through a large number of crazy complicated moves with the precision and grace (for the most part) of highly trained athletes. Even I only messed up once! It was a beautiful thing.

So what do I love about step class now (aside from the rockin’ workout beats)?

  • The sense of accomplishment I get from actually being able to follow a choreographed step sequence. My hopes and dreams of being in a Ferris Bueller-like choreographed dance scene are not lost!
  • Um…. that’s mostly it. The music and the moves. How totally 80s!

One response

  1. I attended my share of step classes at UofC and can safely say that I made at least 1 such mistake everyday, which just goes to show looks are tricky. Everybody else there was at least twice my age and often almost twice my weight but they had it DOWN. And it does take time!

    Not surprise to hear that your tenacity has turned you into an ol’ pro. Congrats on your success.

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