Fitness, Fellowship, & Fun

by Dana Wineland O’Rourke, contributing writer

It felt a little like the first day of high school. I wondered if I’d see any familiar faces in class. It also felt like walking into a strange church where I didn’t want to sit in someone’s pew. I’d been in that big room several times; dances, parties, 40 years and 40 pounds ago for Jazzercise class. But this day, I was a YMCA member newbie who studied the classes offered with all the gusto of a college freshman and ready to begin a long overdue fitness journey. Over the years I dropped my young sons off at the Y to work out while I’d head home to do mom stuff. My stuff should have included more exercise, but it didn’t, and today I find myself weighing more than the day I delivered them.

Ugh. Smile. Ready, set, go!  

My sister-in-law, a member, pointed me in the right direction and I dragged a chair used for balance to a space for yoga with women and men who once dragged chairs with me on soccer and football sidelines to watch our kids play. I also saw neighbors, former co-workers, and fellow retirees. I felt welcome, and that felt good.

Back in my Jazzercise days I rotated between three sets of leotards, and that gigantic mirror-covered wall was no big deal. These days it’s black or navy yoga pants and an array of solid-colored vintage T’s to my new Penn State Grandma top. I wish I was comfortable in the floral prints and geometric patterns some of the women wear, but my 5’ 9” extra-large self would feel like a piece of accent furniture or a rose bush in that attire.

I’m a happy second or third row participant for yoga, classic, and circuit training. Prior to one class, some unexpected shifting landed me in the dreaded front row. During pigeon pose, I felt like a butterball turkey. On a positive note, I looked more like a size eight than a size eighteen for an hour, thanks to a funhouse effect from facing the seam where the mirror panels meet.

Joining swing dance class was a bit daunting. I hoped I could keep up for the hour (having recently danced to three consecutive fast songs at a wedding where I got winded, made my way back to my seat, chugged a glass of water, then headed to the cookie table for some lady lock comfort.) I wore a white tunic on my first day of class and stood in the back row eager to follow the steps. A few minutes in, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and realized panel five also gives a sort of funhouse appearance. At least I pray it was the mirror because I looked like the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man line dancing. Note to self: no more white tunics in class, or anywhere. Thankfully, I kept up just fine and loved it.

Using muscles dormant since the 20th century feels great and adding resistance bands and free weights has been beneficial. Prior to this, carrying as many grocery bags as possible from the trunk in one trip was my only weight training. I’m getting more comfortable in classes each week. Yesterday I heard a lady tell her friend she couldn’t see the instructor well. I soon heard someone whisper those three little words that warmed my rookie heart, “Just follow Dana.”

This rookie is a bit sore after class, but it’s nothing my determination and Aleve can’t handle. I do wish the scale would show some respect and begin to move in the left direction, but that’ll come in time. It’s important to celebrate small goals, like feeling my long-lost hip bones, and not sucking oxygen walking two flights of stairs with the laundry basket.

Our Y has a wonderful pool, so I added swimming and Splash Dance class to my schedule and purchased a $130.00 Miracle brand bathing suit. It’s like hitting the pool wearing Spanx, and I’m still waiting for my miracle!  Doing laps has been relatively easy and I can’t help but wonder if the combination of my flabby arms and BMI makes me some sort of phenomenon like Michael Phelps. Dancing in water using foam weights, pool noodles, and kick boards is fantastic for this former majorette. It’s a joy to share time with this group and every so often I’m tempted to yell “Kick line!” and give the Rockettes some competition.

The instructors are friendly and knowledgeable and choose routines and music selections to make class enjoyable. One played the entire Carole King Tapestry album during circuit training and by the end there was sweat, a tear, and a smile on my face.

Working out with old friends and new gives motivation and we applaud after class. Each day I look forward to the chit chat, laughter, and tenacity of this community, where I found not only fitness, but fellowship and fun.


About the author: Freelance writer Dana Wineland O’Rourke retired after wearing the many hats required for her position as a Preschool- Grade 8 school secretary for 30 years. A lifelong resident of Monongahela, Dana has been married to Tim for 44 years. Their two sons and daughters- in -law made the family an even dozen with six grandchildren. She enjoys spending time with family, traveling, biking, gab & grubs with friends, and writing poetry and short stories.