How are you? Are you feeling anything?

Only the slow, aching death of my biceps. My arms holler that it’d be a great idea to drop the weight bar right now. But the instructor is still counting and Lady Gaga is still singing and my mind is still trying to coax my quaking biceps into just one more curl and—ah, sweet release! The song ends. I drop my bar with a groan, listening to my classmates huff and wheeze around me. Then I bend down and adjust the weight on my bar. The next song’s about to start.

Are you stayin’ alive?

It’s Tuesday evening at the Southeast YMCA, and my squats are getting shallower. Cindi, the weight-training instructor, wanders through the crowded room, counting reps, shouting encouragement, singing ah, ah, are you stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive? I glance around the room, where my classmates squint and groan as they dip and squat toward the end of the song. Four…three…two…one—keep going! We moan in unison. Right now, Cindi’s patter is the only thing keeping me from dropping my weight bar in defeat.

You want tight muscles? You’ve got to pay for them. You’re paying for them right here.

In July, I wrote about my budding relationship with Pilates, a strength-training cousin of yoga.  At the end of the post, I wondered whether a few weeks’ positive experience with Pilates could revolutionize this sweat-hater’s relationship with exercise. Honestly, I figured it wouldn’t.

It worked. One thing led to another in a calorie-burning cascade: Pilates strengthened my legs and abs, making it easier and more fun to do dance moves in Zumba class. The cardio work in Zumba gave me the boost I needed to finally start running. And once I started running, a weight-training class didn’t sound quite so impossible.

Now, I’m at the YMCA two or three times a week, slowly accumulating miles on the treadmill, dancing my way through Zumba class, figuring out how many pounds I can chest-press (hint: not many).

Can you feel your body changing? Do you feel different now than you did when you walked into the room?

Cindi reminds us every week that we’ll only see change if we work for it. After six months of my new routine, some things haven’t changed. I still get embarrassingly ruddy, flushing to a level of red usually reserved for cranberries and fire hydrants. My aching muscles provide sullen reminders that maybe I should weight-train more than once a week.

But things are changing. For the first time in my life, I can run more than a mile without wanting to die. When my boss needed help loading a U-Haul and moving gear to our company’s new building, I could heft every box. I got new running shoes yesterday—and I’m actually looking forward to using them.

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