Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Bad flashback.

Another sleepless night I can't explain
Somebody said they heard me call your name
The radio won't let you leave my mind
I know it's over but I don't know why

It's been 20 years now. I don't hear this song too often anymore - but when I do - like this morning - I go right back to those days. Right back to forcing myself through that pain.

My college gym-credit aerobics class.

I went to a small fine arts college. Sports were not an emphasis, but in order to earn a bachelor's degree, studies other than art subjects were required - including a gym credit. My college offered four gym classes: volleyball, soccer, judo, and aerobics. All we did in high school gym was volleyball, so I was done with that. Soccer involved league play, and I wasn't interested in maintaining a game schedule. I wanted a nice, same time every time, predictable class. Judo was appealing, but required a robe which cost $40 I didn't have. That left aerobics.

Seemed easy enough. I was active and in good cardiovascular shape. What I hadn't counted on was the timing.

Freshman year was grueling. Studying and practicing art seems like a cakewalk to the outsider ("So you draw all day, how hard can that be?") - but class, study, and project hours at my college were equivalent to those of medical and law students. And the worst day of the week was Monday. The typical freshman Monday schedule contained 3 - 4 of the year's toughest courses. It was not uncommon, and could even be considered standard, for nearly all of us to be up all night on Sundays working on our studies. By mid-afternoon the next day you were praying for death, and gladly skipped dinner for the sweet pleasure of at long last pouring yourself into bed.

Not so for me and my brilliant plan to take aerobics.

At 6:30 pm on Mondays.

I considered suicide more than once as I stumbled into the auditorium after being up for 40 straight hours, having no shower and nothing on my stomach but a dozen cups of muddy cafeteria coffee.

The instructor was insufferably energetic. Not in a Beverly Hills, spandex and headband kind of way, but more of a drill sergeant kind of way. She'd take attendance as we all tried to sneak a cat nap - and then would bark us awake with a shrill command as she turned on her boombox, calling Richard Marx to pop-rock us from the bowels of hell.

"C'mon guys, let's move it! 1 - 2 - 3 - 4!" Our drill sergeant sprung into action as I blinked at her, my exhausted brain making up new swear words. "Let's go! It's your grade!"

Inevitably, my body had already commenced shutdown mode by this time, and protested vehemently as I forced myself up. My joints ached under the weight of my own body as I pushed them into following orders. I struggled through the class as if moving through a room full of polenta, barely keeping up if at all.

"Let's go! 1 - 2 - 3 - 4!", she'd yell, kicking her feet high in the air. I'd have loved to kick my foot high up her butt.

By cooldown time I'd be shaking like the elderly, practically on the verge of tears. Sometimes I wouldn't remember how I got back to my dorm room when I woke up in my workout clothes at 3 am ... remembering that I still had 10 hours worth of projects to get done in the next 4 hours, and wondering why I didn't just go sell my plasma to pay for those judo robes. At least judo was on a different night.

About a third of the way through the semester, a friend of mine figured out that if you hung in the back of the auditorium, you could duck out the back door when Sargeant Sweat turned to start the boombox and she wouldn't even notice you were gone. I followed suit from there on out.

Somehow, I got an A in aerobics. It was one of the hardest A's I ever earned, despite the fact that I cut the entire last two thirds of the semester.

I actually love being physically fit, and since college I've taken many workout classes. Tae Bo, kickboxing, Jazzercise, Turbo Jam. But never a class titled "aerobics". It's 6 of one, half a dozen of the other - pure semantics, and all synonymous. But I don't care. The very word makes me want to run away screaming.

Just hearing Richard Marx brings it all back. I can still hear her counting over the lyrics. "1 - 2 - 3 - 4!"

Should have known better indeed!