I have always hated the idea of exercise. Being overweight from childhood it was something I was never good at. I always felt ashamed of the way I looked in sportswear, I was always last and often ostracised as a result. I’m in my late 30s now and that’s stayed with me.
Last year I made up my mind (for what seemed like the hundredth time) to lose weight. I tried out the Couch to 5k programme in the privacy of my flat because I was still struggling with body confidence and didn’t want to be. To my amazement, even at 23 stone, I made it through the ten weeks and was running for an hour or so by the end of it. After about three weeks I was feeling proud and a bit more confident so I went back to a Zumba class in a nearby town – I liked the idea of dancing rather than ‘exercise’ in a more traditional sense. I enjoyed it even though I felt a bit embarrassed and ashamed of my size. But after a couple of classes no-one had pointed and laughed, and the biggest critic was me – all those negative thoughts that I had about myself. I’ve grown up overweight thinking people were looking and talking about me behind my back, it’s a permanent state of being. But if I can get over myself then I can do anything I want.
I kept going, getting to grips with the routines and seeing the weight come off bit by bit. But I was still feeling that I wasn’t getting the most out of the classes because I felt self-conscious and didn’t go for it in quite the same way as everyone else. I can remember sitting at home thinking that my ideal form of exercise would be a dance class in the dark because then no-one would be able to see me and I could go for it so much more without the worry of being watched. A few weeks later the Zumba instructor said she was launching a new class called Clubbercise! A dance class in the dark with glow sticks and upbeat tunes – clearly someone was watching over me.
Of course I went. The school hall was packed, everyone was in brightly coloured workout gear and clearly excited. And I loved it. It was the middle of summer and very hot in there, but I had a great time. I’ve been going to that class ever since, and occasionally get to a second smaller one in the week as well.
It is so liberating to dance in the dark, particularly if one of the things that holds you back the most is thinking about people looking at you. I leave Clubbercise feeling pretty exhilarated. I know I’ve worked hard and I know I’ve left my busy day behind. I’m not one for parties and clubs so dancing is a rarity in my life. But I find these classes a fantastic way to get some of that atmosphere without all the worries about awkward social niceties, drunk people, fist fights and sticky floors! I get to dance for an hour and then go home happy, knowing that I’ve enjoyed myself but also had a great workout – anywhere between 500-800 calories burnt in that hour.
The biggest challenge for me was walking in that first time, but I found that my fears and negative thoughts are worse than anything else others can throw at me. I needed to make a decision about whether I wanted them to run my life.
Only I can make the changes that I need to, and joining dance classes this year has helped me to realise that sometimes you just have to get over yourself because you’re getting in your own way. I’ve realised that I have just as much right to be there as the skinny person next to me. We’re both human beings, we both have problems to deal with, and generally, everyone is so wrapped up in their own lives that they don’t have the time or inclination to stop and point at someone else. There really is nothing to lose from trying something new, and it’s liberating to see life that way. I just wish I hadn’t left it quite so long – because I’ve been missing out on something I really enjoy and the added bonus is it’s good for me!