In Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1988 my friend Diane and I joined a gym in Central Square called Joy of Movement. We had a choice between two kinds of fitness classes: high impact aerobics and low impact aerobics (okay, they also had yoga, but that was for the older women—over thirty). In both, the instructor shouted out the knee lifts and overhead presses and we dutifully followed the orders, scrutinizing our reflections in the mirrored front wall. The rousing encouragement of Gloria Gaynor singing “I Will Survive” spurred us on in this daily ritual.
Fast forward 24 years to yesterday. I’m in Banff for a couple of weeks. I still need to acclimatize to the altitude and the weather (snow, cold). I don’t feel ready to run outside (maybe tomorrow). The fitness centre here offers different classes every day: muscle pump, boot camp, zumba (yes, and yoga, but I need to sweat!). I tried muscle pump and whoa, things have changed.
You still face a mirror and try to keep up with the complicated routine staying in rhythm with the music as the teacher belts out instructions. But now you have equipment. A mat, a bosu (half a ball with a solid base), weights, and a thing that looks something like a skipping rope covered in fabric; it’s called a tube. It gives resistance for working shoulders and triceps (and I’m sure other things, but that’s what we used it for yesterday).
If the aerobics classes of the past were workouts, Muscle Pump is like the Iron Man. When the leader had us jumping on the bosu from the back, then off to the side, then on, then off to the front, then on, then off to the other side, then on, then off to the back again, all the while coordinating this with arm movements holding weights, I got all twisted up and felt like I was going to pass out. Maybe it’s the altitude?
What did I think of Muscle Pump?
• The instructor was a kick-ass woman in her fifties who exuded vitality and strength (the oldest and fittest person in the room)
• The pressure of keeping up with the others combined with not wanting to embarrass myself motivated me (for the most part).
• One minute I looked at the clock and we had more than half an hour to go, the next minute class was over!
• The combination of weight training and cardio rolled into one makes for an intense, efficient session.
I didn’t like:
• The loud music
• The gym had no windows to the outside
• The mirror was distracting
• The routine seemed unduly complicated
• The pressure of keeping up with the others combined with not wanting to embarrass myself might have kept me motivated, but that’s not the sort of motivation I want
Muscle pump got my heart rate up and challenged my muscles. I can’t see classes like that becoming part of my routine again (I’ll take a yoga class over muscle pump any day of the week!). But if you’re looking for an efficient combination cardio/weight training experience, belong to a gym, want an indoor activity for the winter months, and you like the bolstering affect of a high-energy instructor, loud music, and fellow sufferers, then the fitness classes offered these days are a good choice.