I joined a step class for the first time - here's why I won't be going back

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Illustration photo by Getty Images.
Illustration photo by Getty Images.
  • Sometimes the mind and the body don't get along; when the mind says yes, the body says no.
  • Maria Pillay explains that she joined a step class, but that her body was not having any it.
  • She says she hasn't gone back to that class and prefers to "dance like nobody is watching" at home.

I joined a step class at my gym a few weeks back. Let me be upfront. I have no rhythm, none whatsoever. But, in my head, I am a great dancer. The message just doesn't filter down to the rest of my body.

The only place that my "dancing" does not get me weird looks is at church, mostly because people have their eyes closed during praise and worship.

Nevertheless, I told myself that I would join the class because two of my friends were going. I mean, I just want to get fit, not train for Strictly Come Dancing.

I gave myself a pep talk in the car. My body and I agreed that while we know we don't have rhythm, there was a two percent chance that we could pull this off. You know, like in the movies when the girl who's a wallflower blossoms and becomes prom queen in 120 minutes.

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I get to the class and look around. Everyone looks regular and not intimidating in any way. And by "regular", I mean no one looked like they could be influencers, with their cute outfits and perfectly shaped bodies. Great, I will fit right in.

My standard gym outfit is a T-shirt and tights. I made sure I wore the right sports bra. Finding the right sports bra is a mission itself. My boobs once tried to escape during a hectic workout, but that's a story for another day.

The instructor shows us the steps, and I nod confidently because I've got this, as I said in my head. Also, I am moderately fit (or I like to tell myself that), so I knew I could keep up.

You know that talk your parents give you as a child, just before guests arrive? The one where they tell you to behave and not reach for the cookies that have been laid out for the guests? You nod and agree. Then the guests arrive, and after a few minutes, you find yourself inching towards the table where the cookies are and staring longingly at them. You should know better, but you avoid eye contact with your mom and reach for one.

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Well, that's the best example that I can give for how that class turned out. I should have known better, but I told myself what will be will be.

The music begins. It's house music. Slight alarms bells go off in my head, but I choose to ignore them. We step to the left and to the right and a little to the back - and then my body just rebels.

I still think I'm doing great. I even started to feel a bit proud of myself. I see the instructor walk towards me. She's coming to tell me how wonderful I'm doing, I assume. "Not bad for a first-timer," she's going to say. But she comes over and starts showing me the steps again.

"You must listen to the music, follow the beat," she yells.

Yes, yes, I scream back enthusiastically.

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I look around and realise that I'm that person who's going left while everyone is going right. Oh, did I mention that I also struggle with left and right? My best friend is always yelling:" No Maria, the other left."

But it's okay. At least I'm moving, I tell myself. I'm here to have fun.

A few minutes later, she adds more steps to the routine. And now it's starting to look like a dance class. Did I read the schedule wrong? Should I leave?

But still, I'm confident (slightly) that I can do this. I see her coming towards me again.

"Listen to the music," she screams again. But I AM listening to the music. My body just doesn't understand it.

I know that women are great at multi-tasking but don't ask me to get the workout steps right and also have rhythm at the same time.

And what happened to "dance like no one's watching? That's what I'm trying to do here, but I feel so judged. Even the one person who was lying on the floor from exhaustion looked up at me with sympathy. She was not as fit as I was, but at least she had rhythm.

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Halfway through the class, I gave up trying to be the female lead of another low-budget dance flick and just marched to the beat of my own drum.

I finished the class sweaty and tired but satisfied. I wasn't there to look cute or be perfectly in sync. I just wanted to work off the stress of the day.

As we get ready to leave the class, the instructor comes over. I expected her to say: "Well done, at least you tried." But no, she turns to my friend and says: "You need to let this one listen to amapiano so she can get some rhythm."

I haven't been back to step class. I've decided to stick to the treadmill and to mat workouts. I will dance like no one's watching - at home - because there's literally no one watching, and at church because God is quite fine with this rhythmically challenged daughter of His.

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