You guys, I have found my new favorite form of exercise.
Or rather, I have found the perfect circumstances for engaging in one of my old favorite forms of exercise.
Last night, Tari, OTM and I went to Dance Dance Party Party, which is the most brilliant “Why the fuck didn’t I think of that?” idea I’ve encountered in a long time. It’s like a dance class without the class, or a dance club without the club. Basically, a bunch of women get together in a dance studio, somebody brings an iPod stocked with an hour and a half of fast songs (and a bit of cool-down music), they turn the lights low, and we all flail around like happy jackasses until the playlist ends. For five bucks.
It is pretty much the exact opposite of why people hate the gym. The Chicago website says there are only three rules: “No boys. No booze. No judgment.” And they make a seriously big deal of the “no judgment” part, making it clear that if you even look like you’re judging someone else, you’ll be out on your ass. Nice! The “no boys” and “no booze” rules mean you don’t have to deal with any of the unpleasantness of going dancing at a club — and from our very scientific poll of Al and OTM’s husband, we’ve scientifically determined that straight guys think this is a ridiculous idea anyway, so fuck ’em. (The funny part is, I think Al would actually have a blast. He not-so-secretly loves dance music, and he has even been known to suggest going out dancing, as opposed to having to be dragged. But then, the conspicuous lack of a “no booze” rule at the places where we’ve gone dancing contributed substantially to his willingness.) In any case, the “no boys” rule means there’s no chance of unexpectedly getting a stranger’s dick smashed into your back, so I’m completely on board with that.
There’s also a fourth rule they don’t mention on the website: No talking. Naturally, when I first heard this, I panicked. WHY DON’T YOU JUST ASK ME NOT TO BREATHE FOR 90 MINUTES? But once we got started, I realized how brilliant that rule is. If I’d been allowed to talk, I would have spent the first ten minutes giggling nervously with Tari and OTM about how weird and awkward it was, babbling about how I’d worn the wrong shoes and the wrong bra, etc., and never getting out of my head and into the groove. As it was, there was nothing to do but dance, so I just spent the first five minutes feeling weird and awkward, then got over it and cut loose. Which was apparently exactly what everybody else did, too.
The other plus to the no-talking rule is that it allows for introspection about your own response to the no-judgment rule. Even though I have a pretty good relationship with my own body, and there were women of all sizes there, I found myself occasionally looking at some thin, buff girl who danced better and/or more boldly than I did, and automatically thinking, “Show-off!” But then, that thought would immediately be followed by, “Hello, that was a judgment of another woman, based largely on her body and your own insecurity, you hypocritical bitch. Why do you assume she’s showing off and not that she’s just getting down and having fun like you? Or like you would be doing if you weren’t judging other women and having this conversation with yourself. DANCE!”
And then I would just dance. And it was a fucking blast. It was also one of the best workouts I’ve had in a while, and a perfect example of everything I preach about exercise: To wit, if it’s fun, you’ll want to keep doing it, and if you go at your own pace and honor what your body’s telling you, you will have more fun. The DJ of the week (more on that in a mo) started off with a few songs I really loved, so I went apeshit, only to realize I was panting and feeling a twinge of a headache — which was a bad sign, because I’ve been known to trigger exercise-induced migraines by attempting to do too much cardio, too fast. But for once, I recognized that I was overexerting myself and slowed down a bit, instead of calling myself a wimp, trying to keep up that pace, and leaving to barf my guts up after 20 minutes. All of the songs were fast, but it was easy enough to take it down a notch until I felt better, which I soon did. The group leaders also made sure to point out that we should take a break if we felt like it. I was kind of surprised I didn’t feel like it, actually — I don’t think I’ve ever danced for an hour and a half straight without at least leaving the floor to get another beer — but I just varied my pace as necessary and never needed or wanted to stop moving.
Okay, nuts and bolts stuff for those who might be interested.
Location: There are chapters in lots of American cities, and a couple in Canada and New Zealand. If there’s not a chapter in your city and you want to start one, you can email founders Glennis and Marcy at dancedancepartyparty[at]gmail[dot]com. (As far as I can tell, all you need is a cheap space, an iPod, half-decent speakers, and a willingness to show up every week and abide by the rules.)
Music: Could be anything. After you’ve gone once, you’re invited to “DJ” for a future DDPP — which means putting together a playlist of about 20 fast songs and one slow one. (Ideally, you put this on your own iPod and bring it. If you don’t have one, you can burn a CD and bring it to your leaders, who will put it on one of their iPods for a future date.) Last night was a lot of seventies/eighties stuff and hip-hop, which was perfect for me, but it varies according to different DJs’ tastes.
Cost: As I said above, five bucks, which is a hell of a lot cheaper than an actual dance class.
What to wear: Workout clothes, gym shoes, and a sports bra. I wore a tank top and a vaguely athletic skort, which were fine, but my shoes and bra were major fails. I rejected the idea of gym shoes, because I usually find dancing in rubber-soled shoes to be a pain in the ass — I like to get a little slidey in the feets, and you can’t do that with good traction. But that’s when I’m dancing for 15 minutes, then sitting on a barstool for 15 minutes, then dancing for 15 minutes. The flats I chose really did not cut it for 90 straight minutes of dancing. I noticed a lot of the regulars were doing moves that looked a little more aerobics-like than dance-like (e.g., lifting their feet/knees a lot), which is probably because those are easier in gym shoes — so there’s a bit of a trade-off, but my feet and knees really would have appreciated the extra support. As for the bra, I went with a good, supportive everyday bra, but once I started sweating and bouncing around, it felt like nothing. Again, it’s an actual workout, not half-assed club dancing, so a sports bra is in order.
Pain factor: none, as long as you listen to your body. You’re not required to do anything you don’t want to, and you’re very much encouraged to do whatever feels good.
Next day pain factor: slight for me, probably because of the shitty shoes. I can feel it a little in my knees and my hips today.
Fun factor: Off the charts, if you like to dance.
Intensity: Totally depends on what you want to/can do, but due to the fun factor, I felt like I got a way better workout than I do riding an exercise bike or swimming laps.
Fat friendliness: High. Granted, the three of us dramatically increased the percentage of fat chicks in the room, but the regulars came in many different sizes, and the strictly enforced no-judgment rule makes it about as fat-friendly as you can get.