The woman in the corner of the pool is wearing a beanie, t-shirt and leggings. She moves and sways to the music, eyes closed with a soft smile as she twirls about with her arms outstretched. A group of elderly women form a circle in another corner, talking loudly over the pulsating beat, looking up every so often to see if the instructor has moved on to something they might want to do. And a few of us strain to hear the shouted instructions over the hub-bub.
"Okay! On three, jumping jacks! Remember, shoulders down and push against the water for more resistance!"
I count to three and turn, only to find that I am the only one who has turned. The rest of the group still faces the end of the pool, doing the last of their forward-kicks.
I try to decide if I have time to turn around again and join the group or whether to wait it out. I choose to wait it out, and soon the group turns in unison and begins the jumping jacks in the water. I wait to jump on the same beat but miss it. My arms flail out as the rest pull in, and I jump as the rest settle back down onto the bottom of the pool.
Any other time my lack of coordination would be enough for me to quit. But not this time. You see, I like jumping up and down in the water, even if I’m the crazy lady who can’t keep up. I’m bouyant and light and feel the thrill of excitement as I soar through the water on my way upwards for yet another jumping jack. I feel like a kid.
Okay. I don’t soar. It’s more of a lunge, like a killer whale gaining steam before shooting out of the water. I know when I rocket back down, I’ll create a massive splash. But just like the killer whale, I don’t care. It feels good.
I hear a new instruction shouted out, but I can’t quite make out what she is saying. And so I continue to hop up and down, waiting to see what the group does. They turn and begin a set of lunges through the water. I scramble to turn with them and lunge forward.
We lunge backwards, and I follow.
But I forget to look behind me. Some woman has encroached on my space in the pool, and I back up into her.
"Watch where you’re going," she barks.
I smile and shout back, "Sorry. You’d be best to give me some space. I’m clumsy."
I smile, and she returns a tight grimace. But she backs up and stays back. I refuse to let her make me feel bad as I follow the group forward and backward again. My breathing is heavy, my muscles burn. I’ve achieved a cardio-burning state without realizing it, and I thrill at the idea of burning fat off my body while having so much fun.
We finish the class with some ab work in the water. The instructor makes her way over to me.
"This your first time?" she asks.
I nod and wait for her to suggest that I go back to the treadmill where I can’t plow into people.
"Don’t overdo it at first," she says, "but work up to it gradually. I notice you didn’t use your right shoulder. Do you have an injury?"
I tell her of a previous injury and worries about exacerbating it. She shows me a couple of stretches and exercises to strengthen the area.
And she tells me she is looking forward to seeing me at the next class.
I smile all the way home. If a whale can be graceful in water, maybe I can, too. If not, I can still have fun, and that’s enough for me.