1992 doesn’t feel that long ago.
Somebody called George Bush was in power in the USA, and the war in the Gulf was still a hot topic.
Around the world, the big names of politics were still in the headlines.
Back in Ireland, Charlie Haughey finally resigned as Taoiseach, and the formidable Mary Robinson was elected President by Mná na hÉireann.
In the UK, John Major was starting the Tories’ fourth term in government, Neil Kinnock resigned and Betty Boothroyd was elected the first woman Speak of the House of Commons.
Here in Australia, Paul Keating was Prime Minister and Jeff Kennett was Premier of Victoria.
Keeping healthy was a lifestyle choice. Gym membership was affordable, new sportswear ranges included matching leotards in pastel shades, and step class was king.
And I was 25.
That is the last time I went to an exercise class. I realised this as I walked into the local sports centre to take part in something called Body Attack. In 2007 there is no such thing as simply aerobics. Everywhere you will find syndicated branded courses called Body Something.
Body Pump (lifting weights to music)
Body Combat (kickboxing to music)
Body Balance (yoga and Pilates to music)
I wasn’t sure what Body Attack was, but the brochure promised: “This most intensive workout takes no prisoners!”
Good, I thought. I’m trying to lose weight and get fit. Now, what do people wear to exercise classes in the twenty-first century?
Mercifully, I couldn’t find my matching cherry red leotard and leggings so I chose a slimming pair of black trackie pants and a long-line vest top (to hide the bulging tummy).
Unsuspectingly, I paid my $12 and lined up with the others.
The teacher was a tiny dynamo of energy with a high ponytail, full make-up, a shrill voice and an eight-pack revealed by her hipster leggings and sprayed-on crop top. I caught a glimpse of the class in the full-length mirror behind her, and actually didn’t recognise myself for a moment. Wasn’t I much thinner before? Suddenly the weight (literally) of the past fifteen years sat heavily upon me (especially my hips) and realised with horror that I actually look every one of my forty years.
Then the music started. If I hadn’t already begum to feel my age, I did now. Heavy techno beats machine-gunned out at 180 beats per minute, and I realised with horror that I was supposed to keep up. Most of the class is a blur now, but I do remember thinking I would have to stop before I passed out, then looking at the clock and realising I was EIGHT MINUTES into a one-hour class.
I abandoned all hope of achieving anything but the Level One, low-impact version of the any of the moves. Within fifteen minutes even that was too much for me and I developed a Level Zero form of each new torture thrown at me.
The instructor shrieked her way through song after song, screaming “Come on!!” periodically. I am sure I heard “Feel the Burn!!” at one point. Since when has Jane Fonda become hip again?
The bloke beside me high-kicked like a showgirl, while I jogged on the spot beside him, wheezing.
The low point was when we were whipped into a frenzy before being sent running clockwise around the room. It was like being back in PE at school, with all the associated memories of never being picked for anyone’s team. Then the heavily-pregnant woman overtook me, breathing comfortably.
Somehow I struggled to the end of the hour. I was drenched in sweat and all my muscles were trembling with the supreme effort of it all. As I walked slowly to my car, I added Body Attack to my list of Things Never To Do Again Now I Am Forty.
Next week, perhaps I’ll try Aqua Aerobics.