From somewhere behind me I hear a gentle complaint: "Dying..."
Our torturer (teacher?) laughs sympathetically as she intones: "Just ten more. Lift nine, eight, seven..."
It's usually at this point that I simply stop using my arms, my legs or working whatever body part I happen to be squeezing so hard that I can't even feel it, much less name it, and I just throw myself back on the mat and laugh, silly with exhaustion. In another few counts everyone else in Anne's class has caught up to me and we all let out a big, long, thank-God-it's-over-for-now sigh.
"Good, huh?" Anne asks us, her face beaming. "That's the only move that really targets the side of the butt."
Anne, our friend, teacher and sometimes tormentor, is the reason we are all huffing and puffing away on a Sunday morning; working our bodies to exhaustion and getting caught up socially. Hanging with friends we don't often get to see, meeting new friends we wouldn't necessarily meet. It's a great way to spend the morning.
In addition, we get great physical and mental benefits to boot. As if magazines like Shape, Women's Health and even Yahoo! headlines didn't already inundate us with the benefits of exercise: boosting your mood, managing weight, staving off disease and improving your sex life, we are also reducing our chances of getting Alzheimer's. Yep, multitasking exercise with social hour strengthens our neural pathways. And even creates new ones. Get stronger, get smarter and stay younger all in an LA hour.
It's not like we set out to be revolutionaries. While studies have shown that multitasking actually decreases productivity for each task undertaken, our mat class takes a more yoga-like approach. Anything you do is good for you.
We first got together when Anne moved to Los Angeles and decided to teach her math class to friends. Yes, she is sweet and wonderful, but her fit, transformed body was the best advertisement for the class. And bikini season was right around the corner. But who knew there would benefits beyond the physical? So here we all are, as her friend, or a friend of a friend or maybe even an acquaintance. It really doesn't matter. At the end of our hour and 15 minutes, we are all besties.
Sure going to a weekly Bollywood dance class with your friend is social, especially after you relive the pain of that damn jump squat over an after-class drink, but it isn't multitasking. A feat that seems both at odds and in sync with Los Angeles happens three times a week, every week: at a home in Los Angeles in a way only Tinsel Town could, we transform our bodies, improve our health and boast our emotional and social life.
Hung-over, tired and/or hungry, each one of us has a good reason not to be in attendance. But then there is the best reason of all to show up -- social hour.
Anne indicates we should put on our wrist weights. That means arms are next. Or, more accurately, gossip time!
"Let's shrug our shoulders forward...Rachel, tell us about your date last night... and now shrug back, two, three... then Jenny I want to know about your election, and now arms out to the side... Maura can you please explain to me what in the world happened to you at the party last night?"
And so our social session, our raison d'être, continues. We banter about the latest episode of "Glee," "Housewives of New York City" and then easily switch to more urbane topics: world affairs, the economy, apartment hunting -- Gina found the perfect place, but compared to her old place it lacks a/c, laundry and a dishwasher. Are we moving up in the world or down? Then it's back to a less newsworthy, but very important question: what bra to wear under the uber-popular purple Vera Wang bridesmaid dress? It seems as if every bride wants her ladies to shine in the same frock this summer. Strapless and built-in's discussed in depth, we switch back to world affairs. Or rather, dream travel destinations. Swimming with dolphins! Trip to South Carolina! And that's quickly followed by what one should take for fear of flying (Ativan got the most votes).
By the time we get to our abs, periods of silence are extended enough for us to notice our immediate surroundings: The two duck lovers; why does only the male get in the pool? The hummingbird next to us, can he actually be drinking nectar in tune with Kesha's "Tik Tok"? And even the helicopter overhead begs its own question: what's going on in Tinsel Town today? It's all very in the moment; Zen enough to ignore the burn. Well, almost.
Finally, after an excruciating hour and 15 minutes, we are all dead. Done. Easy stretching evokes mundane details from our quotidian lives, until someone asks the all-important question: Where should we go for brunch? Suggestions burst forth as our energy levels spike up all over again.
In a city known for shallowness and fakery, this honest workout begets something just as true and beautiful as the real Los Angeles -- connecting with others. But true to Tinsel Town fashion, it can't end without some sort of overindulgence: French toast soaked with butter and syrup, a spicy bloody Mary, Hollandaise sauce that isn't on the side, or even... a confession of a secret crush.