This morning was my penultimate triple-step class at my bourgie gym, 360. Lotta pro athletes train there, bumped into Jose Conseco and his lady there one day (we’d met in San Diego). My club has decided to drop this class after next week, just too few attendees. Step is a dinosaur in aerobic training; zumba and other multi-platform routines now rule.

I’m sad. I began stepping 30 years ago in NYC as I approached my 40’s. I’ve always been physically active but as I aged, I found fewer opportunities to be physical on a schedule. Golf, yeah…but it ain’t aerobic, much as I love golf. I needed something that made me sweat and breathe deeply and push my muscles and body past fatigue…and only step did that. It was sufficiently complicated to maintain my interest, it purged the smoke from my lungs, sweated out the alcohol from my body and I didn’t find myself looking at the clock. I could disengage my mind and just be physical for an hour.

In the 90’s routines began to change. Teachers had gotten bored and decided to complicate and intensify the routines. There was a lot more hopping and off-beat moves and it became physically dangerous for the students. Some moves were simply not responsible, especially for older and less fit participants. Most teachers couldn’t do their OWN routines twice without fucking up.

I remember Lindsey, a stunning Canadian dancer in class. Lindsey was a showgirl, 5’ 10, her kicks were still going up as mine were coming down. One day Lindsey fell. And it then struck me, if this trained, talented dancer was at risk, what were my odds? This was at Bally’s. Bally’s was cheap, $20 a month…but it took me 20 minutes to drive to class. Understand, I HATE exercise. I like the way it makes me feel, afterwards, I like the endorphins. But I bore easily. Spinning, I feel like a gerbil. Yoga, I know it’s great but it doesn’t speak to me. Pilates – they charge extra for classes:)

So six years ago I join a new club, 5 minutes from my home. $75 a month, ritzy, nice facilities, lots of trophy wives, lots of classes…and they teach step. I continue, knowing as I do that some of these routines are making my knees ache. But I persist, cause I like endorphins and I like sweating and I like step. Then I get my second right knee scope…and I know my time for step is coming to an end. When my back goes out last summer (three bulging discs) my orthopedic surgeon says, “No more squatting, no more hopping, no more lunging!” OK. I’ll be good.

I try spinning. I try zumba. I try swimming. I try aerobics. They all bore me. And I’ve now been “shunned” by three wives at the club, following a big dust-up on Facebook. They asked to be my friends and then posted some silly, tiresome shit and I called them out…and they got really huffy;)
For the past several years, they studiously avoid my eyes, I am “persona non grata” and like the gossipy magpies they were, apparently spoke to other wives about my mean ole ass. One woman smiled at me and then remembered, mid-smile, “Oh, I’m not supposed to like HIM.”

It’s so high school. There are many attractive women there, some wives of successful husbands. They seem to breed, exercise and shop, exclusively. They drive expensive imports, never wear the same coordinated outfit twice in a month, have maybe 10 pairs of workout shoes…and pay the valet to park their convertible, rather than walk another 100 meters.

Today was fun but poignant. I like the pool, I REALLY like the sauna and whirlpool but I’m gonna have to find another class that can hold my interest…and not further punish my body. Today, as often happens, appeared a new participant. She was fit, her leotard suggested she was a serious fitness person and multi-step requires just that.

I love Karla our teacher, a tall Nordic taskmaster (her husband Rick, a singer and Vietnam veteran, both have come to see me work) We use three steps in this class and we move around A LOT…but it’s fun and fucking up means nothing. If you sweat, you win. This new woman set up in the front, beside Karla, used TWO platforms (no big deal, but it is harder) and we begin. She seems familiar with step, moves with certainty and vigor. The sequences get harder. She tries, gets it and keeps up. Then harder. At some point, instead of figuring out what Karla is calling, this woman decides, “Nah. I’ll do my own routine.”

Now I’ve seen a lot of workout divas over 30 years. Stars:) Some leave when they don’t feel supreme and graceful and competent. Some gut it out, the ones that are good sports…and they win our approval. Like I said, the routines are complicated; we fuck up, Karla fucks up. Who cares. We’re wet and we’re having fun. But this chick, in the front of the class, in front of the mirror, working beside the instructor goes rogue. She starts doing her OWN routine. It’s flashy…but it ain’t what the rest of us are doing. It’s damned distracting…and it’s really disrespectful, OK? At some point, Karla whispers to her (I’m sure with good humor) and points this out.

No scene ensued (but I have scene a few:) The woman replaces her equipment, gathers her stuff and leaves. I broke off after45 minutes, stretched and hit the whirlpool downstairs. And there I thought, “No guy would ever do that. First off, he knows the female teacher can/will bust him, publicly…but hers was such a show-off, self-absorbed, “look at me” choice. That is strictly a chick move.” Joining me in the whirlpool later were two older male guys, both long time participants. Both agreed with me.

One thought on “THE LAST STEP

  1. I’ve never even been comfortable walking BY a Hollywood gym, let alone using one. The egocentric vibe is usually just too thick.
    Recently, I started working with a personal trainer at a gym near my house in North Hollywood. It’s a small, function-over-form place that caters to trainers and their clients; no trophy wives, no young studs on the make – just real people trying to get fit. Your essay reminded me how lucky I was to be introduced to such a place.