“Step up!” “Step down!” “Step up!” screeched the bobbing blonde on the mini stage into her mini microphone. I could barely hear her above the 90s pop, “Pump, pump the jam, pump it up!”
When I was around 6 or 7 yrs old, my mom would take me to her Step Up classes. I would finish my afternoon ballet class. She would come pick me up in her Toyota Tempo, and we would ride out to the Jazzercise center near home. I sat on the sidelines, my head itching from the tight hair sprayed bun. I still vividly remember the smell of my leotard, tights and ballet slippers. It was sort of rubbery and leathery. I loooooved my pink satin wrap around skirt and leg warmers. My bag was sort of like a backpack but better. It only had one strap, guaranteeing that I would be cool like the older ballerinas that had real backpacks but only used one of the straps. It was black, pink and silver, with pink ballet point shoes painted on it surrounded by tiny silver stars. The best part about it was the big pocket at its base. There was a separate pocket for my ballet shoes…so fabulous.
Aside from the brilliance of my bag, which made sitting around waiting for my mom that much better, I also typically remained riveted with this Gameboy-like toy that featured a Disney Aladdin game. Epic. So, while I would deeply immerse myself in a genie journey, my mom sweat her sweatbands and push down socks off. At the beginning of the class, each woman would carry a turquoise Step Up device. If my memory is accurate, it was turquoise with violet details, and a black rubber mat was fixed onto the top of it to prevent slipping. Depending on your level of fitness and step up expertise, it could be raised and lowered, I think sort of like Legos, where one can add a layer of the plastic device. Mom seemed to really enjoy herself and relax. The class was typically all women with the bouncing, vibrant Goldie Hawn-ish leader motivating them. I specifically remember one cool down, where she made a salad sound alluring. She whispered into her mike, “Come on, really feel the stretch here. We are almost done. We’ll be getting home to dinner soon, to a nice fresh salad, crispy lettuce, balsamic vinegar. Mmmmm…” I was 6, but I wanted a salad.
Today, at 29, my week days are full of traffic and high heels. I love an evening jog, but I find that sometimes I just don’t want to be around streets, more cars and men’s eyeballs. I live in a busy city, known for its ridiculous traffic (Yes. Miami, FL). Before I purchased my mini trampoline and my Air Climber for days like this, I had to improvise. I wanted to let out some steam, burn off the stress, but being on the road during the week seems to add stress, especially having to worry about cars not seeing me on the sidewalk. At 7pm, every car in Miami is possessed by a speed freak that is dying to get home for a fix. Every time I jog passed a driveway, I’m basically risking my life.
I got this idea for a free at-home workout from my childhood memories of waiting for my mom to finish her hour at Jazzercise. I call it, “The Dictionary Workout.” I do it so much, my boyfriend knows exactly what I’m talking about when I mention it or text him, “I’m doing my dictionary workout, I’ll call you in 20. XO.”
So, what is it? I literally do my mom’s old school step up workout in front of my TV or with my iphone in hand or with my ipod playing. No cars. No hollers. No madness. Just me, my dog, my choice of entertainment (sometimes silence!) and my two Oxford English Dictionaries piled on top of each other. I place an old towel over them to keep from slipping, although the books have a little squish effect that keep you stable and keeps your knees happy. After starting at 25 min, then improving to 30 min, then 35, then 40, I decided I needed to step up my step ups. Now, I do 7 min of step ups on a folding chair, then I switch to the dictionaries once my legs feel tired and shaky. The dictionaries actually seem like relief after the chair, which is nice.
If you decide to try this, here’s some tips to keep in mind:
- A good movie makes the time fly, especially documentaries that I get sucked into. Another way to effectively motivate myself is to watch a good movie in chunks, so then the next time you work out, you’re excited to see what’s happening next.
- Especially when first starting out, do the workout in a doorway or behind the sofa. I suggest this, so you can grab a hold of something until you’re sure you can perform the steps securedly.
- Keep a glass of room temp/tap water nearby (you will sweat more than you think).
- Perform a light warmup. I usually do some crunches or planks.
- Put on a timer such as the timer on your phone. There’s no rush to get to your goal time (mine was 40 min), so add your 5 min after a few weeks. Trust me. I pushed it, and my butt was sore for days. It hurt to bend.
- While actually performing the step up move, especially at first until you get the hang of it, look down at your form. Your knee should NOT pass your toes during the “lunge”/step up part. If it is, step further back with your back foot when you lower. If your knees surpass your toes, it strains the knee, making injury more of a possibility.
- You can switch it up and do side steps too, where your “ground”/back leg lunges at your side.
- With your arms, you can do all kinds of moves, like boxing or doing bicep curls with cans from your kitchen as weights. If I’m just too tired and really don’t want to think, I don’t even worry about my arms. They naturally position bent by your hips, like when you jog. Lately, I’ve been into doing my old ballet arm poses. I like posing like a ballerina with my arms while I’m stepping because it tones and elongates, and it feels pretty. But I’ll save the exact details of the ballet moves for another story.
Above all, don’t stress! Try to enjoy the time on your dictionaries, the peace, the cozy home environment, the candle burning on the coffee table, the movie you’re finally seeing; enjoy your self.