As I was passing by a branch of a competing gym chain the other day, I caught site of one one of their posters proclaiming that they offer workouts for “thinking people” or something to that effect. Maybe it said, “The Thinking Person’s Gym.” I stopped in my tracks for a few seconds. While looking into an additional gym membership in my
never-ending quest for classes/ classes I like/ different styles/ different instructors, I had checked out that particular chain of gyms. I remembered I found it wanting due to the paucity of dance classes that was offered. They had the usual menu of requisite equipment plus cardio/ strength/ spin/yogalates classes but not much more. There was nothing that I would characterize as demanding any more brainpower than the other gyms or studios out there. Was I wrong though? Was I, in fact, going to a gym for idiots? Did my choice of gym reflect a seriously challenged intellectual capacity? Admittedly for me, the most important aspect of any gym is the class schedule- specifically the dance classes- and this boastful gym chain’s menu was practically devoid of any. How could it then lay claim to being “the thinking person’s gym.”
Naturally insecure, I have always been aware of my otherness in this respect. Socially speaking, I had no friends who just went to dance class the way other people go to the movies or to bars. At work, I was always the only one or one of a few who had dance as an avocation indulged on a practically daily basis (pre-Masters program). I often wondered why this was. I came to the conclusion that perhaps I was weird, perhaps freakish. I did not think, however, it was proof of my intellectual inferiority. I mean, I write poetry, I read the New Yorker, I listen to NPR! Still… This company’s copy combined with said insecurity forced me to stop and consider whether or not they had a point.It was certainly easier for me to get through a ninety-minute dance class than a forty-five minute toning class or run on the treadmill. Spinning, weight-lifting, ellipticals, stair machines, and yoga classes were uphill battles for me. They took… effort. Dance didn’t. Or did it?
Generally speaking, fifty to seventy-five percent of dance class is spent learning the routine. There is usually a new routine each week or two weeks depending on the instructor. Moves are incrementally added until they result in a whole routine. You have to be mentally sharp to keep the various movements as well as their sequence in order in your mind. After every one or two eight counts, you do whatever part of the routine has already been taught all the way through. Sometimes the instructor will dance as well, sometimes not. In any case, in order to keep up with the music there is only so much “following” you can do as you go through the routine to the music. By contrast, when you use exercise equipment, there aren’t any surprises. It is repetitive and demands not much more than endurance. Non-dance classes such as Yoga or Pilates will change routines every so often but again, basically remain the same. Although it can be argued that you are tested at a higher level than when you just hop on equipment. Dance, however, asks you to not only actively recall a sequence of movements and execute the movements on a physical level but also to meet the emotional demands of the music and that you match the style of the music. You must pay close attention to what the instructor does as well as what he or she says. There are only so many ways to do a “downward dog”. However, there are a myriad number of ways to execute a pas de burre. So, I beg to differ. Any gym that does not offer dance classes cannot, in comparison to one that does, call itself “the thinking person’s gym.”
What do you think? Let me know!