Written by Emily Kvitko
Thirty-seven percent of Americans made a New Year’s resolution to stay fit in 2015, and I was one of them. Beginning Jan. 1, I would eat healthier, exercise more and get in shape. Life would be better. At least those were the things I told myself, even though, my routine did not actually start until Jan. 13.
Before the commencement of my “better life,” I sat around the house, lazy, anxious and uncomfortable in my body. Occasionally, my eyes made contact with my eclectic collection of clothing—favorite pieces that, ever since I stopped dancing, did not fit. I knew that physical activity would cure my constant dissatisfaction, and so a Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) pass moved into my wallet alongside a ballroom dance timetable.
My week begins with a day off, but not by choice—a weekly piano lesson knocks out any available workout time. On Tuesday, I venture over to the Cheryl Burke dance studio for two 45—minute drop-in classes. Sore hips on Wednesday persuade me to walk to the gym and stretch. Thursday calls me back to dance rehearsal, and Friday, Saturday and Sunday are dreaded running days at the gym. At first, I was anxious: the “G” word pops into my schedule more times than I go to math class, but as I adapted a different mindset, the sweat-filled room became a place of opportunity. Now, I exercise because I can, not because I have to.
Twelve years of ballet training made stepping into the gym feel like trying to speak a language I knew two words of: treadmill and elliptical. Here and there, I nearly fell on the treadmill, and after ten minutes of exercise, I noticed my heart rate was abnormally at 200 beats per minute. I sent panicked texts to my parents, which caused me to lose my balance even more. Eventually, I tried the bike, the erg—which sounds like “urgh” for a reason—and expanded my fitness vocabulary.
Twenty stressful leg lifts and two traumatic 30-second planks concluded my routine; ballet has taught me to suck in my stomach, and so I find the feeling of tighter abdominal muscles extremely satisfying.
My New Year’s resolution, however, was not confined to the walls of a gymnasium. As my body adjusted to the rhythm of my weekly routine, my hips gyrated to the rhythm of the rumba and cha cha. Much like ballet was escapism for me, I find ballroom therapeutic. I am able to not only let go and reveal how I feel, but have confidence in my body. I did not get that from ballet. “Graceful” and “long“ were common words I aspired to be as a ballerina, but “sharp,” “fierce” and “sexy” are the most important in ballroom, at least according to my instructor who yells them almost every class.
Ninety-two percent of Americans failed to keep their New Year’s resolutions and achieve their goals, but I was not one of them. When I made my pledge, while having a stare-down with my slightly too-small plaid pants and white dress, I hoped for a physical benefit. Although that aspect is still shaping into place, fitness has helped instill in me a mental peace; as I run and dance, my heart beats quickly and my brain focuses on my breath. Clouds of other thoughts and stories clear, and my anxiety is reduced.
Satisfaction is a commonly sought after feeling, and my routine gives me that. At home, my heels stand next to my Nikes, and whether I am jogging or cha cha-ing, I am sure I am doing my body good, and that, in return, adds a positive element to my daily life.