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Working Out: A Life. A Memoir in Movement on the Edge of a New Year

Though not sporty or athletic, Sheri Radel Rosenberg has been a “workout fanatic” since college, trying just about every fitness craze along the way.

Here we are at the beginning of the year and, for many people, pledging to get healthy is an excellent way to go into January, but I’m past that point because I dedicated myself to being healthy and fit a long time ago.

My interest in working out started in the ’80s with Jane Fonda and Cindy Crawford. In high school, the local “health club” started hosting aerobics classes on Friday nights. Not only did it provide an excellent opportunity to flirt with the private school preppy guys, but it was a chance to pop on some legwarmers and an off-the-shoulder sweatshirt and work out.

Let me caveat and say this.

I am NOT sporty. Athletic. Or even really that competitive. I describe myself as “indoorsy.” I did not play a single sport in high school, much less go to regular gym class, because I refused to wear that horrible scratchy uniform. Our family doctor wrote me a note saying I was allergic to polyester and thus could not take regular gym. Because of this, I was able to take remedial gym. I learned to play shuffleboard and ping pong with many degenerates who also could not be in the general population for some reason, though I’m pretty sure it was not for fashion.

But I digress a bit because I’ve been a bit of a workout fanatic since those heady teenage years.

Now, before you think I look jacked or shredded, I do not. And though most people would not necessarily associate me with fitness of any kind, I always loved moving my body and getting the heck out of my head and its associated trappings.

For instance, my anxiety was high in college, so I did a ton of step aerobics and a video workout called “Buns of Steel.” It was also a time of my life where I smoked Marlboro Reds, drank profusely and lived on plain baked potatoes and cheese sandwiches. Quite the polarity.

After college, I moved to New York City. There I discovered workout nirvana, and every trendy workout worth trying was offered. And I tried them all.

NYC and Workout Nirvana

From the bizarre slide workout (picture a slick mat and booties that simulate speed skating) to running at top speeds on the treadmill to a dancehall soundtrack to boxing classes with a male teacher my best friend and I called “Vesty” due to his love of Velcro fleece vests, you name the workout; I did it. I was also a very early beta for spinning. I always loved spinning, the only form of cardio I know of that you can do with your eyes closed. That New York Sports Club on 76th and 2nd was my second home for a long stretch until I wanted to kick things up a bit.

I became more serious with boxing and started working out at Church’s downtown, which would get me so amped I’d walk back home to the Upper East Side, itching for a fight. Boxing also made me very hungry and very horny. My boyfriend at the time grew tired of my endless desire to spar with him (amongst other things), and my love affair with boxing ended when I tried to switch things up with a kickboxing class and ended up getting sucker kicked in the stomach by a six-foot-tall woman.

There were some years in my 20s when working out was not part of my life, but subsisting on cigarettes and microwave popcorn was. It was the ’90s. If you were there, you know very well what I mean.

Moving forward, I remember when all the models were talking about Pilates. So, I signed up and loved it so much I ended up taking classes with a bunch of Broadway dancers, whose limbs were the size of my entire body. I did dig Pilates, and it made me feel taller. I also did Curves. Remember Curves? Oy.

As for yoga, I’ve been hot and cold with yoga for years. Currently, I’m hot for it, just not the hot kind. About a year ago, I tried it again at a place called Y7 (think hip hop soundtrack and hot, hot temps), and after class, drenched in sweat and my fear of suffocation, I exclaimed out loud to nobody in particular, “WHO LIKES THIS????” It’s a hellscape in namaste form.

My Miami Period

But no conversation about my workout life would be complete without my Miami period. I lived in Miami from 2004 to 2011, and boy was I a fish out of water. One good thing about living there was that, because of the sun and the fact you are often half-naked (the heat), working out seemed like a pretty good idea. And boy did I work out.

From twice-a-day workouts to working out with my trainer, who was a 23-year-old Navy Seal with a sadistic streak, I went for it. I remember clearly the Seal teaching a Bootcamp in the park, where he would announce your weight on a megaphone. This was a different time.

And one day, the Seal broke me.

It was a rainy, oddly chilly day in Miami, and I showed up for my workout in the shorts and tee-shirt he insisted all of his disciples wear. He made me do bear crawls in the mud. And I face planted in exhaustion and said out loud, “I am just a Jewish girl from New York. Who do you think I am???” I walked to my car, slammed the door, and cried. That’s when I discovered SoulCycle.

When I would travel to New York for shoots, I’d shimmy my butt to the Upper West Side (site of the original studio) and revel in a workout I knew would take off. As a lifelong trend watcher, I have a good sense of these things. And I knew this candlelit, upbeat workout was going to become a thing. And as we know, it sure did. I also fell in love with Exhale’s Core Fusion classes, a dancer’s workout combining Pilates and yoga with small movements. Core Fusion is the grandmother of barre, my major workout of choice in the last ten years until my knees told me otherwise. Speaking of knees, running was never my thing, though I sure did try. For me, a 5k feels like a marathon. I am not built for running; this much is true.

As the pandemic was in full swing, I dealt with the great unknown by working out

Currently, I’m LOVING working out at home. I was always comfortable with streaming workouts because when I was a producer years ago, I’d travel for work all the time and stream workouts in my hotel room streaming yoga from my local studio, Prema Yoga, Brooklyn. I am super smitten with a workout I discovered called The Salt Drop, hosted by a fantastic, tattooed man named Dino who plays house music and has a cat named Dude. I love him and all the teachers that teach there, too. The workout is pretty barre-like with some dancing, and if you know about “The Class,” it’s a bit like that in style, though thankfully less woo woo. Also, burpees. You’ve been warned.

As the pandemic was in full swing and I could hear a constant wail of sirens outside my window, I dealt with the great unknown by working out. My need to regularly expel the ya ya’s is real. And though I don’t have a six-pack or even a four-pack, and I’m a bit dismayed at my arms, I feel good. Healthy. Strong. My knees may say otherwise, but I’m going to keep going, and I don’t need a new year to motivate me. I love trying new things, and I love moving my body, which I’m aware is a great privilege.

And speaking of moving my body, you probably love moving your beautiful body, too. And with the current stress around work/life, there has never been a better time to find something you love to do and “just do it.” After all, with so much up in the air and out of our hands, there’s one thing we surely can do. We can work it out.

Happy New Year and KEEP ON MOVING.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Sheri, we definitely from the same tribe. I totally hear you and starting working out with speed walking with my mom in the early 80s! I took my fitness on a long journey to work with young female athletes for 20+ years. Fitness to me is like brushing my teeth, it is a must. Like you in my 20’s my anxiety, stress, etc., I would just bang it out in the gym. Today it is my mediation, my balance. I stream workouts on work trips, and vacation. And I especially love not being in a gym anymore. My Peloton, mat, and home gym work great for me. I truly don’t imagine a day that I don’t want to move my body… it breathes life in to who I am.

  2. OMG! I am exhausted just reading your excellent and very funny article about exercise. I might just continue my 2 Pilates classes/week and my very long walks…

  3. Hi Sheri, love how you have chronicled your fitness phases over the decades. I started with aerobics and step, migrated to gym and dance (clubbing is exercise!), yoga in my 00s when I was flexible and now with my 60s looming love weight training, bit of boxing, golf, qigong and hiking when I can. It’s so important after menopause has kicked in to keep moving, not just to keep your body functioning but good for your mental health.

  4. are you still smoking Marlboro cigarettes?
    Did you get into the rollerblading? Jazzercise and yoga are my exercise class’ I love. But if not in class than trampoline and kangaroo bouncing. Thank you for a terrific read!

    • Thanks so much. I quit smoking years ago and was never a rollerblader. For some reason that felt very off-brand fo me. 😉

  5. Very funny and I share your “compulsive” fitness obsession, but I was a runner which really eliminated the need for any further exercise. As a “yute” I spent 9 hours a day at the skating rink playing hockey with the boys and getting frost bite. I however share your aversion to polyester uniforms as I felt the same way about my Brownie and Girl Scout unie and quit….badge free, a record I think. I was a Jane Fonda junkie for a while and Billy Banks until I read he was an Orthopedists dreams as so many ligaments were torn in the pursuit of fitness. I ride a bike now and pray to the gods of biking that a car doesn’t crush me like a bug.
    I also have switched to vodka martinis. I’ll drink to the new year!

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Sheri Radel Rosenberghttp://sherimavenblog.com/
Sheri Radel Rosenberg has spent a life in advertising. Currently she's a freelance writer focusing on women at midlife and the power of reinvention. She regularly writes on her own blog and also works with brands to develop content in the areas of women's health, wellness, fashion, and beauty .She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and a ten pound ball of doggie fluff called Khan.

 

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