Valentine’s Day at Slimmons

February 15, 2012

Wanna know what my big Valentine’s Day plans were? A fantastic workout at Slimmons! I figured it was gonna be a great day to take one of Richard Simmons’ classes – his Tuesday and Thursday evening classes are usually much less crowded than his Saturday morning ones (which regularly have well over 100 students), and, plus, it was a holiday, so hopefully, it would be even less crowded still. My reasoning was spot-on. With about 40 people there, It was the smallest class I’ve taken at Slimmons in months. Three cheers for everyone that had more romantic plans last night!

It’s been a while since I’ve written about Richard Simmons’ classes, but they’re still a major part of my exercise plan, and Richard himself continues to be a near and dear friend. I’m typically at Slimmons once or twice a week – I’ve been 9 times so far in 2012, and went 52 times in 2011. Each class follows the same basic format: 45 minutes of cardio (dance aerobics), with stretching, warm-up and cool-down built in. Richard usually varies the intensity throughout the 45 minutes, alternating more strenuous parts with easier parts. There’s always a part when everyone makes a big circle and Richard pulls students into the center to dance with him, and sometimes he’ll have us jog all around the room, or take each others’ hands for showgirl-style kicks.

After the aerobics, we grab weights from bins in the corner of the room, and Richard leads us through about 10 minutes of toning, with a focus on biceps, triceps, chest, back, and shoulders. The specific exercises don’t change from class to class, but the order and the number of reps sometimes does. Then we put the weights away, grab mats, and do 10 minutes of sit-ups and push-ups. The class ends with a 5-minute pep talk, where Richard shares some motivational words on a topic that changes with each class, although they tend to emphasize being kind to yourself, taking care of yourself, and sharing kindness and love with the rest of the world.

The whole class ends up being close to 90 minutes total, and the biggest variable in each class is Richard himself. He loves wearing costumes and building the class around a theme, whether it’s a genre of music, like Latin or Disco, or the music from a specific decade or by a specific artist. Saturdays are the big theme classes, but last night had a theme, too.  All the songs he played had the word “love” in the title, and he was dressed in thousands of red sequins, a red tutu over his trademark red dolphin shorts, and red angel wings. A picture of me and Richard after class:

A bunch of the other students were wearing red, but that thought didn’t even occur to me! Apparently by the end of class, I had a heart-shaped sweat stain on the back of my shirt, and Richard kept pointing it out to people, but I forgot to have someone take a picture.

I’m thankful I have a place like Slimmons in my life. That class – Richard’s antics, in particular – cheers me up every single time I go, and I’ve made a bunch of wonderful friendships there. I can’t walk into that room anymore without seeing smiling faces and people waving, and I have a blast catching up with my friends before and after the workout.

I’m not a big Valentine’s Day person, but I will confess, as a single guy, to feeling a bit lonely on a day that’s meant to be celebrated with a partner. Holiday or not, it’s important to have a place where you feel welcome, each and every time you visit, and that’s filled with positive energy. It certainly makes burning a few hundred calories more fun, that’s for sure!

The evening wasn’t without a few casualties, though – but I guess if you’re wearing thousands of sequins, losing a couple isn’t that big a deal:

I should’ve put those sequins on eBay, but I tossed them in the trash on the way out.

Today is a rest day. My class last night at Slimmons marked the ninth day in a row that I’ve exercised, and my body needs a day to recuperate. Then, it’s back to the gym.

Keep it up, David!

If you’re in the Los Angeles area and want to take a class at Slimmons, check out this information page on Richard’s website. It’s only $12 – the best $12 you’ll ever spend!

I’m a Dancing Machine

January 25, 2012

Last weekend, I got a call from my friend Tavi, inviting me to go dancing. I haven’t been dancing in years – I probably haven’t gone dancing since I moved to Los Angeles, and that was nearly ten years ago!

In college, I went out dancing all the time – almost every week. There’s a nightclub in Ann Arbor, Michigan (where I went to school) called Nectarine, and Friday nights were (and I presume still are) gay nights. The first few times I went, I was painfully self-conscious and uncomfortable. I felt that, as one of the biggest people in the room (if not the biggest), all eyes were on me, and not in a good way. But I kept going, always with good friends, and slowly the self-consciousness subsided and I started having a really good time. Nectarine is where I saw my first drag show – and my second, third, fourth, and so on, because they would host one every month.

When I moved out to Los Angeles, my interest in dancing waned significantly. I was intimidated – it may sound silly, but I thought there was a big difference between big city nightclubs and the one in my college town, and I didn’t think I was ready. It took me a little while to settle into Los Angeles, generally speaking – learning the landscape, finding a job, making friends, and all while staying with my aunt and uncle 45 minutes outside of town until I got my feet planted. I started establishing my life without going out to nightclubs, and I didn’t miss it. I certainly didn’t miss the self-consciousness that would have gone along with stepping into a new club scene.

So when Tavi called with the nightclub invitation, I was excited to go. I knew I wouldn’t feel self-conscious, and the good Nectarine memories far outweighed the bad. That night, I met up with Tavi, his boyfriend Antonio, and Antonio’s roommate, Brian, and we headed out.

The club we were headed to was called Club Mayan, and the evening was built around the fact that Antonio was working there that night as a go-go dancer. Club Mayan is housed within a huge old gutted theater in downtown Los Angeles that is fabulously and elaborately decorated in the style of a Mayan temple. We wandered in, and all I could think about was how fun this place would have been in its heyday, before they ripped out all the seats and slapped slapped multiple coats of paint on every surface. I snapped a couple pictures – the first is the exterior, the second is the lobby, but they don’t do the place justice:

I looked up the history of the Mayan, and, like a lot of old theaters, it has a long and fascinating history. It opened in 1927 as a Broadway-style venue for musical comedies, and then it became a movie theater. In the ’40, it was a burlesque house (it’s rumored that Marilyn Monroe performed there), and in the ’50 and ’60s, it showed Mexican and Latin American films. Then, in the ’70s, new owners turned it into an adult film theater (they even filmed some of the porno scenes in the basement), and in the late ’70s, the space was subdivided into three adult film theaters. In 1990, it was converted back into one big space and transformed into a nightclub.

It was a fun evening – except for the part where they didn’t think Tavi was wearing nice enough shoes and wouldn’t let him in (it was bullshit), so he and I had to go all the way back to Tavi’s house to grab a new pair. I wouldn’t say that the Club Mayan was my scene (but I probably can’t claim to have a scene, as I haven’t been dancing in 10 years, right?), but anything is fun when you’re with good friends. Antonio was one of five go-go dancers that rotated between a couple elevated platforms, and holy crap, Antonio is jacked. He could be covered in gray paint and stuck in the antiquities wing of any museum alongside the other Greek God sculptures. Seriously. His muscles have muscles.

Oh, and we danced! We were on the dance floor for well over an hour. The music was pretty good, and I definitely broke a sweat. I slept well that night, and I’m glad I did, because less than 12 hours after leaving the club, I was dancing again…

…in Richard Simmons’ aerobics class. The theme for that class was country music, and Richard was wearing a tank top and shorts fashioned entirely out of bandannas. Wanna see? Here’s the video from that day’s class. Keep a look out for me – I’m not sure there’s anyone lingering footage of me, but I only half paid attention while watching:

Richard’s class is around 90 minutes long, and I’d guess I danced for that long at Club Mayan… so 3 hours of dancing in a 12-hour period?

Keep it up, David!