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Susie Ekberg Risher, Published March 11 2014

50/50: Workout a full-bodied experience

"You can either be here at 9 for the workout or come at 10:30 for your talk ...”

I hang up the phone and think. I can either wake up at 7:30 on a Saturday morning, not shower or put on makeup, wear my workout clothes and work up a huge sweat then give an hourlong talk or … sleep in, shower, put on makeup and dress clothes and breeze in for my talk.

Three months ago I may have made a different decision, but this morning I know I would be a 100 percent hypocrite if I didn’t get into that XaBeat class. But I’m not in that good of shape, my hips don’t work very well, these are all instructors, what am I thinking? Oh well. I walk into the bar (yes, the class is in the bar at the Detroit Lakes Holiday Inn), tie on my belly dancing skirt and take my place in the back of the room.

The music starts and the hips start shaking. Well, not MY hips, per se, but everybody else’s. They all know the routine, so I feel even klutzier as I attempt to move my arms in syncopation with my hips. It’s just not turning out well.

I notice my back and hips freezing in familiar panic mode. If anyone sees me, they will think I’m an uncoordinated, manly-figured geek. I’m not the fluid, saucy, smooth-dancing goddesses I see all around me, and all of a sudden I desperately want to be more like them – uninhibited, free, not concerned with my flappy triceps or stiff shoulders. “Don’t Ride a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” comes on. Kim hands out pink handkerchiefs and something inside me clicks.

I don’t care anymore. I don’t care what anyone thinks. I don’t care how I look. My body wants to shake and move and strut and shimmy. All out. It feels really good and I feel powerful, like I’m full in my body instead of tentatively inhabiting the acceptable parts.

I feel a little uncomfortable doing some of these movements, and I feel a little uncomfortable writing about it, but surrounded with 29 totally committed women, I’m becoming more confident.

Maybe it’s okay to yell and clap and stomp and sing. At this point I’d totally swing my hair around if I had any. And by now I’m definitely shaking my backside. A lot. I can almost hear my lower back thanking me as everything loosens up and I can’t stop my huge silly grin.

I shimmy my way through the rest of the hour-and-a-half workout, vaguely wondering how many steps I’ll get in on my Jawbone Flex (9,207).

I’m loving the feel of sweat dripping onto my neck, and the feel of my heart beating solid in my chest. But most of all? I think I love the sound of those bells shaking and the feel of my hips actually moving side to side and front to back with little resistance. I may not be able to move my arms at the same time but hey – it’s a start.

Thank you, Kim Moen, and everyone else, for allowing me into your sacred space of empowering women through dancing. Thank you for seeing me as a graceful, powerful and capable woman. I’m going to practice my moves in the mirror and I’ll see you next week in class.

For more information on XaBeat, go to www.xabeat.com.

Susie Ekberg Risher is a writer living in Fargo. Follow her on a yearlong journey to lose 50 pounds – half through emotional work and half through physical effort. Readers can reach her at tall_susie@yahoo.com.