Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Health Kick (& Punch)

As children, we're taught to notice our genes. I always heard: "You have your mom's smile." But no one ever wants to hear comparisons to the other genes: "You have your mom's cancer risk."

Hypochondria is hard to avoid when you've had a sick parent. I'm not a hand-sanitizer freak. But I worry. A cold turns into a pity party. Routine doctor appointments can be real nail-biters. And if something out of the ordinary pops up... well, that's when I fear my genes are cursed.

Let's face it, though: pity parties are lame.

So I made a goal last year to get fit. I started taking yoga classes. I began jogging. I ran two 5Ks and walked a half marathon. And just last week, I took a new plunge: I joined a gym. That's how I ended up spending Saturday morning at Kick & Punch -- a class that should seriously consider changing its name to Kick & Punch & Sweat.

Saturday at 10AM, my best friend Laura and I stood in a large gymnasium with 20 other women, all waiting for Kick & Punch to begin. Suddenly, "S.O.S." blasted over the loudspeaker. Our instructor, a buff woman with a bandanna, ordered us to do jumping jacks. She meant business. Soon we were kicking, punching, throwing jabs and hooks, and dancing. We even did "Karate Kid"-style crane kicks! Between huffs and puffs, Laura and I locked eyes and laughed. To make me crack up more, Laura sang along to Beyonce, Rihanna, and the rest of the pop pack. I'd shake my butt in response. Friends for 13 years can do anything together. An hour later, we were sweaty, proud, and totally empowered. (That's me and Laura in the photo!)

I never thought I'd be into gym classes. My first experience was actually with my mom, and it did not go according to plan...

When I was in high school, yoga was first becoming popular. My mom and I signed up for a class. "C'mon, it'll be fun," she said. We ended up being the only beginners. Every other woman there bent as easily and gracefully as a contortionist. My mom, always the eager student, craned her neck to see each pose. But by the time she saw it, a new move began. I sat on my mat and watched, too embarrassed to try. The worst part was the complete silence. Finally, my mom couldn't take it anymore. She snuck a look at me, caught my confused look, and a snort of suppressed laughter escaped her. This sent me into a fit of giggles. "Shhh!" the instructor reprimanded, glaring at us. This only provoked us. Suddenly, the two goody two shoes became class clowns. Choked giggles blurted out from us throughout the class. Finally, the lesson ended. We grabbed our things and ran to the car. Once inside, we burst out laughing -- and swore to never return! (Can you believe I now do yoga once a week?)

Tonight I tried another new gym class: Country Rope. That's right: jump roping to country music. At one point, we even swung our jump ropes like lassos. I don't think I'll return. Even hypochondriacs like me draw the line at a health hoedown.

What do you do to take control of your health? Tell me in the comments section below.


  1. let me know how you do with the stiletto workout! ;)

  2. I know how you feel, my mom is a cervical cancer survivor, so yearly gyno check-ups are not only uncomfortable (as for every woman) but extra scary knowing that I have a predisposition. And even scarier when I know she's going for a check-up!

  3. I'm so sad you don't live with me any more. I would love to go to gym classes with you. And now we don't even belong to the same gym! Let's walk soon please.

  4. I'm glad you touched upon this point Marisa. My mother is a breast cancer survivor and I too am often hit with a bout of hypochondria at my own doctor's appointments. This year, after having tested positive for HPV a four years back, I had another cervical cancer scare. HPV infects about 80% of people, while for most people it can clear on it's own, for others it turns into genital warts or can turn into cervical cancer. I have the strain of HPV that may turn into cervical cancer. I am in and out of gyno. 4 times a year for quarterly colposcopies and biopsies. The word biopsy sends a chill right through my spine as it is so inextricably linked to cancer in my mind. My heightened fear the day of my appointments is overwhelming to the say the least.

    For the good news, or the information you actually asked for :) I now make sure to eat lots of greens (which is even more important that I'm on top of as I'm a vegetarian), quit smoking (it's been many many months) and hoping to start a more routine fitness regimen (my coworker and I are signing up for a weekly cardio-boxing class and my partner, our dog and I are going to start going on weekly hikes).

    For me, it feels hard to mention that my mother is a survivor because it almost feels silly that I worry about not being able to survive myself if I am to develop some form of cancer as unfortunately I fear I may. As I write this, I recognize how wrong that sentiment is in the first place.

    Thank you again Marisa, for giving others a chance to speak and at the same time empowering folks!

  5. Thank you Laura and Natalie for being so open about your experiences. Maybe we can create a Sally's Circle hotline -- a number you text when you're freaking out in the waiting room, and it sends you back a message with a positive message, stat, or tip. Or it advises, "Quit whining and read your book," which is what I usually tell myself!