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"I felt like a toddler in Toddler and Tiaras, and Dahlia was my stage mum, which to clarify, is a good feeling."

I have signed up to one gym membership in my life. I went twice, then I walked in on two men having sex in the change rooms, and then felt bad about myself because I had not even made eye contact with anyone at the gym, let alone found someone that wanted to penetrate me in a public space. So I never went back.

I could not get the gym to stop direct debiting until I cried to a bank teller, named Gary, who was overworked and underpaid. He changed my bank account details because I cried and said something dramatic like, “Why is this happening to me?” Gary was clearly too scared to say, “Because you signed a contract.” So instead he just changed my bank details.

I  got bad credit history for breaking my contract with a gym that smelt like socks and steroids. Steroids smell like a mix of Lynx Africa and protein shake, in case you were wondering. I tried yoga because it seemed like the kind of exercise where you did not have to do much, and afterwards you could drink a green smoothie and gloat about being blessed. I lasted two classes but emotionally checked out when she told me to breathe through my heart. It was a physically impossible task and the smell of burning sage was giving me a headache.

Any of my recent attempts at exercise made me feel inadequate and alone. When I was younger, exercise involved team sports and matching outfits. Now, exercise was a singular event where the most conversation you might have with a fellow gym member is just a polite, “Hi,” or you could pay a personal trainer to scream
at you while overusing the word, “Goal,” if you were particularly desperate for companionship.

Basically, sticking to an exercise routine is not my strong point. I always find a ridiculous excuse to quit, and I easily lose motivation. I get busy, aka, I start watching a particularly addictive television show, or I just start to find the idea of sweating daunting because I really hate doing laundry, and you can’t ignore crotch sweat in your pants.

So before I began my Sky Sirens, “journey,” I enlisted my friend Maddie to join with me, because I figured my guilt of not wanting to let my friend down would outweigh my laziness. Maddie is one of those people that always has a perfectly cut fringe, which drives me wild with jealousy, but otherwise she is perfect company. She laughs at all my jokes, drives me places and shares a mutual dislike of women that apologise for eating.

Maddie and I have now fallen into a comfortable routine of meeting for dinner before our Lyra class, where we always over order. This means my one night a week that is dedicated to exercise is now also dedicated to eating pub food with one of my best friends. I’ve managed to trick my brain into sticking with exercise. My self- help book, that will be called, ‘The Real Secret,’ will be out next summer. We also have plans to get matching leotards and take Instagram photos with the caption M squared, and when I say we, I mean me.

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"The second week of Lyra was honestly just as daunting as the first week because I was very concerned that our instructor Dahlia would expect us to remember things." 

Not one of my strengths. Luckily our instructor’s expectations for us were quite low. Not as low as my father’s expectations that I’ll never get a ‘real’ job with an Arts Degree, but fairly low. We did a warm up, which was just basically some stretching and dancing, (of course my version of dancing is moving my body two minutes behind everyone else and off beat.) By the end of the warm up, I was certain I was so puffed that forty-five minutes had passed. I was wrong. It had been ten minutes, so I guess time goes slowly when you’re unfit and gasping for air.

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My first hurdle of the class was that I could not remember how to get in the hoop again, and unfortunately everyone else in my class could. I decided, maturely, that they were all show-offs and dead to me, especially my friend Maddie. I dedicated about five minutes to just lightly touching the hoop with my elbow and leaning over it, in the hope that our instructor would not notice. Sadly, she noticed straight away.

My instructor Dahlia lightly suggested that maybe I feared the hoop. She was completely right, I did fear the hoop. I do not care that a crash mat is under it, dangling from the air still felt very uncomfortable. I thought about telling her about the time I fell off a trampoline when I was seven, but I then I realised this was a Lyra class, and not a therapy session. I took a deep breath and channeled a middle-aged women deciding to drain the joint account before she files for divorce, and realised I had to give it a crack. Dahlia talked me through the whole process again, with some words of encouragement, and I was back on the hoop. I felt like a toddler in Toddler and Tiaras and Dahlia was my stage mum, which to clarify, is a good feeling. Everyone in the class clapped and instantly I returned to liking them all again, even Maddie.

The rest of the lesson went pretty well, I mean, nothing I did looked remotely graceful and at one point our instructor said, “Everyone’s doing very well,” followed by “Mary is your foot stuck in your hoop?” Yes, yes it was! But I was able to get back in the hoop time and time again without further instruction. I needed a lot of instruction on how to do different moves. “Mary move your left leg, no, the other leg, now bend it, okay, that is not a bend, it’s just in the same spot.” But it felt like a victory. A small victory. Like winning McDonald’s Monopoly, but still a victory. 

I would be lying if I did not admit; I was relieved when the lesson was over. My arms were sore, my legs were sore and also my vagina was sore. I thought my feminist statement of refusing to shave would create at least a little bit of padding but no. I thanked Dahlia and then excitedly wobbled to my bag, ready to put a jumper on and go home to watch television and perhaps eat some left over Thai that was on the cusp of being in my fridge so long, it might poison me.

Maddie and I got changed together. We laughed about our various mistakes in class, and as I was waiting for my uber-pool with Maddie, it struck me how nice it was to have an activity to do with a friend. I had not done this since my days of being a lazy Goal Keeper in netball. My netball career consisted of me just sauntering around a court, chatting to the goalie and wearing a bib.

"I realised that although my body was sore and sometimes Lyra was really hard and made me feel out of my comfort zone, because basically anything where I can’t also drink a cup of tea while doing it, is out of my comfort zone that I was still looking forward to next week." 

Not just because I would like to get better at Lyra, and I would, purely because I feel it’s the kinda fun fact that would be great for a Tinder profile, but also because it’s something I get to share with my friend Maddie. It’s not very often as adults that we get to go and do something fun that does not involve alcohol.

I’m not going to pretend. I am still a giant sloth. I still like to text my Mum from my bedroom when I’m home to ask her what time dinner is. But as the girl least likely to be picked for a sport’s team, it’s fun to challenge my body physically, in ways it has never been challenged before, and in an accepting and welcome environment. But having a friend to do Lyra with has also made a big difference. Maddie makes me brave enough to continue, she is swinging and hanging off hoops with me. Making mistakes, watching me fall down and her fringe is still perfect. She laughs with me, not at me, and we are having fun. 

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