Dipping my toe back into exercise begins in the pool

It was a promise I had to keep.

Nearly one year after beginning my heartfelt – and so far successful – effort to lose weight, I promised I’d begin doing some serious working out. The goal? Getting back on the tennis court, perhaps running a 5K.

So yesterday morning, I put on the swimsuit that is now too big, threw on my favorite sweats and drove a mile to the YMCA. Yes, I was that lazy. But I also was that late.

I arrived just in time for my first water aerobics class.

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 11.28.00 PMThe first thing I noticed was the joy on the faces of my classmates, all beautiful, friendly women who appeared to be 20 to 25 years my senior. The second thing I noticed was this: Unlike the upstairs burn room, where my peers were running on treadmills, balancing on big balls and using a series of machines that I’ve used – and hated – a hundred times, this tranquil space in cool water was slower, joyful and fun.

The lesson began with balancing – standing-on-one-foot-while-holding-weights balancing. I silently began calling our instructor Mrs. Miyagi. (Google “The Karate Kid.)

We moved from that action to full-on jumping jacks and stretches, all while moving the weights, which got heavier and heavier, under water.

I should have done this sooner.

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 11.27.50 PMAs we continued stretching the fronts and backs of our arms and the inside and outside of our thighs, we were joined by our lone male classmate, a white-haired, self-assured Mac Daddy who made himself right at home, as he moved from one lady to another, chatting and smiling. It was fun to watch.

But I couldn’t watch for long because I had to really pay attention to instructions on doing things my body didn’t necessarily want to do first thing in the morning.

By the time the class was over, I realized that I’d made some great friends, even if they’re friends I might see only in a swimming pool with health on our minds.

As I left, I asked Mrs. Miyagi how long the classes would continue.

“Forever,” she said, “except for holidays.”

That’s good. I’ll continue my mile-long walks each morning, and I’ll soon begin working with a personal trainer.

But my water aerobics class? That’s a time to stretch and laugh and hang with some of the nicest women I’ve met in a long time. If all the future classes are as great as this first one, these workouts are going to be my new Skittles.

ROCHELLE RILEY’s essays on this blog are about her personal adventures. No reprints without permission. You can read her columns at www.freep.com/rochelleriley and follow her on Twitter @rochelleriley.

Battle of the Bulge allies include Barry White, Aretha Franklin and Michael Jackson

If you want to know how you’re walking, don’t look at your feet. Look at the people watching you.

I had been searching for something new in my Battle of the Bulge.

I finally found the answer.

And it was in something I was doing all along.

Rather than stroll with Desi, letting him saunter, stop to chase squirrels or just meander around smelling the smells of every dog that had walked sooner than we did, I remembered the doggie training, put him on my right side, and we strutted. It was a cross between a power walk and dancing.

Now, we do it every day.

Yes, I put on my purple Skechers, my purple Parade Company Jacket and my purple Urban Ears earphones. Then I pump up the volume and set my pace by music: Barry White’s “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love,” Stevie Wonder’s “Boogie On Reggae Woman,” Marvin Gaye’s “Come Get To This,” Michael Jackson’s “Remember The Time, Yvonne Elliman’s “If I Can’t Have You,” (the BEST thing about “Saturday Night Fever”), Prince’s “Raspberry Beret,” Jennifer Hudson’s “Love You I Do,” the Jackson 5’s “The Love You Save” and  the classic, always useful “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me” – the Aretha Franklin-George Michael duet that has no Expires By date.

After a few weeks of this, I realize that I have reached cardio pace. A week ago, I noticed the smiles of those in passing cars who slowed to wave or nodded. Approvement? Encouragement? Had I been a Facebook page, they were clicking LIKE.

Since I don’t weigh myself (It ruins the whole campaign.), I can only tell you that the pants are getting loser, the attitude is getting better – and yesterday, a guy in a car almost hit the car in front of him because he turned all the way around to watch. Yes!

Thanks, Barry, Marvin and Michael. You’re still making a difference every day. And thanks to the Queen and to the Prince of Motown. Stevie Wonder may never see what he’s done, but I hope someday to let him know.