Finally Getting Fit

Shake Ya Body Like a Belly Dancer

Posted on: May 31, 2010

Thanks Akon for a song about belly dancers. Even though it might make them sound a little like club skanks. It’s nice to be recognized. I think.

I am a belly dancer. I started dancing in 2005. This is the whole long mind-numbing story of how I feel in love with Middle Eastern dance and music.

My husband deployed to Qatar in May and the day he left I weighed 193 lbs.  I had to be a single mom for the first time ever.  I found out that when the husband is gone and I’m alone in bed I don’t sleep well. Not at all. We aren’t big spooners but we do touch feet. I missed that. I needed that. Just that little touch in the middle of the night made all the difference in the world in how well I could sleep. After the first couple of weeks of being alone I was so exhausted that it didn’t matter. Lack of sleep does eventually catch up. I started going to sleep at around 10 and waking up at 4:30. Unheard of for me.  After a few days of that I talked to the kids. They were 15 and 13 years old around that time. I told them I wanted to start going to the base gym in the mornings. Very early while they were still asleep, then go on into work.  Would that be cool with the extra hours alone? Thier response “We’re going to be asleep. We won’t know any difference.” So away I went.

I would leave as soon as I got dressed. Some mornings that meant I was at the base gate waiting for it to be unlocked at 5 AM.  First in line. Waiting. For the gym. At 5 AM. What the heck? Was that really me? At first it was just to the treadmill. I used the one in the older part of the gym. The part of the gym that the muscle-heads didn’t use. I’d walk and watch tv for about an hour then take my time getting a shower and getting dressed. This was no commercial gym with fancy shower facilities. Big open locker rooms. Hot. Humid. Like a sauna without being near the sauna. I swear I don’t think they had a lick of AC in that place.

Like most people I got bored after a while. There’s only so much walking I can do.  I had been watching people on the elliptical and one day I decided to give it a try. 5 minutes. My knees were screaming. Back to the treadmill.  I gradually built up my time. Treadmill, elliptical, treadmill. More and more time on the elliptical until it was treadmill, elliptical.

Then I decided to set a goal. I wanted to run. My hospital sponsors a 5K run every December and I decided I wanted to do it. So then it was walk/run 3 days per week, elliptical 2 days per week. Man, I was loving this. I felt so good. I was losing some weight. I was sleeping better.  I moved my butt over to the BigBoy side of the gym where the serious people run on treadmills and bike and lift weights.

My honey was still gone and meals at home were frozen/boxed/pre-packaged stuff during the day and fast-food at night.  We were making it but it could have been better. I wasn’t good at this single mom role and I really try too hard because I knew it was temporary. I have lots of regrets about that summer and how I lived my home life is one of them.

Somewhere along the line I decided to pull out the old Body For Life book by Bill Phillips. I wrote me out a little routine and took it to the gym with me the next time I went. I went to the BigBoys corner. My towel, my water, my notebook and pencil all in tow. No one said a word but I guess I seemed serious and acted like I knew what I was doing so no one showed any disrespect.  Most of the other women there were either doing cardio or lifting weights with a trainer. I was the only solo. But I did my thing. It was my “me” time.  I also bought DDR for me and the kids and we started doing that at home. That is some fun stuff.

I didn’t seem to be losing the weight like I wanted though. I was running farther though and lifting weights and felt good but I was feeling dissatisfied with the body. I was down to maybe 175 or so. It was probably the fast-food diet I had going on at the time.  I decided that if I couldn’t lose the belly then I needed to do something to love the belly. I saw a marquee advertising belly dance classes and the light bulb went off. I talked to hubby about it and went to sign up. I was too late. The first session had already started as was full. 😦 I signed up right then for the second session.  This was going to be one of my birthday day presents to myself. I was turning 40 and determined to make it a year to remember. Belly dancing.  My first 5K. Oh yeah. I wasn’t going to let middle age get me down and I wasn’t going to give up.

I wasn’t sure what to expect that first night. My instructor was instructors. One itty-bitty spit-fire woman and… a man! Okay. I never expected that. Especially a man in jeans, cowboy boots, and a cowboy hat. Well. It was like coming home. The music. The moves. It was all just so perfect. I loved it from the beginning. I haven’t stopped since. By the end of the first 8 week session I had made my first student acceptable costume and made a ton of wonderful new friends. THIS was what I had been looking for.

I get two responses when people know I belly dance. The first is “I’m too skinny to belly dance. Don’t you need a belly?” The second is “I’m way to fat for something like that. I’m not gonna go let my belly hang out all over the place.”  The fact is every woman can belly dance. You don’t need a belly. You don’t need to be thin. I like to joke and say is all you need is a vagina but Middle Eastern dance is not just for women.  Many men dance and dance well also.  I do, in all seriousness, say that you shouldn’t wait to try something new. That you shouldn’t wait for a number on the scale or tape measure to do something that you want to do. Do it now. You’re body will let you know if your not ready or if you need to take it slower than someone else. You don’t have to dance with your belly hanging out. I have. But it’s never mandatory. The group I’m performing with now mostly wears 5 or more layers of clothing. Harem pants or pantaloons. 1 or 2 skirts. A decorative dance bra. A shirt with sleeves. An over coat. 1 or 2 belts.  In class we wear what is comfortable. Yoga pants and t-shirts mostly. I tend to go right after work so I end up dancing in my scrubs most of the time. I think we start back next week I’ll be taking a change of clothes to look more like a dancer and less like an audience member.

Don’t wait. Whatever it is you want to do. Do it now. Not because you may have no tomorrows but to make your tomorrows better.

From 2007, the last choreography with both my original instructors:

Group choreography performed for Ms. Fifi Abdo in 2008 during her visit to Dallas Tx:

From my last solo performance in 2008. My dance name at that time was Donaleah:

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4 Responses to "Shake Ya Body Like a Belly Dancer"

That’s so awesome you’ve found something you truly enjoy! I firmly believe that you shouldn’t wait until you have “the perfect” body to try something that you’ve always wanted to do. You go girl!

WOW! I enjoyed reading this post. I like how you just took your own initiative to do what you wanted to do! I can’t be on the elliptical for more than a few seconds right now but need to build up like you did. Good job on the dancing too! 🙂

very very cool.
and you know I totally agree as I LIVE my tagline about fitness not being about fitting in (to anyone’s IDEAL OR MOLD or definition of exercise).

I’ve always been one to do my own thing whether anyone else likes it or not. Much to the consternation of my mother and sister. They just don’t understand why I don’t really care more about what people think.

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