If I had a way to search the archives of this blog for all the fitness or diet-related content published over the years, I’d probably have a small book on my hands. A profoundly useless book, that is, which cycles endlessly through self-dissatisfaction-fueled bursts of LET’S DO THIS THING! followed by predictable descents to the bottom of the nearest Frito bag. How to Become Briefly Obsessed with Posting Your Stupid Gym Check-In So Everyone Knows You’re Seriously Committed This Time Before Succumbing to Full-Fledged Lethargy and Gaining, Like, Seven Pounds in the Process. Perhaps it could be displayed next to tomes of equal value, such as The Art of the Deal.

I have tried so, SO many fitness endeavors. I ran a marathon (!), I tried Tae Bo, I suffered through Crossfit, I did all sorts of home workouts, I even did a mini triathlon before deciding I’m a firm HELL NO on anything involving an open water swim ever again.

I just never really found my thing, you know? The thing I genuinely enjoy, rather than the thing that I endure in the hopes of having a different body.

That is, until now. Here in my mid-forties, I truly do have an exercise routine that I love, and it’s mostly thanks to Barre3.

If you don’t know anything about Barre3, it’s a group fitness class that’s sort of a fusion of ballet barre, pilates, and yoga. It’s an hourlong class that’s low impact but deeply challenging, with lots of micromovements and holds that seem SO easy but ha ha ha definitely are not.

Here’s what I love about it:

It’s replenishing, rather than draining. I switched to Barre3 right after trying Orange Theory and I can tell you I just really prefer a class that doesn’t make you feel like you’re going to barf.

Its messaging is super positive. The instructors clearly go through some rigorous training around how to talk about exercise, and the message is consistently healthy and supportive. No one’s yelling at you to crush one more rep, they’re always talking about modifications and finding what works best for you.

It’s low impact. It’s amazing how difficult a workout can be without a single plyo movement. I’m often dripping with sweat during a Barre3 workout but it’s not about being in that high-intensity, can’t-catch-your-breath zone.

It’s kind of woo-woo, but in a good way. Aside from the nourish-your-soul commentary throughout, every class ends like a yoga class does, where you lie on a mat and the instructor murmurs various meditative things while you drift on a pleasant cloud of endorphins. I feel so amazing afterwards, re-centered and de-stressed.

It’s got great music. YMMV, of course, but I dig the eletronica/dance vibe.

The downsides:

It’s expensive. No way around it, it’s not a cheap workout. On the plus side, you can buy class packages so you don’t get stuck in a monthly contract. Sometimes Groupon has some great deals.

It’s kind of … bougie. But who fucking cares, this is about finding fitness you enjoy, not competing for the coolest most urban woke-ass workout.

I’ve been going pretty regularly for a couple years now, and I honestly love it. I love the movements, I love the experience, I love the results. I’m leaner, more flexible, and I have better posture. I find myself doing Barre3 exercises on my own all the time (emptying the dishwasher? Why not drop into carousel horse for a few pulses?), and I feel like I’m seeing continual strength improvements and muscle definition.

Barre3 isn’t the only exercise I do — I go to the gym a couple times a week, I ride my bike, I go for walks. But it’s probably made the biggest difference in terms of changing my relationship with fitness. I finally, FINALLY found the right fitness thing, the thing that feels like self-care rather than self-flagellation.

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In July we stayed near Bend for a couple days and spent an afternoon floating on the Deschutes along with, according to one of the shuttle drivers, at least 2,000 other people on that particular day.

I’d never seen anything like it: once we piled into the water we joined a truly jaw-dropping amount of floaties and humans blanketing the river, and we slowly moved along like a gigantic collection of colorful, music-blasting flotsam. It was like watching cells divide, then merge together, over and over as people gently bumped up against one another before moving in other directions.

It had all the trappings of a good time — hot sunshine, cool water, lots of people enjoying themselves and their access to floating coolers filled with beer and those spiked seltzers I like to make fun of but who am I kidding if I still drank I would LOVE those stupid things — but the kids had been arguing with each other for hours and kept at it while we bobbed our way towards the take-out. I had that feeling I sometimes get, where I look around at other families and everyone seems to be getting along, while my children are busy trying to one-up each other in some sort of Who Can Be the Most Toxic, Insufferable Jackass contest where the prize is parental ennui.

I tried valiantly to keep our foursome together, that day on the river. If we draped an arm or foot over each other’s tube, we’d float side by side, but if we let go, we drifted apart. While I’d pictured us spending the whole float locked together, no one wanted to be that close. It was impossible not to think of metaphorical actions as I had to relinquish my grip on a grumpy child’s float and watch the water swirl to fill the space between us.

If they were little, we would have stayed together, for safety. But they’re older now. They’re capable. They’re becoming more and more independent, they have their own preferences.

Riley will be 14 at the end of the month. Dylan is 11. Everyone said those early years would go by so quickly and it’s true, it has. The future seems to be hurtling towards me at faster and faster speeds, the last fleeting wisps of their childhood fading away even as I reach for them.

I wouldn’t go back even if I could, really. (Or maybe I would if there were some complex Starbucks-order method of cherry picking the past: Yeah, could I get, like, the total lack of cynicism and all of the cuddles, but with no sleepless nights, diapers, or paralyzing anxiety about choking hazards?) These boys are complicated, slightly smelly china shop bulls, funny and infuriating in equal measures, and I could not love them more. But this always-changing landscape is so challenging. It’s easier than it used to be in some ways, harder in so many others.

My arms used to be so tired, from carrying and coddling and guiding. Now there is a new ache, from the staggeringly difficult business of letting go.

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