One day in late January I trudged through the snow of the office building parking lot that houses the Jazzercise center I go to, removed my street shoes, and pushed inside. There, hanging on the wall by the front desk, was a glorious article of clothing – the prize one could win if the February fitness challenge goals were met. It was a teal blue, lacy tank top with a yellow silkscreened Jazzercise logo on it. The back portion, across the shoulders, was bound together in that way that women’s workout tops are; to reveal more of the bare shoulders and be less hot overall. It was stunning, and seemed to take on an angelic, radiant glow one could possibly read a book by if the power went out. I could see the hungry look in every woman’s eyes as they darted from classmate to classmate, sizing up their competition. This would be something they would strive for, win, and then wear to class to prove their superior piety. I, too, stared at it, transfixed, imagining my chest hair poking out from the holes in the lace front that would probably make me look like a dirty pool filter, removed for cleaning.
The problem was this: the fitness challenge was terribly difficult.
Jazzercise doesn’t measure you or your fitness progress in any real way, by pounds of weight or inches of waistband. They don’t track the grace of your Chasse across the room, give a congratulatory handshake for how few of your fellow classmates you kicked in the jaw with an errant Arabesque, or give away a trophy for “Most Improved Booty-Pop Technique”. You sign up, and they track attendance, and that’s it. Therefore, it’s the only real metric they can incent you to improve on.
Instructors would excitedly announce the details of the fitness challenge during each class, interrupting the sound of Bruno Mars’ feminine voice, to an anxious crowd. But the following difficulty of Lacy Tank Top attainment would elicit groans from the sweaty room. In order to win it, you needed to attend 30 classes in 35 days. “That tank top was as good as mine!!!”, I had initially thought. This was something I could readily do, because I regularly go to two 60 minute classes a day, back-to-back, in the evenings. But there was one catch that proved our undoing: only one class per day could count against this. You literally had to go 6 out of 7 days a week for 35 straight days.
Moreover, the computer system that tracked your attendance was not used to manage an event this momentous. This one went down to paper and pen – signed and dated forms showing your progress, presumably so that nobody could duplicitously conspire to log a friend into the digital system and cheat in order to win the prize. Why they did not require a notary witness, I never asked.
To our chagrin, this niggling facet ruled both my wife and I out of the running, since we were taking a week-long vacation to the Dominican Republic right in the middle of the challenge. Still, around 24 women at my center ( far more than was expected, and so more tank-tops had to be ordered) showed up every day and eventually won their prize, which were distributed with some fanfare during classes in early March. That said, I have not yet seen someone wear one to class. I’ve heard stories of women who win all of the various small Jazzercise-branded prizes from these challenges, for years on end, and keep them all in some Tupperware container in the attic.
There is no currently running challenge, and bare wall where that lacy item used to hang and inspire us all, already like some distant winter memory as the spring begins to break.