True confessions: Kitchen Aerobics

This new world of COVID-19 invites me to write about topics not previously imagined or considered. For after all, in what has before felt more like normal times – even if I didn’t recognize them as such – I write about things of importance, at least from my perspective. More than that, much of my normal writing has hints of sadness and melancholy. And in these moments of today, I am reading and feeling too much of that. A small piece of me tells me not to concentrate, or spend time, on inane topics that are unimportant. Extraneous. Insignificant. Yet, the other side of my brain argues: oh, but we need those moments! And thus for today, I share some silly thoughts and remembrances to carry us onward to a next moment, one much too likely filled with sadness.

I have not belonged to a gym in years. As documented in previous blogs, I did fill many earlier life hours hanging out in weight rooms and athletic courts and fitness gyms. Sometime after completing graduate school and the arrival of Kid #1, going to a gym seemed to be simply one more thing to fit in. Plus, I tend to be frugal, avoiding paying for things I think I can do myself. For a number of years, even after kids, I forced myself to swim laps in a pool for the good of my vulnerable back, and although I diligently counted each lap, I was always too eager to climb out with that last one completed. Once I was diagnosed with osteoporosis – as mad as it made me – it gave me a great excuse to quit the pool as I acknowledged no bone building benefit to this non-weight bearing activity.

It was in 1990, shortly after the birth of Kid #1, when I coined Dede’s Kitchen Aerobics. For after all, between New-Mom duties and a part-time work schedule: when the heck was I going to get to a gym? Plus, unlike pre-kid days, I couldn’t simply take off for a run or ride. My mind now flashes back to our Seattle home with its 1926 original kitchen, and my newly created kitchen routine. It would go, something like this: As nap time neared, I’d throw on sweat pants, sports bra and t-shirt (or probably it’s what I put on when I got up) and place Erin in the borrowed swing, set up in the kitchen, hand-cranked for five minutes or whatever was maximum “cranking time.” No internet in those days, I might turn on the radio or cassette player. This was my “warm up” as I paced around and in front of my daughter, making faces at which she would laugh, until slowly she would become heavily lidded, and drift into slumber. The moment the swing stopped it was my decisive moment of action: to carefully extract her from the swing, and place her in her crib in a bedroom equipped with an earliest model baby monitor. I’d quietly hurry back to the kitchen for my 40 minutes of moves and circles and turns, and running up and down the stairs to an unfinished basement. Always hoping she might sleep a bit longer so I could squeeze in a shower.

A few years later, different house in a different state, and now with Kid #2 and a different job, Kitchen Aerobics graduated into something that might happen on my off-work days, the girls now involved in their own play. I was not much for them to pay attention to in their early years, as it was something their weird mom had always done in the kitchen, although this kitchen now had an island allowing opportunities for more sophisticated movement: circles, skipping, grapevines. Music now came by stereo, and even CD’s before too long. For a short period I copied routines from library borrowed videos, adapting some into my own routine, but soon grew bored by watching the same athlete or celebrity repeat the same moves, donning dated workout gear. As the girls got older, I promised I would never do it in front of their friends, although a decade later – me having graduated to the era of simply not caring – at least one boyfriend caught regular glimpses of Kitchen Aerobics. During those earlier years I even closed the front blinds, not wanting neighbors getting the mail to catch a view. Today? Who cares: bring it on! Yet another advantage of the decade of the fifties for many of us: who the heck cares? In fact, we finally realize: not only do they not care, nobody notices!

After fracturing my foot almost four years ago, and during my long recovery, I took a break from Kitchen Aerobics. At one point when my foot was mostly good, I wondered whether my body might need more than the cycling and walking I was doing, Dede’s Kitchen Aerobics was resurrected. I even got my spouse to join me once or twice during particularly bad weather – although it was clearly not his thing. So now, for the past two years and mostly recovered from my Lisfranc injury, I found myself in my kitchen once or twice a week, more commonly listening to music on Pandora, or a particularly exciting podcast. With all the pandemic news, for a bit I found myself turning on the news, soon after realizing it was incompatible with this short-term reality escape.

Not long ago I missed a call from Kid #2, an almost healthcare professional now isolated in Boston. I decided to let her know that some things hadn’t changed, and sent her a short video clip of why I missed her call.

Since then, I discovered Nike’s Training Center workout app – free during this COVID-19 time. Yes, it has kicked my workout up to a new level of sophistication as I can now (attempt to) mimic the moves of great athletes like Carli Lloyd, rather than being left to my tired own routines exuding sequences from 1980s workouts. And it is, while we do the right thing of staying at home if we can, and demonstrating our thankfulness to those on the front lines, we all need to create some time each day to experience joy…and our own interpretation of inanity.

From “Inside the Victorian Gym” at

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