Hot Bod is a weekly exploration of fitness culture and its adjacent oddities.
Once, three-pound weights weren’t coveted and rare treasures in this world like they are now. In the Wild West of the internet marketplace, small dumbbells are seemingly worth their weight in ancient gold doubloons from countries that don’t exist anymore. Since people started approximating their gyms in their living rooms, I’ve assembled a screenshot collection tracking the whirlwind inflation: two-pound weights in sickly plum offered at a price range of $11.19 to $119.99. One-pound dumbbells in aerobicise teal for $64.94 and $89.96. Just for a fun twist, they’re temporarily unavailable anyway. I was raised by two economists (albeit on the macro end) so I love to track fluctuations.
But before this time, I want to remind us, weights sucked. During an average aerobics class, if someone was like, give me $119.99 and I’ll steal every dumbbell from your metro area, people would be like, what’s your Venmo name? Trust me, this was the case. Especially in the “fun” dance cardio classes, the instructors led the “strength” portion with weights like they were under a legal obligation to do so. I would often sneak out to get water and dally.
Now, obviously, I respect weights very much because they are precious and I can’t borrow them from the gym. Also I’m not carrying things around the world anymore and I’d like to prevent my arms from atrophying. But during remote videos with my old favorite cardio classes, of course I still skip the dreaded weights sections. One can only pretend that it’s so fun to squat and do chicken dance arms with light dumbbells for two seconds. And never has it been easier to just toggle to the next section.
So it was a surprise to find a seemingly normal, fun cardio dance class, on a “virtual hub” through FORWARD__Space, with a weights section that wasn’t screaming to be skipped. It was not dreaded! It was great. The FORWARD class energy is rave-y and athletic in an equal partnership — like so equal as a coupling that when they leave the dinner party, everyone’s like: HUH. Well suited!! They make each other better. Hope it’s as good as it seems! The rave-y dancing is in a perfect union with diligent muscle-pulsing moves. There are weighted arm raises to every line punctuation from Megan Thee Stallion. Even with the dumbbells, there are lots of twists at the waist. It feels like you never stop doing dance stuff, even while buffing those biceps. All I want, always, is to be fooled that I’m at a party while I’m actually eating my vegetables. This was the party with all the good vegetables.
I learn from the FORWARD__Space founder and CEO Kristin Sudeikis that the FORWARD FIRE class in particular was developed for people who were coming from an athletic background, not a dancing one, so that they wouldn’t feel intimidated by dancing; which made me think that my other dance-y classes were coming from the opposite approach, incorporating strength training in a half-ass way so no dancerly amateurs were put off. Everyone is intimidating to everyone else; it’s really charming in a way but also stupid.
Of course, because I was so happy and foolish the first time I did the FIRE class, I got too into it and I used eight-pound weights, when they really should have been like two-pounds. I majorly overdid it, which should maybe be my tag line. Even so, it feels good to work too hard sometimes! That’s been rare recently.
There are new classes at FORWARD space a few times a week, filmed by the instructors in the dizzyingly mirrored gym. It’s dim yet neon yet incandescent, and kind of looks like a back alley in a spaceship. Depending on the instructor, the music often has a reggaeton moment and the dance sequences are really strong. They remind you that you have hips and that you are alive.
When I was taking it very easy for a week, partially due to over-doing it and also for reasons I’m not ready to talk about yet (LIFTING HEAVY BOXES OF MY BOO’S RECORDS WHEN I SAID I COULD BUT I COULDN’T), I did some of the weight sequences without dumbbells. They were still fine and fun and felt good! So I could tell you, if you’re part of the great weight shortage, you can use cans of chickpeas as weights, and you can tell me to screw off, and I can say FAIR, but this part remains engaging! It’s a truly irresistible way to move. No one is more surprised than me that I’m not skipping right past it, and even without weights, I’m doing it anyway.