Don’t Cha: Wish You Were the Crazy Girl on The Treadmill Like Me?

That throwback workout song still has fire

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio: Pexels

My mind was firmly on a pitcher of fake caramel color-induced margaritas as I headed home from the liquor store. I had a big bottle of premixed Jose Cuervo and a bag of ice for taco night. The sun was hot, and the humidity felt like midsummer instead of the beginning of June. I was flipping through Sirius looking for some old hip hop to fit the vibe. My partner hates hip hop so I was relishing the jones. I caught a quick clip of Busta Rhymes on the Pussycat Dolls “Don’t Cha” and flipped back to the channel I so quickly passed.

It was a workout song throwback that I haven’t heard for probably fifteen years. I hit the button that took me back to the start of the song, and the community center near the office where I worked. It wasn’t a cool gym, but I didn’t want a cool gym. I’d been a member of cool gyms and the thought of dealing with the gym brothers in their flipped back hats — more talk that lifts — lost its appeal about five minutes into the first day.

Trading poser tanks for white striped socks and fewer treadmills seemed fair. Most of the other members I saw on a regular basis seemed to be in their 60s. It wasn’t a surprise. This was Ann Arbor — if you weren’t a student or faculty who used the gym at your respective university, or a local at the chain gym, then you were probably late middle age or older at the community center. I’m sure there were some moms there with their kids since they have a lot of those programs too, but I didn’t see them often.

Photo by MART PRODUCTION from Pexels

There was a 45-minute time limit on any cardio equipment if there were people waiting. I tried to time it so there wasn’t a wait. I needed at least an hour on the treadmill, if not longer. I was in training. Training for my next marathon walk, training for my next adventure, training my body to obey, training for my life. My 15 percent incline necessitated something fun, something easy, something higher carb than what I allowed myself to eat.

“Don’t Cha’’ became a repeat song for peaks in my workout. I had most of the “PCD’’ album on my playlist — I hate that they got flack for their dress and provocateur lyrics. Most of my playlist consisted of artists getting a bad rap (bad pun alert) not as much for their music as for their image. Spice Girls, Fergie, Madonna, Samantha Fox, and I’m sure there are others I’m missing. I felt some kinship with them in that regard, but I would not have been able to fully realize it at the time.

The real problem with the song, in my opinion, is that it wanted me to dance when I was on a treadmill. I’d shimmy my shoulders, which is about all that could be done at a four mph pace. The hips want what the hips want — they like the role of lead when Cha Cha’ing. But that makes for some awkward-looking workouts.

Instead of taking a tumble off the treadmill (it wouldn’t have been the first, or last time), I learned how to dance in my head. It gave my brain a break from the mathematical games I played calculating things like calories burned per minute, or how many minutes I would need to walk at what pace and incline to achieve the biggest burns. It was a sickness waiting for its eventual diagnosis.

For a brief moment, before I pulled into the driveway, the song kept beat with my thoughts — because it’s unsafe to drive and dance, too — I was living out the last days of being a 20-something that probably had a post-workout margarita on her mind as she sweats to sticky sweet 00s hop pop.

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Nikki Barr

Nikki Barr

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Normal human in an extraordinaire world. Memoir / Humor / Just Life