Stripping off the pounds

Stripping away the pounds takes on a whole new meaning in the Cardio Strip class at Shapes Total Fitness in Carrollwood.

The class is the combination of an aerobics workout, a dance class and a confidence booster for the otherwise timid. The “strip” part of class does not necessarily come from the removal of clothes but from the movements reminiscent of an exotic dancer. However, to my discontent, there were no poles.

Upon walking into the facility, my comfort level was pretty high. Shapes is a female-only gym, and the idea of performing stripper moves in a class with only women makes it feel a lot less embarrassing.

The other comfortable thing about the class was the diversity of body types and ages. Some of the participants looked to be simply firming some problem areas. Others were trying to lose substantial weight. A few, like myself, seemed to be there out of pure curiosity. The class drew interest from teens and twenty-somethings, as well as middle-aged moms wanting to sex-up their workouts.

Once the class gathered in a large open room with a padded floor, a bubbly toned-to-perfection instructor introduced herself via a fitted headpiece microphone. She advised us to take our hair down, because hair flips are way more fun when it is down. She also said taking off our shoes would probably be a good idea later in the class.

Loud, sensuous beats filled the room as the class began, and our instructor had us doing repeated leg squats with added head pops and flying hair. Our hands should always be on our body and move in a way that is sexy.

At the start of the class, I couldn’t have felt less sexy. Workout clothes with worn-all-day makeup and flat hair doesn’t make a girl feel sexy. Yet, somehow within the first 15 minutes of the hour-long class, I was starting to get the stripper vibe. Maybe it was the low lighting that made me feel better about looking at myself in the large mirrors.

After a brief warm-up of stretches and more hair flips, we moved close to the mirrors. This is the no-shoes part of the class. For one full song, we were instructed to look only at ourselves and to free-style dance to Britney Spears. The awkwardness and Ms. Spears made a bit of that sexy feeling start to drain, but it was quickly revitalized as we threw our backs against the mirrors and slowly sank to the ground. We did this mirror-sliding motion many times, and by the third, I felt the burn in my thighs.

Next, we were told to crawl seductively towards the center of the room for the floor portion of the exercise. We did leg lifts, body rolls and a myriad of other slithering dance moves. My legs started to feel like they were on fire, and my abs became a bit enflamed as well. During the floor exercises, we were told to look in the mirror with desire. By this point, most of the class was pretty comfortable, and lusty looks abounded.

We finally rose from the floor to slowly and sexily cool down. The deep, steady grooves of an R&B track perfectly set the pace to keep stripper cramps at bay.Even without a pole, Cardio Strip turned out to be one enticing way to burn some calories and tone up.