I Stripped Down with 10 Other Women

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For several weeks now, I've spotted the #DaretoBare hashtag floating around Instagram. No lies, initially I wrote it off as some sort of nudist movement gone viral. Silly me, because it's actually a series of events where a bunch of women workout in public in their sports bras, as a way to promote acceptance of our bodies. WHAT A COOL IDEA! Sure, the thought of going topless in front of others can shake even the most ab-clad athletes, but doing it with a bunch of other brave women makes it like a party. And I desperately wanted to be at this party. But considering that all of the fun that was going down in NYC, I was totally bummed out that the movement was way out of reach for me. So fast-forward to two days ago when I learned that HSM Core, a trendy fitness studio right down the road, would be hosting a class supporting this cause: my excitement went through the roof and I swallowed my fears of letting the world see what was beneath my Nike top.

I purchased my ticket online and daydreamed about how this thrilling experience would go down. I was all enthusiastic for getting a killer workout in and even making some new friends... until I spotted the word "megaformer" in the class description. Now, I really hope I'm not the only one who initially confused this fancy name for some sort of shape-shifting robot that only teenage boys would be interested in. 'Cus it turns out I wasn't completely off: see, the

M3S Megaformer is this state-of-the-art fitness machine that has all of these wild, moving contraptions and platforms that work together to give you an extreme full body workout. The classes at HSM Core are described as "an intense 40 minute cardio, strength and flexibility workout that delivers noticeable results quickly by working your muscles to exhaustion." Not only did this sound absolutely terrifying, but I wasn't so sure if I regained enough pride from my first yoga experience to take any more public humiliation. (So the obvious answer was to man-up and stay up all night crash-coursing YouTube videos on how this mind-blowing workout was done.)

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Well 30 minutes of online Megaformer 101 didn't do squat for my self confidence, because I was quivering in my boots when I stepped into that room of machines that could pass for medieval torture devices. Thankfully my fears were immediately put on pause when I was distracted by the rack of

Track and Field sports bras up for grabs. That's right, we were each given a FREE designer sports bra to wear. 😍 As we all excitedly rummaged through the colorful bras, we mingled and got to know each other a bit, which also helped calm my nerves. And after a quick interrogation of the girls, to my horror, I realized I was the only newbie in the bunch.... yes, I was dealing with the regulars, who did this 2-3 times a week. (I mean I really should have seen the red flags go up that each and every one of them had perfectly toned abs.)

So I was beyond grateful that the instructors were absolutely willing to lend a helping hand. One trainer even generously devoted the majority of the class to tweaking my posture and providing personal guidance, without letting out a single giggle at my awkward form. Guys, they even learned my name! When an instructor takes the time to remember who you are, you know you're in good hands. (And what is more gratifying than hearing your name praised over a microphone to the whole class? I'll be smiling for days...)

But the truth is, the website's class description of these 40 minutes being "intense" is what I like to call polite... because this was undoubtedly the hardest workout of my life. And I like to think I've been around the block a time or two when it comes to tough workouts. This machine is so effective because it forces you to act in slow, deliberate movements that engage your slow-twitch muscle fibers. I kid you not, five minutes in, every twitch fiber in my body was twitching out of control. Ten minutes in, I could feel tomorrow's soreness brewing. And twenty minutes in, my mind defaulted to zombie-mode and I was confused at how my limbs were still responding. Believe me when I say, if you're looking for a good ass kickin', this is where you will find it.

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Something about having all of us in matching sports bras, enduring the same pain, made me totally forget that I was vulnerable and exposed. One would expect that a room full of half-naked girls would result in some judging eyes, but honestly, I didn't spot a single pair. These girls were incredibly welcoming, friendly, and supportive. And I truly believe it's because we were all in this experience together and they wanted to see everyone succeed. Even the awkward newbie in the corner.

When we heard the instructor shout out, "40-minutes, times up", we took every ounce of energy we had left to cheer at the top of our lungs. And ofcourse a successful workout isn't complete without the sound of bottles popping in the background... so when we looked over and saw that the staff prepared 10 glasses of bubbly, we raced over to celebrate. Unfortunately I had to rush out and couldn't stay for the after-party. I dashed out so hurriedly in fact, that I unknowingly walked across the parking lot in nothing more than my sports bra. Sure, I got some curious glances from noisy onlookers, but I didn't care one bit. And I take that as a perfect testament to how powerful of an effect the #DaretoBare movement had on me.

Image via Movemeant Foundation

So Who Started this #DaretoBare Craze? Movemeant.

And what is Movemeant, other than a super clever play on words? It's this wonderful non-profit foundation that encourages young girls to get out and move, which will will result in a boosted self-confidence, self-esteem, and positive body image. They develop fitness programs for public schools, offer scholarships to girls in economically-disadvantaged communities, and host events around the country to bring attention to this worthy cause. They're the kind of people who wholeheartedly care about empowering women, and who our mommas tell us we should surround ourselves with more. I absolutely love what they are doing for women, young and old, and if you feel the same way, I urge you to learn more about their mission.

Oh and one more thing, the next time you lace up your running kicks, roll out your yoga mat, or take on a megaformer, I dare you to show some skin. Let the beauty of your muscles and your courage remind you of how strong you are.

Images via HSM Core