I Tried It: The Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleaders’ Workout (with Photos!)
Never say I don’t suffer for my art.
Okay, “suffer” might be a tad strong. “Completely humiliate and embarrass myself in front of 37 professional football cheerleaders” is probably more to the point.
I guess I only have myself to blame; this was completely my idea, after all—I asked the Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleaders if I could join them for a workout and they kindly obliged. I just had no idea what I was getting in to.
See, when I chatted with the director, Barbara Zaun, last week, I could have sworn she used the words “workout” and “trainer,” and she definitely said “LA Fitness” (that’s the gym where the team works out). So runner/gym-goer that I am, I envisioned some kind of strength and conditioning session. Like, the “trainer” would lead us through a circuit workout with weights and stability balls, maybe an agility ladder. Some kettle bells if he was feeling particularly demanding. But as soon as I walked in, I quickly realized that by “trainer,” she meant “choreographer” and by “workout” she meant “dance rehearsal,” which is a whole different game when you’re a person like me who avoids all dance-related fitness classes like the plague. I know my limits. I know what I’m good at—dancing doesn’t come close to making the list.
But let me back up for a second. Fully thinking I was heading into a strength workout of some kind, I dressed how I thought was appropriate: three-quarter length tights, a comfortable hot-pink wicking shirt (it’s my absolute favorite for running), boring white running sneaks, and hair pulled back in a ponytail/headband combo to keep my pesky bangs out of my eyes. It’s the classic “Emily’s-going-to-work-out” look. So when my best friend asked me yesterday if I’d be wearing a sparkly black sports bra and hot pants, I laughed and said, “Obviously, no.” I mean, I wouldn’t want to stick out.
So imagine my reaction when I walked into the studio last night, suddenly realizing, no, no, this is a dance class, and the first words out of Barbara’s mouth were: “Okay, ladies! Down to your black sports bras, please!”
My face. I wish I could have seen my face. If I hadn’t set the whole thing up myself, I would have thought I was being Punk’d. It was this precise moment that I knew I was in deep, deep trouble.
The good news is, the girls could not have been nicer. Like, imagine how intimidated little old me in my hot pink shirt and sporty ponytail could have felt in a room full of beautiful, fit girls in black sports bras and black spandex shorts with their perfectly tousled hair just waiting to be flipped up and down and left and right. “Sore thumb” doesn’t even begin to cover how much I stuck out. But the team was so kind and patient as I tripped around like the uncoordinated buffoon that I am, and actually cheered me on at times (they’re cheerleaders through and through, these girls) when I looked, um, particularly lost.
Enough of the backstory—on to the workout. Let me just say this: Next time you watch an Eagles game, know that the football players aren’t the only athletes on the field. I’ll admit, even once I realized I’d be dancing I still thought I’d be able to hack it. I mean, how hard could it be?
Guys, it’s hard. Like, patting-your-head-while-rubbing-your-belly hard. The dance moves are one thing. After a few passes through the routines, I was able to (somewhat clumsily) follow along with my feet. But the hands! What do you do with your hands?! Throw in a set of pom-poms and you’ve officially defeated my mental capacity for bodily movement. There was a time (you’ll see it in the slideshow below) when they were doing something so utterly complicated, so completely mind-defeating, that I just had to stop and laugh. I couldn’t for the life of me follow along, and I was trying as hard as I possibly could.
The only things I could really keep up with were the 10 minutes of warmup at the beginning (it started with a jog around the studio. I could do that!) and the five minutes of ab work that followed. Then it was just a comedy of errors, followed by more comedy and more errors.
At one point, as we were sashaying and pirouetting across the floor in groups of four (embarrassing), one of the cheerleaders said to me, “The thing is, even if you don’t know what you’re doing, you just have to smile and own it. Flip your hair, shake your hips, feel sexy, and have fun.”
I don’t know how sexy I looked (I certainly didn’t feel it). And I’m positive I can’t shake my hips and flip my hair without looking completely ridiculous. But fun? That I can do.
And that’s exactly what we did.