“Ok, you can start warming up.” Fotis said. That is a real name, or maybe it is an acronym for Forge On Toward Inverted Stomach or some other phrase loosely associated with working out. Hard. Like it was 1999.

Fotis Papamichael of the longtime (and much beloved) Michael’s Body Scenes has been given the enviable task of trying to whip me into better shape for the upcoming Boca Ballroom Battle. (See above picture—I am the only one without Brockelman arms.) This was a generous gift to me from Yvonne Boice, who has been in my shoes, literally, getting ready for this event. A woman I thought was my friend.

At our very first work out I was pretty sure this Fotis character would cut me some slack, given my advanced age and the fact that I can look pitiful pretty easily. But nooooooo, not Fotis, he was not having one bit of it. There I was, walking on the treadmill in my new pink Nikes, humming a little tune and watching the Food Network on TV, warming up, just like he said to do. And he comes over, takes a look at my heartbeat monitor beaming a rosy contented little 64, and shakes his head. The next thing I know he is punching buttons, speeding up the treadmill, throwing in some inclines and I am off and running, like a scalded dog.

And it went on this way for an hour.

There I was lifting weights, doing push-ups, arm curls, ab crunches—you name it. Fotis had me all over that place clanking iron like the prisoner of Azkaban and I am telling you it was not easy. Not to mention the fact that I saw a few people I actually knew who had to rub their eyes. (“Marie, is that you?? Is that really you?”), not squaring the woman sprawled on a giant plastic ball with the one usually spotted hoisting a Chardonnay at Deck 84. This was not exactly a big boon to my confidence.

Still, it’s another halting step toward the Boca Ballroom Battle, kind of like that scene in Ben Hur when Charlton Heston and the rest of the slaves are all crammed into the slave ship rowing toward oblivion. Speaking of slaves, all of us will find out this week what dances we’ll be doing and who our partners will be. And that brings up the whole costume thing. I know Dardano is already eyeing a zoot suit to match those shoes. Dorothy MacDiarmid is probably plotting a Periwinkle heist and Marie Occhigrossi is getting ideas at Radio City Music Hall. Gary Collins is dreaming of being a rhinestone cowboy and Cecilia Peters is practicing her best Carmen Miranda. Baby Face Palermo is channeling Gene Kelly and Brockelman is still MIA in the land of Lambada. We are all getting nervous. Stay tuned as we learn our fates on the dreaded dance floor of horror.

In the meantime, I’ll be counting reps with Fotis, the mad Greek of Michael’s. Maybe I’ll see you there.