sweaty bodies, popular music, and spicy dance moves – sounds like a party, right? Zumba is extremely popular and for good reason – everyone I asked about it assured me it was F-U-N and a kick-ass workout. Truthfully, I was suspicious of Zumba and a little afraid to try it – I’d seen a few commercials on TV and I knew it involved different kinds of butt wiggling – but my son had tried ZumbAtomic and assured me it wouldn’t be too hard. He was four and a half at the time so I took his advice. I’ll be the first to admit that Zumba was not made for me – or, perhaps, I was not made for Zumba. I don’t much care for shimmying and I tend to lose track of what my feet are doing without a clear 1-2-3-4 count. However, my favorite yoga teacher cut her classes way back at my gym and I decided to branch out and try new things to supplement my exercise regimen.
From the commercials, I could tell that basic dancewear would suffice for my foray into Latin fitness. I had nothing neon or beaded or ripped, but I figured my yoga gear would be all right. I didn’t know what kind of shoe Zumba-philes were supposed to wear so I polled my sportier Facebook friends. They assured me that whatever shoes I was wearing for running or cross-training would work just fine. Uh, my entire exercise strategy since the eighth grade involved NOT running or cross-training, so I had nothing of the sort. The closest options I had were skate sneakers (for wearing with skirts, you know, ironically), ballet slippers, and some athleisure shoes I bought just so I’d have green shoes. In the end, I chose the green “sneakers” because how hard could dancing for an hour be, really?
Before the Class:
People lined up early to get in this class – cheerful, peppy people. People with blindingly neon gear, real dance sneakers, and frosty big bottles of water. Oops, should have thought of that. I never thought about re-hydrating mid-class. Oh well, probably not a big deal. I went over to the back right corner, where I belonged so I wouldn’t bump into people or (more realistically) be seen.
Beginning of Class:
At the beginning of each yoga class, the instructor typically says hello, and then maybe says a few words. Not in Zumba, oh no. The music began and immediately people were moving en masse. I kept up as best I could and quickly realized my thighs were probably going to explode by the end of the hour. We went from one song to another with no break – you know it’s extreme when you think, “Oh thank God, jumping jacks – I can rest a bit while we do jumping jacks.” Just as the song (which was a mix of roughly 1000 different Pitbull and Usher songs) came to an end, the instructor clapped her hands and yelled, “Wooohooo! OK, that was the warm-up! Ready to really work?” Oh hell.
Middle of Class:
About three songs in, I realized I needed to go on YouTube and check out Zumba for Dummies. I had no idea we’d be doing merengue thingies and salsa thingies. Also, I never comprehended just how incompetent I was at moving my core. I sneaked up to where I could see myself in the mirror and recoiled in horror. Where the girls in the front middle were gyrating, I was performing something that looked like a cross between a hula hoop maneuver and a dry heave. Worst of all, I was so thirsty I could feel my tongue sticking to the roof of my mouth. While pas de bourree-ing across the room, I looked longingly at the big bottles of water my sportier, more prepared compatriots of dance brought.
End of Class:
I started to believe I was going to pass out at about minute 50. My legs were telling me if I did one more jump or squat or thrust, I would be on my own getting home. We started our cool down and I thanked my lucky stars when we stretched and balanced – two things I knew how to do. By the end, I was glistening (ok, sweating like a pig) and bright pink, but I felt great. I was tired as I’d ever been, but I made it through the class! I didn’t die! No one laughed out loud at me! I could go back to yoga in good faith, knowing I had tried something new, and I never had to butt wiggle again.
The next day, and for three days after, my calves hurt so bad I walked pigeon-toed. I thought I was going to have to seek professional help to get them straightened out. Ultimately, they were fine, and I was thankful for that. I threw the athleisure shoes in the trash and bought some proper athletic footwear. I ended up going to Zumba again. And again. Turns out I was hooked on merengue thingies and gyrating. If you don’t mind looking really stupid every now and then, Zumba can be a really good time. I’m not giving up yoga any time soon, but I don’t mind having this option as well. Thinking about trying a new exercise class? What is it? Leave it in the comments here and we’ll talk you into (or out of – no one does stripper pole aerobics anymore, do they?) it!