If you’ve never tried Zumba, I think you should.
But before those of you who don’t dance run away screaming, consider your source:
1. I have close to zero rhythm.
2. I’m not very physically coordinated. When you tell me to raise my left arm, my “kick my right leg” neurons fire instead.
3. Unless I’ve had a few adult beverages before I dance, I’m usually pretty self-conscious about shaking my rump.
But I love Zumba!
My habit started close to three years ago when I discovered the beauty of free access to fitness centers on a military base. With my husband out of the country most of each year I had a lot of free time on my hands in the evenings. Since the weight rooms were always so full of Marines that I hardly had room to breathe I began attending group classes instead. Weightlifting, step aerobics, spin, kickboxing, pilates, yoga, I tried all of them. For a while I shied away from this one, though:
I’m still not sure what eventually persuaded me to give it a shot, but it certainly wasn’t my dancing skills. Anyway, I hopped into the group. Never mind that most of the people in the class had already memorized most of the choreography. Never mind that I often bumped into the people around me as I shimmied, grapevined, and salsa-ed my way through the hour-long session. I had fun!
I invited friends to join me for classes, and after a while I became the soccer mom of Zumba. I’d round a group of ladies up for class, and try not to laugh as they outdid me on their first tries. After a while I realized I’d stopped grimacing every time I screwed up, and rather than standing there like a statue when I didn’t know what was going on I just kept shimmying and moving to the beat until I could pick up the instructor’s moves again. My confidence was building!
When we left the military life behind and moved here I was surprised when my husband –who had declined all of my previous invitations–finally agreed to join me for a class. I was shocked when he exclaimed “I liked it! Let’s do that again!” So now we do. Twice a week, in the evening, we attend Zumba class together, sometimes also joined by one of his friends from school. B, lacking the self-conscious streak that I’ve worked so hard to erase in myself, jumped in immediately and didn’t seem to mind that he didn’t know the choreography. In fact, a lot of the time he substitutes his own for what he can’t figure out from the instructor’s sometimes erratic movements.
While most of Zumba is based on Latin movements and songs, any good class will have some hip-hop mixed in. On the base, our instructor was a curvaceous, fierce woman who’d start screaming if we didn’t all–that’s 70+ people in the class–squat down low enough, shimmy with enough energy, or punch fast enough. She’d lead us through a combination of kickboxing, hip-hop dance, and merengue and salsa moves in every class. A few times she even brought short PVC pipes along and led us through a strip-tease inspired dance to Rihanna’s song Umbrella. (This quickly became one of my favorites, and I’m tempted to talk my new instructor into giving it a shot if I can remember the choreography.)
The new instructor places more emphasis on salsa and merengue, and mixes oldies like Rock Around the Clock in next to Shakira songs. Where my old instructor valued repetition and intensity of movements, this lady doesn’t really care what you’re doing as long as you’re jumping around for the whole hour and having fun. B pointed out that she often reminds him of the character T, from United States of Tara, because of her boundless energy and tendency to wear bright colors, tutus, and pigtails. I imagine since she’s teaching at a YMCA–where family-types gather–rather than a Marine Corps gym where all the young wives love nothing more than to sport tiny clothing and shake their booties, the silly details are her way of engaging her audience to cut loose a bit.
So when I get tired of spinning on a stationary bike or fighting people for space in the weight room, I always have my Zumba retreat. No two classes are the same, and periodically the instructors incorporate new music mixes entirely so boredom doesn’t creep in as it does with other classes. I recommend it for anyone who wants to shake up their routine a bit and try something new. You don’t have to dance like Shakira to be allowed in, but if after a while you discover you had a Shakira in you all along, by all means… let the she- (or he-) wolf out! 😉