Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Misha's Zumba Experience

Sexy, 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. 

The Preparation:
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 shoes 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, "Wooooooooohoooooooo! 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 Aftermath:
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!

Misha Hettie

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