Who’s got the moves?
After a recent Zumba class, I had the chance to chat with the instructor—who was new to me—for a few minutes. I was delighted when she asked if I taught Zumba myself or if I had a dance background.
Growing up, I took ballet, tap and jazz until I was in middle school. That isn’t really a long time, but I’ve always loved to dance and those early lessons gave me a foundation in how to move my body rhythmically.
Throughout high school, I played soccer and softball, but was never particularly good at either. Our school had a dance company, but I never felt confident enough in my abilities to go through the audition process.
But still, I loved to dance. In college, I could frequently be found on the dance floor. Of course then, a drink or two usually helped me feel comfortable enough to let loose.
I was never a big fan of regular exercise. It was a struggle to go to the gym and get on a cardio machine. During college, my weight climbed. After graduating, I decided to make some changes. I tried to eat healthier and I joined the gym.
Once I got into a routine of exercising daily, it became a habit. Every afternoon after work, I would grab my magazines or Kindle and hop on the elliptical for an hour. I sometimes threw in some strength training too, although I was too intimidated by the guys at my gym to put a real effort into weights.
As a teacher, I was typically out the door by 4 and at the gym before 5. Most group exercise classes took place in the mornings, around lunch or at night. There were very few options to mix up my routine, so I just stuck to that elliptical.
Eventually, I got into a rut. My weight fluctuated periodically but as long as I worked out 5 days a week, it rarely went up too much. But I was getting bored.
When my husband joined the gym, we started going together more on the weekends. Suddenly, there were classes to try. I checked out a spin class, which had always terrified me before. Once I got the hang of it, I started looking at other branches of my gym and found classes around 5 PM that actually fit into my schedule.
For weeks, I watched a Zumba class before daring to try it. I had not danced formally in years and I knew Zumba included a lot of Latin dance moves like salsas and sambas, which I wasn’t familiar with. I was scared I would look like an idiot.
Finally, I got up the nerve to try a class.
I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to pick up the steps pretty quickly. The first few classes were definitely challenging, but as I got a hang of the choreography, it became easier. I learned that I needed to position myself in the middle of the row behind the teacher to see her feet move. I started to become familiar with the music and steps, until eventually my muscle memory kicked in and I didn’t need to look at the instructor as often.
Best of all, I had fun.
I was filled with confidence that I was able to pick up the dances easily and that I actually looked pretty good when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I loved the party atmosphere of the class and all the different types of bodies that came through the studio doors.
When I moved to Philadelphia, I was about 10 pounds heavier than normal. The six months prior to my move, I was going out all the time to dinners and bars with friends, knowing that was my last year in Manhattan.
We were lucky that our building had a gym in it, but that brought me back to plodding away on the elliptical. I grew bored again.
In the fall, I joined a nearby gym. There, I worked with a trainer to try strength training again (which still didn’t quite stick), but I also got back into yoga, tried a weight training class and, best of all, found three Zumba classes that fit my teaching schedule.
Every Tuesday and Thursday evening and Saturday morning, I headed to the gym for the best part of my day. The two teachers I followed were very different. One choreographed dances using mostly Latin moves. The other one incorporated more hip hop and even threw in some swing dance moves from time to time.
Within four months, I dropped 10 pounds. I was moving my body in new and challenging ways and better yet, I looked forward to those classes. I got to know the regulars. I knew where I liked to stand. My body remembered the choreography.
Last year, I found a local Zumba studio and was again delighted by how much fun I had in the class and how much my muscles remembered the dances.
When we joined the gym last May, I immediately added Zumba to my new routine of group exercise classes. I tried several different teachers before finding the ones I really like.
These days, I take Zumba at least once a week. I try hard to mix up my exercise routine to constantly surprise my muscles. As much as I love to dance, I know I should not do it every day. Despite the fun I have in a Zumba class, I also know I don’t sweat as much during it as I do in a cardio boot camp class.
Still, I always look forward to my dance classes. Zumba helped me to realize how much fun exercising can be. I learned I don’t need to only use a cardio machine to get results. I also learned what my body is capable of.
My biggest advice to someone starting their own Healthy Wellthy Journey is to find what you love to do. Getting into a workout routine can be a challenge, so it’s key to make sure you have fun and are comfortable. It might not be dance for you, but figure out what you actually look forward to doing and stick with it. Eventually, you can branch out and find out classes or routines that you enjoy just as much.
If you do like to dance, check out a Zumba class. Don’t feel intimidated. The people that know all the moves are probably regulars. No one knows a dance perfectly the first time through. Explain to the teacher that you are new to Zumba and ask for pointers. Listen to the music and move your body.
It doesn’t matter if you do the moves perfectly the first time. Eventually, your body will get it down.