I took my very first Zumba class today at the YMCA near my house.
All I can say is, Holy Mother of God. I about expired on the spot, ten minutes into the class. The hour-long class.
Now, I just had a baby three months ago, so I’m not in the best shape of my life. I know that, though. I really don’t expect too much of myself, physically speaking, right now. But I’m trying to work slowly towards being in better shape. I’ve been walking on the treadmill and doing weights for a couple of weeks now, and it’s been feeling good. So I thought I’d give Zumba a try.
For those of you who have no idea what I’m blathering on and on about, Zumba is a dance-style aerobics exercise with Latin rhythms, a very high-energy activity that looks like a lot of fun when you’re watching through the classroom window. The official Zumba website extolls you to “ditch the workout, and join the party!” I figured, I can do that (particularly since they used “party” as a noun, and not as a verb, which is one of my pet peeves). I’ve been wanting to try it for months, actually. I love to dance, and I rarely get a chance to do it these days. Why not try something that gives me a legitimate excuse to dance and does not require 1) a cover charge, 2) cute club clothes that I can’t fit into right now anyway? At the Y, there’s a really diverse group of people in all the Zumba classes, too; it’s not just a bunch of young, intimidatingly skinny girls with spaghetti arms and nonexistent hips who look like professional dancers (er, the legitimate kind, not the, um, exotic kind). There’s a wide range of ages and sizes, and even a few men.
Plus, at the Y, they have free child care. We love the child care. Seriously. William adores it. Andrew doesn’t seem to mind, either. And it’s free. Did I mention the free part? We love free.
So there I was, standing at the back of the class, wearing my unmatching, rather ill-fitting exercise clothes, optimistically thinking that this was going to be a lot of fun. And to be fair, it really was fun. When I wasn’t wheezing and gasping, that is. The teacher kindly told us that we needed to take regular sips of water to stay hydrated. She suggested that we always take a water break every three songs. Every three songs? I was lucky to make it through one song without lunging for my bottle of water. The lady standing on my right side was at least my mom’s age, and she was just jamming and bouncing right along, like she did this every day (maybe she does! who knows?). The woman on my left side was a few years younger, a few pounds heavier, and she was awesome. I wanted to apologize every time that I couldn’t keep up with the steps and got in her way. You know, when the teacher would shout, “Grapevine!” and everyone would bounce into a grapevine step to their right….except poor old yours truly, who was gamely grapevining to her left. I studied ballet for ten years, and I wasn’t bad. You’d think I’d have some dance ability leftover from that. Apparently not. I could get the footwork right in some dances, but not the arm motions, and vice versa in other dances. The few times I managed to achieve the proper use of both arms and feet at the same time felt like major victories. Of course, by the time I realized, “Hey! I’m getting it, I’m really getting it!” everyone else had moved on to another series of steps, and I was behind again. Oy vey.
I sweated through my shirt before the class was half over. I mean, my shirt was completely drenched in sweat, as if I’d been hanging out in a sauna instead of a heavily air-conditioned exercise studio or taking the SATs. My face looked like I’d gotten a third-degree sunburn. You wouldn’t have recognized me. I looked like a deranged escapee from a medical spa. But I kept going. I’m actually proud of myself for that. I figured that it would be a lot easier, psychologically speaking, to come back and do it again if I managed to gut it out through the entire class. And get this. I even went and used some of the weight machines afterward. Me tough! Me have stamina! Me a bit foolish! Me have sore legs now. Ow ow ow.
After the class, I asked the woman in front of me if she’d been doing Zumba for a long time, and she said no. I felt bad for a half-second until I realized that hello, I did just have a baby and I’d never done this before. I have to give myself a little bit of a break. I confessed that it was my first class. And she brightened and said, “That’s great! Did you have fun?”
And you know what? I did have fun. So what if I wasn’t the best dancer in the class? It was fun. I got a good workout. I’ll learn the steps eventually if I stick with it (and maybe even the arm movements), and hopefully I won’t trip anyone (or myself). And according to my friends, I now have the perfect excuse to replace all the whatevers I lost by exercising so hard with a giant glass of chocolate milk. I can totally make a fool out of myself for that.