Saturday, June 22, 2013

Zumb-Ow-Ow-Ow-Whimper


A couple of years ago, before OK jumped ship and moved to Philly to be with The Boy, she and I decided to take Zumba classes. I’m not sure what part of me thought this was a good idea, but after just a couple of classes of sweat, much moaning and then heaving my battered self back out the door to my car after an hour of self inflicted agony, I began to pay monthly rather than per class.

Ask me why.

The answer was to pretty much force myself into the commitment, even though I was thinking at the time I should be committed. I was very thankful OK took on Project Feel Better or Die Trying with me, otherwise I can guarantee that commitment would have been squelched by nachos and a glass of wine calling my name. With this new way of fighting off more fat cells, it only seemed logical that I would stop eating the somewhat unhealthy foods I craved (like chocolate and peanut butter) in order to get even better results. Yeah… not so much. Truth be told, I sacrificed very little, assuming three days a week of complete and utter masochism would take care of it all.  This may be the reason why, during that period, the scale did

Not. Move. One. Ounce.

I kept telling myself (and frequently encouraged others to tell me) it was because I was replacing fat with muscle, and everyone knows muscle weighs more than fat. Completely logical. Then there was my method of ‘measuring’ Zumba classes. Let’s see… 2 Lime in the Coconut Margaritas - I’m thinking a class and a half of Zumba. All righty then, I could take care of that between Thursday and Saturday, and I would still have half a Zumba class worth of indulgence! Admittedly, this may have been my downfall. And then there was – of course – support from my spouse.

Be honest, really. No wait --

While I worked out I was constantly looking in the mirror for a difference. At the right angle I could definitely detect a tiny shift, an indentation where there used to be merely Jello. They say (don’t ask me who – just ‘they’) you shouldn’t worry about what others notice – you need to be your own cheerleader and have self-confidence. And so it is with this knowledge that I fully admit to the following fatal error.

I asked S if he noticed a difference.

True story.

It was a Saturday morning after class. OK and I had just crawled back home, hungry and sweaty. S was waiting for us to get home to have (i.e. make) breakfast, which is another way of saying he was very supportive but we should not expect anything other than coffee to be ready when the perspiration preceded us into the house every Saturday morning. While OK showered and YK remained asleep (the sounds and smells of breakfast are her typical weekend alarm), S and I decided to sip our coffee and cook breakfast together - a decent compromise in order to avoid anyone being thrown off the island.

I was feeling fairly proud of the fact that Zumba had become a regular routine for OK and me. She had done so well that several people in and out of the class were telling her just how great she looked, which truly made my heart smile. She’s already a beautiful girl, so it was great to see her blossoming and gaining new confidence. Even S commented on the difference in his girl. I, on the other hand, had not garnered such attention. This should have been a clue that it wasn’t time.

Oh, but in my mind it was.

S had been asking me if I felt any better or different, or if I thought I was losing any weight. I would cringe at the question but convinced myself I was taking it wrong (Which meant I was taking it as a dig. Which it sort of was, though he was obviously trying to tread lightly on the subject for fear of.... well, for fear). On this particular morning the question took a sharp turn down Head Slap Lane in my mind. I stood in the kitchen furiously scrambling the eggs until they could almost be mistaken for tinged meringue and grumbled that he obviously must not see any difference. Nothing. No response, no argument, no eye roll, nada. So, just like all the text books warn you not to do, then and there I point blank asked him,

Do you see a difference?”

The only sound was the sizzling of the eggs on the stove, quivering in fear. I give the guy credit - he recovered quickly and sputtered, “Yeah – yeah!” almost convincingly. “I can see a difference here.” He touched my waist. Giddiness ensued. He noticed, I thought – it’s working!  Then he followed up – with nowhere near enough hesitation. “The thing is, when you lose there, it makes this area look bigger.” I will not even mention what area – excuse me, areas – he pointed out. And don’t ask me what I put in his eggs after that.

Move, Shake, Drop – get up now….

Let’s get back to the reason I had to take Advil earlier today.

I went back to Zumba this week.

Zumba is not for everybody. For instance, it is not for those who have zero tolerance for uncoordinated people exercising anywhere near them (that would be me), or an instructor who encourages you to “modify if you have to, intensify if you want to” (I am of the former - not a shocker there) rather than preach uniformity. This basically means you are allowed to not be in sync with everyone else. My experience has been that most Zumba-ers are stepping, squatting, and kicking in sync. You might stand out if you twirl when they side-step or kick when they squat. What I do appreciate is that nobody rolls their eyes at you or makes you feel like you don’t belong there, no matter what you weigh or wear or even if you tip over... as long as it's not into someone else. Trust me, I know this to be true.


Zumba is not for you if you expect everyone’s workout attire to look like they’re filming an Exercise on Demand series. It is all about comfort, thankfully, because my outfits are mostly worn out Wal-Mart specials. They do sell some nifty workout clothing if you decide you want to add some fun color to your routine. Neon green is big there.

It is also not for those unsuspecting souls who think they’re going to just learn a few dance moves. If you do it right, you are a steamy mess by the time the cool-down song comes on, grasping your water bottle for one last gulp and twisting the sweat out of your towel. Come to think of it, it’s the same result if you do it wrong.

Zumba is perfect for somebody like me, which is why – after 2 years - I went back this week to give it another try. Having lost a decent amount of body mass through a weight loss program, along with feeling more confident with my second hip (I had hip revision surgery after a literal parting of the ways with the first replacement), I was ready to get my butt in gear and hit the exercise floor. All right, fine. I gained four pounds in a month and a half and completely freaked out, so I flew to Zumba to help beat back the gain and get a fresh start with a new routine. And for repentance.

When I stepped into the air conditioned hall Thursday night I made sure to work out with some caution in order to not have my hip relocate to places unknown. It was the ideal situation that night – a nightclub setting. The lights were low and disco ball colors bounced off the walls. This did not mean it was going to be an easy hour. If anything, Zumba Nightclub means you are John Travolta on steroids. At least I could be hidden in the shadows and keep an eye on others around me to follow (I say follow, I mean catch on by the final chorus of the song) the routines.

For some reason, probably because of the lively tempo, our instructor is a fan of Pitbull music (using the term loosely).  Fortunately, I couldn’t understand the majority of his lyrics, so I just bounced along to the beat. This week was the first time I heard “Move, Shake, Drop.” Someone should have warned me that the “drop” part was not to be taken literally. And why isn’t there a spotter to pick people up??

I think I enjoy Zumba (enjoy being a relative term) for the same reason I like mowing the lawn - Instant gratification. True, they are very different in that once the grass is mowed you can turn around and see the heavy, tall grass gone. I don’t lose five pounds by the end of each class, but every time I don’t fall down in a puddle by the other Zumba-ers’ feet within that very long hour, I feel like I’ve accomplished something. It still doesn’t make me want to climb the 39 steps to my office, I just don’t get the shakes thinking about it.

Machete is a scary word

The most embarrassing thing about Zumba for me was that I had refused to get new shoes for the class two years ago. I kept saying I would, but dishing out big bucks for good workout shoes stopped me in my tracks. Literally. Not having the right shoes  (that would be anything better than the 7 year old pieces of rubber that were falling off my feet) prohibited me from doing my all-time least favorite Zumba step - my nemesis, the Machete.

This movement entails shimmying in a half circle back and forth with your inner foot being the point of pivot. My sneakers at the time did not pivot. They simply squeaked and stuck like glue to their spot. I semi-hopped, marched, tried to give the vague impression I was machete-ing right along with everyone else. It looked more like someone had stapled the sole of my sneaker to the floor and an invisible force was pushing me around. This week the machete was nowhere in sight on my first night back. I was at once relieved and disappointed. After all, I have new(er) sneakers this time around, and I was almost looking forward to shimmying without sticking. No, I take that back. I didn't miss the Machete for one second, and besides, there were other forms of torment awaiting me.

Hey You, Get Off Of My Sweat

This morning I headed back for a Saturday Zumba class, eager to test my pain threshold. The temperature inside the workout area was akin to a meat locker. I knew this to be a good thing because we would be guzzling our drinks and gasping for air before the hour was up.

Class started out pretty well. I had even remembered a few of the moves from Thursday and I didn’t particularly mind having the lights on so that every misstep – and I made plenty of them – would be very obvious. What I had not anticipated was a space hoarder.

Claiming a space on the Zumba floor is a lot like having your favorite pew at church. You’ve sat there for years and everyone knows this is your pew. Then one day you’re running a little late, and lo and behold, someone has taken your spot. Panic sets in and you start to feel dizzy as you try to navigate to a pew not too close to your regular seat because it would be too upsetting to have to witness this offense. And yet, picturing yourself seated in some other random area of the church just feels so wrong. It’s a violation of the pew code.

That’s Zumba. You have your spot on the floor for every class and everyone else works around that out of respect. If you happen to come in a few minutes later than usual and your space has been taken, it can totally mess with your concentration, not to mention where you put your water bottle.

Apparently I was treading on someone else’s Zumba space, because as class went on I felt rather than immediately saw a presence looming. At some point I found myself distracted when wildly kicking legs appeared a little too close in my peripheral vision. This person wasn’t actually that close to me yet… but she navigated toward my area a little more with each song until I had to stop myself from turning around and giving her The Look. Because I consider myself new after a two year absence and didn’t want to come across as the Alpha exerciser, I thought reversing the situation might be better. The next time she went to take a sip of water between songs I gravitated toward the back of the room so that she could fully utilize the space we had been more or less sharing. I was fine with giving her lively approach to Zumba the room it needed, and I established a new space behind her. Case closed, right?

No sooner had I stopped swearing in my head over the teacup move, which still eludes me two years later, when this same person started to slide back toward me. Really?? Had I worn the shorts with the hole in the butt? Crashed into anyone during a Pitbull number? Sworn out loud during the teacup move? Nope. This person was just one of those exercise enthusiasts who took big steps across the floor and flailed her arms a little farther than most, and I would have to learn to deal without believing she was programmed to kill me.

Successfully Sucking It Up

It honestly felt good to start my day off with a strong exercise routine (followed by even stronger coffee at home, thank you). I am leaning toward deciding Zumba is worth the investment, especially if I’m going to continue to crave chocolate and peanut butter. I have the right shoes now, so I’m running out of excuses to not go. Even with creaking knees and aching arms, I came home willing to help mow the lawn and take the dog for a walk during the day. So yes, I would say this Zumba thing could become a regular occurrence.

Now…. how to convince the instructor that Barry Manilow would produce the same result as Pitbull.

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