“I’m sorry I’ve been absent for a few weeks, but I sprained by gluteus maximus. Yes, I actually sprained by butt.” These were the words from the instructor at the start of my very first Zumba® experience. I recall looking at my younger sister standing beside me, asking, “Did this happen from Zumba?” What the heck were we in for?
I’d heard a lot about this Zumba craze, from multiple posts on Facebook by friends thrilled with it to classes popping up at the gym to even a workshop consideration for the cancer support program I directed. So when Kelli mentioned several times she wanted to try the activity, I took her hint and offered to go with her.
Those of you reading this who know me well know I am typically game to try a new activity that moves my body. I love to be physically active, love anything that could be considered exercise and helps keep my body healthy. Since my surgery that replaced my femur and knee with titanium, I’ve had to scale back my willingness to try ‘anything’ and settle on ‘almost anything.’ And I can admit that I secretly wanted to try Zumba to prove to myself that I could still dance and ‘shake it’ despite a titanium knee and femur. My sorority sisters and B.C. (before cancer) friends can attest to my love of dancing. I still love music and dancing. There are many nights I listen to music as I’m cooking dinner or cleaning and suddenly break into a dance (this usually occurs when I’m home alone!).
The biggest reason I’d never tried Zumba until this time was that I thought it was all Salsa dancing, which isn’t my favorite style. It’s not that friendly of a dance with a titanium femur/knee. However, according to a website, Zumba is a “Latin-inspired dance-fitness program that blends music and contagious steps to form a “fitness-party” that is downright addictive.” Zumba involves dance (hip hop, mamba, salsa, belly dance and more) and aerobic movements. I was still skeptical but I wanted to support my sister’s motivation to get active, and see what the big deal was, so offered to go with her.
We decided to start with the LA Fitness class since I’m a member and could get a free guest pass for my sister. I was slightly concerned that the moves would be too intense for my knee but also knew that I’d “found” a way to participate in hiking, rock climbing, step aerobics and more by modifying when I needed. I followed my motto: All I can do is try. The LA Fitness class filled quickly. It was a good class, but I didn’t love it. Didn’t love the music selection. Didn’t love that I felt like I couldn’t move much without fear of tripping over the person next to me. It was difficult to see the instructor so I felt lost many times. The lights were bright. Men would stop at the glass doors to watch all us women dancing. No, this wasn’t hitting home with either of us. But Kelli didn’t want to give up. She’s always been a great dancer so thought this should be the activity for her.
Our second attempt at Zumba was at the community center in our hometown. Kelli had researched other options and
found “Zumba with Ivy.” This instructor’s story touched my sister in that Ivy had been through a tragedy that motivated her to focus on her own health and start working out to lose weight and get healthy. She tried Zumba, loved it, dropped many pounds and became an instructor. I agreed to try it again.
As we took our place in the gym, I noticed all body types, ages and diversity. Smiles, greetings. The music pumped out, people were laughing and something struck me to think, “This is going to be fun.” From that moment we were hooked. The music was more pop and hip hop, and even the Latin songs were fun to move to. We kind of laughed our way through the first class, trying to follow the changing moves. You realize there is some repetition to the dance moves and counting beats helped me catch on more quickly (However, you won’t ever find me in the front row!).
The instructor, Ivy, is great. She’s always smiling, laughing and spunky. I admire women with spunk and easy-going charm. I imagine she’s the type of woman who if you’re having a bad day, she gives you a hug whether she knows you well or not. Her energy is addictive. I am sweating by the end of every class. Kelli and I have learned many of the steps so feel like we’re getting a good workout each time. At moments when I’m a tad self-conscious because I can’t jump as high nor kick as hard because of concern for my knee, I realize that no one cares except me. There are several women who aren’t physically able to master the dance moves either. But they’re enjoying it all the same. And so am I.
The class continues to draw more people, filling up the gym. At times, especially when I almost bump the person next to me, I wonder how many more can fit. Yet we seem to find a spot for new people. My punch card has been clipped to the end and I heard myself agreeing with Kelli to buy a few more weeks (we attend once/week). I could use the excuse that I’m still supporting Kelli or need to ensure I can fit into my size 4 wedding dress or I can simply admit I love the workout.
I do love the music, exercise and sweating calories. I hear a popular song, like Flo Rida’s “Good Feeling” on the radio or in a store and I want to stop to Zumba! But Zumba is more than that. There is camaraderie amongst the participants. Maybe that is the beauty of women – while our gender can be catty at times, women are also nurturing and find ways to create community. I walk into the gym and am greeted with waves and hellos from other women I now recognize.
So I think that while I am hooked on Zumba for the energetic (then exhausting) workout it gives my body, I am also drawn to the welcoming atmosphere that we women have created. Perhaps this is due to Ivy and her infectious attitude, perhaps this is just the result of people building confidence in themselves, or perhaps it is the power of music. Whatever the reason, Zumba with Ivy is on my calendar.