In which we compare Zumba instructors to upbeat canines.
Years of Jump Jam-induced anxiety from primary school PE class have left me rather averse to most dance fitness classes. I’ve diligently avoided Zumba (which seems to be rather prevalent in fundraisers, community events, and general group fitness centres) until the ripe old age of 24, when this past Monday I psyched myself up enough to take the plunge for the sake of you, dear reader.
Shawn, the very upbeat instructor (what Zumba instructor doesn’t appear to be a personified golden retriever?) started off the class with a pep talk. “I love Zumba because it’s more like a party than a workout! You’re going to get sweaty, but you’ll hardly notice you’re exercising!” I have to admit that I’m a sucker for an inspirational speech, even when it’s a bit cheesy.
The music started for the warm-up track and I realised I’d made a mistake in positioning myself where I did, near the back of the class and off to the side in an attempt to be inconspicuous. I had unknowingly stood directly below the speaker, which was turned up just loud enough to be uncomfortable. Also, there was an issue with the playback so throughout the whole class the music would cut out – not for long, only for a beat or two at a time, but long enough to be very irritating. To his credit, Shawn (after a failed attempt to fix it) just went with the flow and tried to make it as non-disruptive as he could.
The first few songs were fairly easy to keep up with, and I managed to get up a bit of a sweat. Unfortunately, I found it a bit hard to see what was happening – this class was the busiest one yet, with around 40 people, and positioning my 5’3” self near the back wasn’t a great move considering I’d never been to the class before and didn’t know any of the moves. There was, however, a very enthusiastic older man standing in front of me who was clearly a regular and knew every song, so I could follow along with him when I couldn’t see to pick up the instructor’s footwork.
A few songs after the warmup, things started to get a bit tricky. The coordination between my limbs is mediocre at best (which was the opposite of useful when I was learning drums at high school) so I must have looked ridiculous, but there were enough people between me and the mirrors at the front of the room that I couldn’t see myself looking ridiculous, and I was concentrating too hard to be self-conscious about it. Also, there were a lot of moves that involved twisting, and despite being 24, I have the knees of an average 40-year-old so I was pretty sore for the next day or two.
Near the end of the class, Shawn decided that what the class needed was to watch each other attempt to dance. The group split down the middle, each half faced each other, and we continued to try our best to not trip over our own feet whilst diligently avoiding eye contact with the people on the other side of the room. We were suddenly all acutely aware that when you can see them sweating, jiggling, and stepping the wrong way, they can see you.
Fun: 9/10. It lived up to the tagline of “A workout that feels like a party.”
Challenge: 7/10. Not too hard as a workout, and fairly low-impact if you go easy on the twisting (though I did work up a sweat, as promised). However, the mental workout more than made up for it – though it would definitely be less challenging if you had a dance background or a modicum of coordination.
Would I go again? I think so. I’d have to be in the right mood though. It’d be fun to go with friends to get hyped up before a night out