To Zumba or Not To Zumba?

When you reach a certain unfortunate level of fitness — or lack thereof — well, we have to address the elephant in the room.  Or become the elephant in the room.  🙂  I was a skinny kid and to arrive in my forties with a bit of a weight problem was a surprise.  It’s gotten better, it’s gotten worse, but the 2017 Cancer Year was pretty horrible.  I couldn’t move at all;  most of the food I could eat was food I shouldn’t. And the several years of widowhood before that did not help.  I have a Weight Problem. Many of us do.

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We all Need Exercise

But even if we don’t have a weight problem, we need exercise. Walking is the best, we’re told.  I was far more fit in hotter climates with lots of flat roads with good sidewalks to wander and interesting sites around.  Living in Alexandria, Virginia was lovely (but expensive).  Seattle was the best:  a real walking city, with extensive trails, lovely climate, and the trails led to interesting places.

Getting up from the chair is the key.  Treadmills, though, can be pretty dull.  (If you must go there, I recommend audio books. And a slow pace.  But it’s still dull, dull, dull. )

A good exercise program is fun and sustainable.

For years, I’ve depended on tai chi classes–because of gym injuries in my forties.  Classes, machines, and a bit too much enthusiasm gave me shin splints, injured wrists and ankles, and well, that sidelined me and put me into physical therapy for awhile.  And of course, my waistline grew.  Because, well. Cookies. 🙂

Tai chi is challenging, fun, and very unlikely to cause injury. It’s very supportive. But I need a class three or four times a week and I just cannot find one.

But about Zumba

When Zumba came out,  I was intrigued but had absolutely no time whatsoever to breathe (much less exercise).   Two kids, no husband, sole breadwinner — it was an insane time.  I loved the idea of dancing exercise.  I’ve tried a number of Zumba classes and I have to say–much depends on your teacher and your “group.”

My latest experience with Zumba was what you would expect for a fifty-something.  At this point,  I’m an old hand at starting over (emphasis on old), so I followed some of the rules.

  • Come on time.  Not too early, where you’ll have to socialize with the lithe young creatures who are the top half of the class.  Not late, for  then you’ll be on the back row. Not only will you not be able to see a thing, but at my gym (and in many gyms) you’ll have your back to the back of a  glass wall. 

 Just imagining my large derriere on display to the whole gym community, waggling to the Latin beat, is the stuff of nightmares.  I did not want my butt to be the first thing people saw when they peered into the glass-walled “Energy Studio.”

Getting there on time meant I was able to get to that perfect spot of three rows in from the back.  With two rows of people behind me, and four rows in front, I was perfectly shielded from seeing my enormous, old-lady bod, struggling to find the rhythm.

  • Bring Water.  These Zumba things are intense and my lack of water bottle was unfortunate, to say the least.
  • Don’t Plan to Do All the Moves the First Day.  Zumba is hard and fairly complicated.   Some of the moves are fairly basic — jumping jacks type moves, salsa steps, but most of them are done at a VERY high rate of speed.  Try to do them slowly.  Don’t try to keep up ENTIRELY.  Just try to keep up as much as you CAN.
  • Avoid Twisty, Bouncy Moves.  This is how I got so hurt about ten years ago.  I went to some dance exercise classes (pre-Zumba) and bounced and twisted and  hurt myself.   The young, lithe exercise goddesses look amazing doing these moves, but they are doing their joints no favors.   Zumba is terribly hard on the knees.

    If you’re like me, in your late forties/early fifties, your joints and muscles are not ready for this. Modify the moves!  Take care of yourself!

    I found several women in the class who could not do all the moves, and were just keeping moving, in a dancey sort of way, and avoiding the bounces.  One had knee braces on both knees. When it got difficult, I worked on copying these lesser fit folks, rather than the instructor.  She was gonna kill us all. 😀

  • Just Try to Stay the Distance.   I am proud to say that I worked on pacing myself.  I deliberately slowed down at times to make sure I didn’t wear myself out.  My goal was to still be in there, doing at least half of the moves, by the end of the session. Making it through the whole hour was the accomplishment I was looking for.  It’s a good goal.  I was able to walk out under my own power and I felt really good.

Setting Ourselves Up for Success in Getting Fit

Attitude is important in getting back into exercise.  I work on smiling during the exercise.  I work on enjoying my body. I practice being joyful and having fun, like a kid.  This is a whole lot easier in “Aqua Zumba” — which is in no way like actual Zumba at all.

(I love Aqua Zumba.  It’s mostly just splashing around like we used to do back at Lee Park, in the heat of the Texas summer.  Those were the days).

In “real” Zumba,  my face got red and I sweated like a field hand. 🙂  I made sure it was not torture, though, by NOT jumping and twisting and potentially hurting myself.  And I decided to get on the Internet and figure out these moves!   What I found was this LiveStrong Website on the best Zumba videos.

In their list, I found just what I was looking for: an easier, slower paced Zumba, Zumba Gold.  It’s “for Baby Boomers” (the sixty-something crowd), but heck, this is just what I need to learn the basics.  I will be reviewing it after it comes, but the Amazon reviews were very clear that this is much slower and easier than regular Zumba–but it will teach you the steps and it WILL give you a thorough work out.  I’ll let you know if it’s worth the 21 bucks.

Other Tips

Starting a exercise program after a year of total inactivity has been hard.  I’m now taking the Aqua Zumba class twice a week, and I love that.  Here are two other tips that have helped me to get back into the spirit of this.

  • Get a Gym Bag.   I’ve been working out regularly for three weeks now (AMAZING)  but the big challenge has been getting organized.  Now I  have a packed bag with water, towel, lock for the locker, hairbrush and other little gym essentials helps makes the whole “go-to-the-gym-thing” far less painful.  Get a pretty bag.  I got one with a nice elephant on it from Kohl’s, just a cloth bag, but it truly helps me to get out the door and to the gym.  Remember attitude is important.
  • Plan a Reward for Yourself. When I lose five pounds, I plan to get a pretty new gym bag.   It’ll either be this one from Amazon.   (Why, yes, I am an Amazon affiliate!  And I think if you buy this through this link, I’ll get maybe 50 cents! 🙂   Thanks for your support. )   Or this one, which has a place for a yoga mat.   I plan a reward for every five pounds.  It does help.

More soon on improving health and life.  Best, Lola,

Author: Lola

Recovering academic, real-life, honest to cornflakes anthropologist (Ph.D. and fieldwork and everything), tech-head and social media researcher.

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