At the time I am writing this, I have taken exactly two Zumba classes in my entire 39 years on this planet. So I am clearly not a seasoned expert in this type of exercise. But regardless of my lack of experience in Zumba, I feel compelled to share my thoughts, because I think a lot of people disregard these classes and in doing so, they are totally missing out on the fun.
I know many people who are true Zumba enthusiasts: they teach it, breathe it, live it, and love it. These friends own Zumba footwear and Zumba clothing and they are Zumba-tastic at Zumba-ing. I myself had always wanted to try it (I absolutely love to dance) but felt completely intimidated to even sign up, never mind walk into a class. I’m not even sure why – I took dance as a young girl and can actually count and move on time to a beat. Truthfully, I think it was just my fear of the unknown scaring me off; that and I just didn’t know how I’d measure up to all those Zumba enthusiasts out there – I didn’t want them to think I was some kind of Zumba poser.
But then a friend of mine (one of the non-Zumba enthusiasts) who has similar coordination and athletic abilities as me, asked me to join her for a Zumba class. I figured now was my chance to give it a shot, because humiliating myself with a friend seemed a lot less terrifying than doing so by myself.
In the few times I have taken any type of dance class as an adult, I always feel like I can relate to Jennifer Grey’s character Baby in the movie Dirty Dancing. When she’s first learning to dance she is completely distracted by everyone else around her, letting the people who are more experienced and more expressive intimidate her. She also feels a lot of frustration when trying to understand and learn various dance moves throughout the movie. When I first started Zumba class, that was totally me. I wanted to get every move right on the first try (kind of hard to do when you are a newbie) and not being able to do so made me feel like a Zumba failure. Why was everyone else getting it and not me? (By the way, this was all an illusion – I was not in a room full of professional dancers, they were all regular people like me, sometimes getting the moves, sometimes not. But in my perfectionist head, everyone around me looked like Gene Kelly and I felt completely out of sync).
Then I remembered something the teacher said when she first introduced herself to me at the beginning of class: “This class is what you make it. Even if you don’t get it right away, just keep moving, and most importantly – have fun! Getting the steps right isn’t as important as enjoying the exercise.” So I took a deep breath, stopped looking at the people dancing around me, and just let my body move to the music. And you know what? It was fun! Once I stopped overthinking it, the dancing came easier to me. And even when I missed a step or two, I just kept going - and it really felt good.
At the beginning of Zumba, this was me:
“I carried a watermelon”.
Then by the end of my second class, I was here:
Okay, not quite. But after completing two classes, I definitely started to get the hang of it and I learned a little something about getting out of my own head and having fun. It wasn’t “the time of my life”, per se, but I really enjoyed it and got a good sweat on.
So if you love dance and are looking for a new and fun way to get a full body cardio workout, I highly recommend Zumba. And don’t be intimidated by the Zumba enthusiasts out there, learn from them – they are the best leads to follow when you fall out of step in class. And here’s the biggest secret of all – they are having the most fun, because that's what it's all about.