Tag Archives: exercise

AquaZumba: A Different Sort of Exercise Challenge

Since I’ve been doing regular Zumba and holding up pretty well for a little over a year now, I’ve been wondering if my body could handle doing two exercise classes a week instead of just one. I wasn’t sure what other type of exercise I could add, however.

As it happened, my regular Zumba instructor mentioned about a month back that she was going to teach a water form of Zumba called AquaZumba, and she wanted to know what interest there would be in such a class. I raised my hand; about six years ago, my doctor suggested water aerobics to me as a way of building back strength in my damaged joints, but I hadn’t followed up on it. So, remembering my doctor’s old advice, I decided I would give it a shot. The happy result is the subject of today’s blog post.

The Experience

I showed up for class last Monday afternoon, in the outdoor pool area at my local YMCA (also where I take regular Zumba on Thursday nights). There ended up being about 20 people there for the class, and our instructor advised us to make sure we were standing in water at least chest-high so that we could get good resistance on our arms as well as the rest of us. The middle section of the pool, where the depth slowly increases, was accordingly filled out with class members arranged by height.

Our instructor demonstrated the various moves outside the water, so we could all see and know what to do. At first, I didn’t think it would be nearly as challenging as regular Zumba, but within the first couple of songs, I realized that the water resistance was certainly not negligible. Not that the resistance was hard to work through–it was just more resistance to movement than I expected. You don’t realize how much water will hold you still or keep you back from moving, but it will!

As we worked through each song, I realized that because of the water resistance, AquaZumba is necessarily a slower-tempo workout. You’re not doing as much high-intensity cardio (though you do get an elevated heart rate); instead, you’re doing more muscle toning. I could feel, as we did each set of the slower but more graceful moves through the water, that my arms and legs were getting a good workout, as well as my core muscles (which I didn’t expect at all). It wasn’t arduous, though–the water made the movements more fun since I wasn’t having to focus so hard on not falling over (LOL).

For a solid hour, the water seemed to boil with our movements as the 20 of us moved like a party of synchronized swimmers (except without the spangly costumes). (I don’t see how the instructor stood it, doing her moves on land (and in full sun) as she did!) I noticed that pretty much the whole class kept up with the exercises well, and by the end of the workout, we all seemed pleasantly tired, not flat-out exhausted.

I left feeling good about the whole experience. The instructor was encouraging and compassionate as always, and the class members were forgiving of each other as well as of themselves. Not to mention that the heaviness in my limbs was a sign that I’d had a much stronger workout (and yet a less joint-stressing workout) than I expected.

The Results

I was less sore and exhausted after AquaZumba than I usually am after regular Zumba, but I was still feeling the workout–at about midnight, I realized I’d worked my arms WAY more than I realized. Still, I wasn’t overtired, and felt energetic enough through the week to meet my regular Zumba class and my other obligations as well. I also noticed that my ankles and knees felt more supported during the workout, which meant lots less pain during and after the workout. I was worried that my completely flat feet on a slanted pool floor might cause me a mischief, but that didn’t seem to come into play at all.

Time will tell, however if my core muscles were as engaged as they felt during the workout, but I literally felt “smaller” around the middle when I left the pool that evening. Those slow twists and turns do more for the obliques and abs than I thought!

Wondering if You Should Try It?

In my opinion, if you enjoy swimming or enjoy just being in the water, AquaZumba could very well be a good fit for your exercise program. And, if you can do regular Zumba, you can definitely do AquaZumba. However, if you’ve never tried regular Zumba because you think it would be too fast or difficult, this might be more your speed.

Check online or around your local gyms (or even local parks) to see whether a class may be offered in your area. Who knows, you might find yourself becoming an AquaZumba swan by the end of the summer!

Exercise Has Been Divorced From Reality

Would I be completely in the wrong to say that exercise has been taken out of the context of our regular daily activity?

I don’t believe so, given the fact that most people’s exercise now takes place in gyms and home workouts rather than actual, useful activities. Exercise, far from being part of our chosen trade or part of our recreation, now is done in front of other, usually more fit people, at a gym or on a workout machine. It’s often regarded more as a status symbol than anything these days–if you have time to work out, you must be in a good job.

But what about exercise that MEANS something for your life, other than fitting into a smaller size or being healthier? Sure, those are worthy goals to have, but I would prefer to actually do something useful while exercising. Exercising just for its own sake is boring and lonely to me, and it feels useless; when in real life are we really going to lift weight in exactly the same pose for a certain number of times, or walk exactly a mile, or use just our abs to do anything besides laugh?

Modern “Exercise”: Movement without Context, without Purpose

In principle, this is the same problem I always had in math classes–being assigned 30 naked, context-less problems in a math book to “practice what we just learned” felt like a waste of time and effort. It always left me thinking, “I do all this problem-solving work, but it’s not really helping anybody. How about giving me 30 real-world problems that other people need solved right now? That way, I practice AND I help somebody out.”

Exercise, in my opinion, should be a fun activity that accomplishes a real-life goal outside of physical fitness. Yes, yes, I know, exercise for itself is great, but it bores me and makes me feel like I’m just wasting my time. I want it to multi-task.

Example of Purposeless Exercise: JUST Walking on a Track

Walking around and around in a pointless circle on a track for an hour? BORING. In fact, I’ve written a couple of times about exercise, including just how much I hate walking for no reason. Makes me want to tear my hair out. I’ve tried doing just walking as exercise several times, and I just can’t stay with it. Not only does every joint in my lower body hurt more with every step, but I’m wasting an hour just walking around when I could be getting stuff done at home, or running errands. It’s not “peaceful” or “relaxing,” as other people have told me it is for them–I find it maddening and painful.

Example of Purposeful Exercise: Walking as a Way to Get Stuff Done

Now, contrast that with activities that just involve walking: walking pets, running errands in town without using a car, or taking the kids on a nature hike. This is the kind of walking I can get behind–walking for a PURPOSE!

For instance, letting pets get out and about with you is a great way to bond with them, as well as to let them do their business outside (always good for the ol’ flooring). Parking your car and walking around in uptown saves gas, gets stuff done, AND gets you exercise. Getting the kids out of the house, away from computers, TVs, and video games, can be an important family bonding moment as well as family exercise. They can learn from you that exercise doesn’t have to be something regimented and divorced from their reality.

I Want This Kind of Exercise–the USEFUL Kind!

This is what I’m talking about–making exercise a seamless part of everyday life instead of a status symbol. Lifting weights 20-reps-at-a-time in the gym is pointless and means nothing for my everyday life; however, lifting junk down out of the attic and moving it out of my house is a weight-lifting exercise I can appreciate. I’ll be sore after doing both types of exercise, but only one type of exercise gets something done besides building up muscle.

Zumba, strangely, fulfills this “useful exercise” requirement I have in a unique way; it is based on dance moves, so I feel like I’m performing with a group of people rather than just “working out.” Not only that, being with the group of people and directly interfacing with the group leader helps me feel more accountable, like somebody actually gives a rat’s rear end that I’m doing this. It’s useful exercise because I love to perform and I love to socialize–it kills three birds with one stone, giving me new friends, a new “venue” to perform in, and a healthier body over time.

I know there are people out there who really enjoy the nitty-gritty training of exercise for its own sake. But I think if we’re ever going to be a healthier, fitter nation, we need to make exercise an integral part of life’s other activities rather than making it something we have to do outside of normal activities. Let’s make it not so lonely, boring, and horrible to try getting fit, and maybe more people will do it!

You Can Get Fat With Friends, But You Have to Get Healthy On Your Own

As a “fat girl” for the last 14 years of my life, I have struggled with my weight and my shape, trying all different types of lifestyle changes, eating plans, and even exercise programs. I have alternately hated my body and tried to love it, tried to use exercise equipment and then eschewed it, etc. I’ve tried walking alone on a track; I’ve tried doing various diets (even low-carb, for about 5 minutes); I’ve tried exercising with music on headphones. Nothing worked for a very long time–I got bored, I got out of the habit, and then it was back to living like I was, relatively sedentary because of my lower body’s arthritic injuries, and avoiding anything green and leafy like it’s got mold.

Does “Healthy Living” Always Have to Equal “Lonely Living?”

During these years of struggle, I’ve noticed something: “living healthy” is a lonely process, like I referenced in the title of this article. It’s very difficult to get people to eat healthier with you, or to exercise regularly with you, due to scheduling, different food needs and likes, and just plain being too busy or too disconnected. And since I’m such a social creature, liking to do things with other people than by myself, it makes it doubly hard to stick to any plan. Not only are the plans difficult to follow because they’re SO different from the way I live my life and they often cause me lots of physical pain, but I have to do everything alone. Doing things alone is a great way to unmotivate oneself.

Perhaps I sound like a crybaby. No matter; I’ve been called a crybaby many times during my life, and I’d say that my sensitivity makes me a much more impassioned writer and a better artist than it makes me a well-adjusted human being. It’s just that if I have to go through something as life-altering, painful, and tough as “getting healthy,” then I’d like a little support. After all, there are support groups for everything else in life.

“Anti-Health” Support Groups, Ahoy!

In fact, I’m comfortable making the assertion that we currently have unintended “anti-health support groups” in America and around the world. There are plenty of people to help you eat all the wrong things, but if you’re on a super-healthy diet, you eat alone. There are plenty of people to help you laze around and watch TV all day, but if you’re going to exercise, you have to do it by yourself. We all help each other sink farther and farther into unhealthy activities because those unhealthy activities feel so darned good and the healthy activities feel like punishment.

In light of this, why are fat people like me subjected to teasing, ridicule, and blame, when we ALL are to blame for being rather hedonistic in our choices of lifestyle? Somehow, it’s still completely “our fault” for being fat, even when the culture immediately around us rewards bad choices and punishes good choices.

When Good Health is Associated with Bad Emotions

I’m tired of being lonely during exercise, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Apart from my Zumba experience, which has been amazingly awesome despite not being able to do quite all the moves yet, my exercise repertoire in the past mostly consisted of boring workouts that somehow manage to leave me unbearably sore and bedridden the next day.

Walking, for instance, BORES ME TO TEARS. Just walking and walking around in a circle not doing anything else productive is not relaxing for me–it makes me anxious about the time I’m wasting doing this useless junk when I could be at home working on a project I’ve got coming up. Walking and other “10-reps-of-this, 20-reps-of-this” exercises drive me insane. There’s nothing to THINK about except how much pain I’m in, and how much pain I’m going to be in tomorrow, and how airless my lungs feel. There’s an incredible isolation that descends upon you when you’re in pain–no one else can feel what you’re feeling at this moment, and quite possibly, no one even cares how much it hurts. When exercise is associated with humiliation and pain, it’s no wonder people don’t want to do it.

I’m also tired of being lonely at the dinner table, and I know I ain’t the only one. When everyone else is indulging in wonderful treats of all types and you’re stuck with a “Rabbit’s Delight” salad, you begin to feel like the odd one out. If you’re the only person counting calories, watching carbs or fat, etc., you feel like you’re in “Food Time-Out.” Starving oneself while everyone else eats heartily, eating something that tastes absolutely disgusting just because it’s “healthier” than what you like, is not my idea of culinary fun. As a very picky eater, hating almost all vegetables and fruits because of the nasty pulpy/crunchy textures and brackish dirt/water tastes, it’s hard for me to find healthy things that I can eat, though even I draw the line at Taco Bell’s ground beef these days (it’s more grease than meat, or is it just me?). I try to choose the least of the food evils and eat smaller portions of whatever I get, but I still feel like I’m depriving myself–and I end up hungry 45 minutes later, without fail.

Do We Deserve “Body Punishment?” I Don’t THINK So!

When “getting healthy” is lonely, boring, and horrible, it doesn’t exactly help anybody join the program. And yet, it seems there’s an idea of “body punishment” for those who have to get healthy to live longer lives–somehow, it’s perceived that we “did this to ourselves,” so we “deserve” all the pain and hardship we go through to get healthy. Not everyone who is fat and/or unhealthy got that way by life choices; sometimes, as in my case, our genetics chose for us.

A Side Note about How My Genetics Chose for Me
As a young child, up to about age 10, I was actually fairly slim, and tall for my age. In fact, my grandmother once got mad at my parents after seeing a photo of me at age 8 on a recent beach trip–she saw the dark circles under my eyes (hereditary) and the slenderness of my whole body and thought that they weren’t feeding me enough. But I went from being that tall and almost-too-skinny 3rd grader to being a rounded, textbook endomorph model in 5th grade. I was 90 pounds and 5’3″ at the beginning of 5th grade, and by the end of 5th grade, I was 145 pounds and 5’5″. I had just turned 11 years old, and went from skinny girl to fat girl almost overnight, gaining butt, breasts, and hips, and a wonderful little muffin top belly which has helped me look pregnant ever since. It was like a switch flipped off, and my metabolism crashed, with absolutely no change in exercise level or food intake. My mother, my aunt, both female cousins, and my maternal grandmother all went through this same body change at onset of puberty as well, so I know it’s not just peculiar to me.

I wish all the skinny Minnies who run diet and exercise plans understood this, how my own body betrayed me and made me a target for all the school bullies, both male and female. Because of how I was treated, especially in middle-school gym classes, exercise became strongly associated with feelings of unpreparedness, humiliation, and sub-humanity. It has taken over a decade to even begin to break down those psychological associations of punishment and pain, and I’m fairly confident my experience is all too typical.

How Can We Start Helping One Another?

Yes, I will say if somebody’s just sitting in bed day after day stuffing themselves until they’re almost sick, they’re doing themselves a disservice. But even so, they deserve support too. Otherwise, there will be no motivation to leave their comfort zone, and they will sink further into their painful and insidiously dangerous lifestyle. While I’ve never turned to food as an emotional void-filler, I do know the hopeless feelings associated with diet and exercise, and it’s no place for any human being.

If you truly want to help someone become healthy again, you don’t treat them like dirt–you offer them support in the form of being an “exercise buddy,” a “going-out-to-eat buddy,” whatever kind of buddy you need to be in order to keep them accountable (and keep yourself accountable, too). Knowing that someone else actually gives a rat’s rear end about what you’re doing is a wonderful motivator; I’ve seen it work with me and with other people, too. When other people reach out and care, when others connect with you, want to know week by week how you’re coming along, you start thinking “maybe I’m worth being cared about.” That healthy attitude change is the first real step to becoming healthy in body again.

Zumba: Yes, It IS A Workout

After months of trying to get healthy on my own, I had just about had it with workout plans that read “Do 10 reps of this, 20 reps of this, walk 10 laps on this,” etc. I was bored, bored, BORED of typical workouts and typical workout routines.

So, when a friend of mine from the local Choral Society spoke well of the Zumba class she took on Thursday nights, I was intrigued, but also very wary. Wasn’t Zumba that thing from the infomercial, with all the Latin dance moves and such?

I researched as much as I could online, watching videos like the one above, getting more interested…but I still thought it surely couldn’t work as well as it purported to. I had done enough dance and musical theater in my childhood and teen years to know that dance could engage the entire body, but I still worried–if it was too easy, it wouldn’t do much for me, and if it was too hard, I risked re-injuring a lot of my lower body.

Finally, I put doubts to the side and came to watch a Thursday evening class…and by the middle of the class, I wanted to join in. It seemed like a LOT of fun, and the music was very bouncy and great to listen to. Quickly, I made plans to try the class out, and the next available Thursday evening (June 16th, 2011), I actually did try it.

Takeaways from My First Zumba Class

  • If you mess up, you are probably not the only one messing up–even the instructor missteps occasionally! Laugh and keep going.
  • The high-energy music wordlessly encourages you to keep going.
  • Zumba is definitely not too easy. The moves are challenging, the tempo is fairly quick, and you will definitely find muscles you forgot you had. LOL!
  • If you haven’t exercised in a long time and still try to do everything just like the instructor does, you are going to hurt yourself. 😛
  • You can always modify the moves to suit your level of fitness.
  • It’s not a competition–do what you can and try to get a little better every time.

My Results During and After Class

After the first 20 minutes of class, I was already sweating like a hog in that air-conditioned room, and by the end of the hour-long workout, I felt accomplished, if not exhilarated. (I still don’t think my body releases endorphins when I exercise…I think it releases the opposite, ’cause I usually feel like gum scraped off somebody’s shoe after I work out.)

Now, I did have to take a couple of short rests in addition to the rests between songs, because my heart rate felt like it was starting to speed out of control. However, once I started modifying the moves and not trying to do absolutely everything the instructor was doing, I felt my heart rate kick into a higher (but much more controllable) level. For sure, I didn’t feel like I was going to keel over again.

I have never felt my heart get into that comfortable-higher gear before–usually it goes straight from “Resting” level to “LOL I’M COMING THROUGH YOUR RIBS”, with painful gasping for air included. Instead, the new heart rate was definitely faster than normal, but not scary-fast. My exertional asthma, which had triggered twice within the first 20 minutes, had all but vanished by the end of the hour as well. This was AMAZING! Not to mention that modifying the moves to exclude jumping, leg twists, and deep knee bends protected my knees from further damage and left me less sore the next day.


The best thing about Zumba is that you aren’t required to do every single move perfectly. It’s a “work-at-your-own-pace” type of exercise, with camaraderie and laughter included–which means it’s approachable for beginners and yet it can be high-intensity for people who are already fit. Doing Zumba doesn’t mean you’ll drop 100 pounds in a week or get ripped abs in 2 months, but you will see greater stamina, flexibility, and some toning. For certain, I’ve already seen benefits to my heart health and overall fitness capability!