Today’s reworked fitness post profiles Zumba–it was my very first post about Zumba back in June 2011 when I first started attending classes. Click and find out a beginner’s first impressions of this exercise, which I have now stayed with for almost 3 years!
Since I’ve been attending Zumba classes since June 2011, I’ve learned quite a bit about how much I think I can do versus how much I can actually do; I can actually do much more than I ever expected! Day by day I conquer the ailments in my feet and legs long enough to dance and have fun, and that’s the wonderful, inspirational, freeing side of Zumba.
…But Zumba would not be complete without hilarious fails and passing thoughts, either–humor makes Zumba fun, even as you wildly contemplate how long you can keep up with the instructor. Going along with the “S–t People Say” meme, here’s my take on what we Zumba dancers sometimes think while we’re moving:
- Uh, yeah, I know how to do that move…sorta…kinda
- I don’t think anybody saw me slip–I’ll pretend it was a new dance move 😀
- …How do you even DO that???
- Looking like a HOT MESS in this exercise room mirror right now…
- I forgot I even had that muscle.
- This is my JAM \m/ \m/
- 30 more seconds…20 more seconds…I CAN MAKE IT
- Ooh, ow, okay, definitely not stepping down that hard again!
- My workout clothes should come with “Anti-Jiggle Technology” included…
- If I had the energy of a toddler, I still couldn’t move that fast.
- Oh, air conditioning grate, how I love you <3 yay, cold air
- Have no idea what the singers in this song are saying, but it sounds great!
- Step 1: Dance; Step 2: Pretend you look as awesome as the instructor while dancing.
- Geez, how LONG is this SONG?! Seriously?!
- This just in: sweat definitely stings eyes. Film at 11.
- Whoops, hope that wasn’t anybody’s water bottle
- Desperately trying not to look like a complete noob: 40% complete
- I shook my rear so much I think it might fall off 😛
- –Oh, wow, I just did that crazy hard move! I JUST DID THAT 😀 😀
- That settles it, I think this instructor is a super-limber alien just pretending to be human. LOL
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.
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.
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!
After nearly 10 months of doing Zumba classes, I have noticed a definite body change for the better. ^o^
I can FEEL the difference in my body, even though the mean ole scale tells me that I’ve only lost 7 pounds (currently weighing in around 290 pounds instead of 297-298). Despite being faced with a number I still don’t like–a number I’ve been socially PROGRAMMED not to like–I am happy with the results of my exercise routine thus far.
How Much Better AM I Doing?
- I can walk up a set of stairs in several seconds, bouncing from foot to foot easily instead of clomping up one painful step at a time
- There are two or three INCHES of room in the waistbands of most of my lower-body clothing (pants, shorts, skirts, and even underwear)
- I don’t get quite as winded and wheezy when I move around
- I can come down a set of stairs without having to cling desperately to the railing for balance
- My left ankle doesn’t seem to turn over as easily, leading to less accidental twists
- My waist is much more defined than it used to be
- When I exercise, my heart gets into an “elevated but not overworked” pace, instead of going straight from “resting” heart rate to “OMG I’M BUSTING OUT OF YOUR CHEST LOL”
Not only are people noticing a difference in my looks, but I’m noticing a difference in the way my body functions and feels. I don’t feel quite as heavy and tired as I used to, even though I still look like an uncoordinated duck during most of the Zumba exercises. And even though I still wheeze a little during much of the class, I find that some of the moves that were impossible for me in June 2011 are now attainable and even fun.
Actually Seeing the Inches Lost, in Clothes
The clothing difference has been the most astonishing, for me. I’ve been used to squeezing my body into clothes, dancing and shaking myself into pants rather than just slipping them on (you know the “pants dance,” don’t lie :P). I’ve also been used to the unique pain and suffering brought on by a belly constrained too much by an unforgiving button and zipper.
Imagine, then, what I felt this past Christmas, when I easily put on a dress that had been too small in 2010. Where before the zipper would not even go up my back all the way, now the dress hung off me in becoming folds of fabric, especially around the waist. That was a measurable success–I remember crying in 2010 when I had brought out the dress to wear, only to find that I couldn’t even zip it up all the way. This Christmas, I wore it with pride.
I also have been getting back into other clothes, clothes I haven’t worn since late high school/early college (~2003/2004). I had retired a pair of jeans for being simply too small right after I went to college–the “freshman 15” was more like the “freshman 45” in my case–and in shame, I had packed them away in the laundry room. Upon discovering them in the laundry room about a month ago, I tried them on, more as a private joke to myself than anything. And they FIT. It wasn’t an “almost-kinda-sorta” squeeze-fit, either–they buttoned and zipped comfortably. :O What happened? Zumba happened. Moreover, a lifestyle change happened.
Why the Number of Pounds Does Not Matter
I purposely did not look at a scale for the first seven months I did Zumba, because I didn’t want to be disheartened. I, like most of the women in my extended family, have a very hard time losing pounds, and I refused to be a slave of the scale number. Instead, I focused on inches lost (currently, I have lost HALF A FOOT around my waist alone!), as well as body feeling. Only when I went to the doctor in early January and had to be weighed did I look at the scale.
I have to admit, I was disappointed at the small number of pounds lost. I’d never make it on “The Biggest Loser”, I know that. But my doctor was impressed with my heart rate; knowing the family history of heart attacks, he was worried that my fast and light pulse signaled problems down the road for me. Now, my heart beats slower but stronger–a healthier heart rate. He could also tell a difference in the way I was walking (not so gingerly and carefully anymore), because my left ankle is getting stronger. I count those two improvements as much more important than subtracting 10 from my scale number.
As much as I’ve worked to even get to 290 pounds, this number is not going to torment me. I know the difference in my body, and I know I’m doing better physically than I was before. I’m toning up, I’m losing inches, and I’m feeling better than I have in years, probably since before I became a “fat girl” in 1996.
So I’m not going to worry that my weight doesn’t match some magical number according to my age, height, socioeconomic status, etc. As long as I continue to feel and function better in my everyday life, I know that it’s a positive lifestyle change. Maybe if all us girls started focusing on how our bodies feel rather than how they look, we might just forget all this super-skinny-fashion mess…well, a girl can dream, can’t she?
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!