So it’s official: I’ve been going to Zumba class about three times per week for a whole year!
I have two teachers with very different styles: one class is like dancing in the basement with all your friends in a party of youthful enthusiasm and the other is a bit more like participating in a Pitbull music video. Both of them use completely awesome music, and both of them probably get tired of me asking, “Oooo – what song was that?” so that I can go home and download it. The positivity, patience, and enthusiasm of the people who teach Zumba is infectious and something I’m eternally grateful for.
I’ve also made friends in class and met other Zumba instructors for outside events such as the two Master Classes I’ve attended, and soon I’ll be going to a special “Glow Zumba” event which takes place in the dark with black lights. I may crash into somebody, but it’s going to be awesome.
My gym is very judgment free and I’m so grateful for that as well. I’ve never felt out of place or looked down upon for being the biggest/slowest/clumsiest/weakest person around (which I frequently was during this first year and often still am).
That being said, here are some health improvements I’ve enjoyed over this past Zumba year:
Greatly Improved Stamina – I have always loved to dance, and for a non-dancer person I’ve got pretty good rhythm. When I was in my twenties I used to go clubbing a lot, not every weekend but a few times per month, and I would spend hours on the dance floor. At some point in my thirties (I don’t recall exactly when) I found myself sedentary, weighing around 300 pounds and in a situation to dance again. I found to my horror that I couldn’t dance any longer; one song in I was exhausted, sweaty, in pain, and done, and it was a heartbreak. I started Zumba after losing seventy pounds, but it was still an uphill battle to get my stamina back. When I first started I did none of the high impact movements (things that take both of your feet off the ground simultaneously). Now? I do all of them. All the jumping, all the hopping, all the lunges (and I used to really hate lunges). Also, I went to a wedding a few months ago and danced for three hours. Nonstop.
Resting Heart Rate – My resting heart rate is 60 beats per minute. I know this because I wear a Fitbit and it reports to me each day what my resting heart rate was over the past 24 hour period. 60 beats per minute for a 41 year old is fantastic, when I began Zumba I believe it was around 75 beats per minute.
Coordination and Balance – I’m naturally clumsy with poor balance due to a combination of fluid in my inner ear from persistent allergies and completely flat feet. Although I’m still clumsier than an average person (there’s no cure for flat feet) I’ve improved noticeably over the past year. Within the first few months of starting Zumba I fell in class twice, one time spraining an ankle badly enough to keep me home for the next week. That hasn’t happened in about six months now.
Confidence – Zumba forces you to get over a lot of your inhibitions. When I first started there was no booty shaking for me, just a sort of embarrassed little wiggling shimmy. Now? Yeah, I shake what God gave me like nobody’s watching. I don’t care who’s watching or what they think because I’m enjoying myself. That physical confidence actually carries out of the classroom and into everyday life as well.
What hasn’t happened this past year? Well, I’m still not thin. This is no fault of Zumba and entirely the fault of continued binge eating episodes in my life. I’ve said it a hundred times and I will again now: you cannot outrun your fork. But if I didn’t have Zumba in my life? Who knows, I may have skyrocketed back up to 300 pounds by now and beyond. My body is prepped from a lifetime of destructive eating patterns to gain weight almost effortlessly, and Zumba has been a big part of keeping my weight stable for the past year. That’s something to be extremely grateful for.
The best piece of advice I have ever received about health and fitness came courtesy of James Fell who writes the fabulous Body for Wife blog and it is this:
“Find something physical to do that you love, and then eat to perform better at it.” Truly words to live by.