Monday, February 8, 2016

Moving muscles: A to Zumba

Way back in October, I publicly announced my plan to try out all sorts of exercise alternatives. I was going to embarrass myself into fitness.

It didn’t work. I had two days of skiing in November, and then I just vegged until I started ice skating. But ice skating the way I do it is outside-in-the-air more than it’s exercise.

Then I signed up and committed to hiking the Chilkoot Trail this summer with a group of women. Not only does that mean 33 miles, Golden Stairs, and a 3000-foot elevation gain, but also a pack on my back. Mostly, my camping involves kayaking or rafting and the boat carries the load. Carrying a pack uphill? This would require Training.
And this scared me into my first Zumba class, last week’s New Thing. The good thing about Zumba is there’s no partner so your errors mean you’re not bumping into and stepping on someone. The bad things about Zumba are that there are choreographed steps and it’s heavy on rights and lefts. If motor coordination is not your thing, then it’s pretty obvious when you’re headed right doing something no one else is doing as they head left. The great thing about Zumba is nobody cares.

The other thing about Zumba is fashion. Yet again, I seem to have missed the world’s fashion instructions. Everyone is wearing stretchy, black, yoga pants. I am wearing my blue running shorts.

So on Monday, Tim and I Zumba-ed around. Then I did some heavy-duty leg lifts and tricep things on the machines. Distance running keeps my legs strong, but while I’m at it, I’d like some Michelle Obama upper arm definition, too. Visions of sleeveless tank tops danced in my head.
Then I came home and couldn’t walk easily for two days. I couldn’t lift my arms to brush my hair.

Uh, oh, this is when you realize you’re not 25 anymore, there are more than 650 muscles in the human body, and a whole batch of them have not been taxed for a very long time. You’re lucky you have six months to get in shape. So on Wednesday, we were back at Zumba again. Except the people looked different, and there were more men there. And the instructor was a guy … who said this was “Insanity.”

Oh, no, not Insanity! I’d seen that through the doors of the athletic club once. Those people were nuts. They didn’t just jump; they leaped two feet into the air. “Don’t worry,” the instructor said, “I’ll modify.” Ha, ha, ha! He didn’t have a speck of fat on his body. He was an anatomical model of pure muscle. If he tried to swim, he’d sink. His “modify” is a whole other vocabulary word from my “modify.”

I actually lasted a half-hour before bailing. Later on, I couldn’t lower myself to a toilet seat without crash landing on it.

A couple days later, I found Zumba again. This time, it felt more like dancing, and I remembered some of the steps. If I just listened to the music, my legs sometimes went where they were supposed to. Nothing is sore in my body any more. I’m trying to map out a calendar of how strong I have to be by when. When do I have to strap on my backpack with weights and do stairs?

Back in the ’80s, I was a big Jazzercise fan, and I still can’t hear Beat It or Jump or Girls Just Wanna Have Fun without moving into aerobics mode. They got imprinted in my head as aerobics songs, and they instantly trigger bouncing. I had a punch card and there were Jazzercise outlets all over town – in churches, schools – and one two doors from my house in San Francisco. I remember when the dancing stopped and we did the abdominals. We’d screech and shriek lying on mats on the floor. Zumba doesn’t have mats on the floor. Hmmm, maybe I’ll have to try Pilates again, too.

Even back then, I missed the world’s fashion instructions. Everyone was wearing leotard-type outfits. I wore my purple running shorts. Why do people wear nice clothes to sweat in?
I hope this isn’t just a burst of fitness that dies. I don’t think so. When you have to make a change, you need inspiration, and sometimes the best inspiration is fear: as in, I’ve got 33 uphill miles ahead of me, and I’d better be ready.


  1. I completely understand. I keep trying to get into shape, but like you, I've forgotten I'm not 30 anymore. So, being out in the bush, I settle for walking a ton and muscle movement through a janitorial job. In our community center, we have a small gym with weights that I could lift to try and achieve Michelle Obama-like upper arm definition. I'm so self conscious around others though and our little gym is so busy...I've talked myself out of lifting those weights more than I've talked myself into it.
    Good lucking training, I am in awe of your goal!

    1. Yes, if I got exercise by talking myself out of exercising, I'd be a powerhouse. When I worked for FedEx, my whole day was exercise, but this computer stuff is a killer.


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