I have never participated in Zumba. For those that are unaware, Zumba is a free-flowing form of exercise during which participants perform a variety of dances to Latin music in an effort to build strength and burn calories. Although this form of exercise isn’t generally associated with men, the fact Zumba had swept across the nation in recent years as one of the latest “in” exercises made me think it would be worth a try. After all, a theme in my “I have never...” journey has been to find an exercise routine that sticks, and if that meant making a fool out of myself trying to mimic intense dance moves to Latin music I was all for it. As a result, I set aside time this evening to attend a Zumba class at the local Center for Conscious Living in downtown Madison, fully acknowledging it would likely be an experience to remember.
After completing my workday this afternoon, I drove to the Center for Conscious Living with some 15 minutes to spare before the Zumba class was scheduled to begin. With a bag of workout clothes in my hand, I passed through the building’s entrance unaware of what to expect on the other side of the door. Upon entering the building, I was greeted by a variety of colorful lights shooting across a wide open space before a small stage. Music played somewhat quietly in the background as three women talked in the middle of the room, which prompted me to approach the group. Somewhat surprised by my presence, the women stopped talking as I drew near and introduced myself. “Are you here for Zumba?” one of the women asked in a curious tone. I confirmed that was the case, which caused the woman to clap her hands together and shoot back and excited response, “Awesome! Is this your first time?” I nodded my head in confirmation before providing a brief background on my “I have never...” concept, which lifted the woman’s eyes and forced an enthusiastic reply. “Oh, that is cool! This is going to be great! …By the way I’m Lynn,” the woman said finalizing our introduction. With a quick shake of her hand I realized I was locked in to my first attempt at Zumba, but the energy in Lynn’s welcome made me feel I was in the right place for such and experience.
|Getting ready for the workout|
After Lynn showed me around the space, I promptly prepared for the exercise routine in a nearby bathroom before returning to the workout space. As more women began streaming in the building, I found myself surrounded by a group of about a dozen experienced Zumba participants, which left me feeling a little over my head. Recognizing the newness of the happenings around me, Lynn was quick to have me introduce myself and my “I have never...” idea to the group, which helped explain my presence and ease any awkwardness associated with a bearded stranger standing among a group of women about to do Zumba. The group welcomed me with greetings and smiles as they warmed up with stretches and settled into their places on the floor. Then, Lynn let us know the event was session was about to start.
|Starting things out|
After making a few adjustments to a nearby soundboard, Lynn took to the stage at the front of the room and immediately grabbed an mp3 player resting on a small table. Standing near the middle of the room, I looked on as she pressed a few buttons and upbeat, Latin-inspired dance music began pumping through the speakers. Before I could grasp what was happening around me, Lynn called out to the group and immediately began aggressively marching in place. Realizing the workout had begun, I quickly responded by mirroring Lynn’s actions with the rest of the group. With that, it was time for Zumba; whether I was ready or not.
Only a few seconds after the workout had begun, Lynn guided the group into a series of dance steps to the music that were accented with abrupt, tense movements intended to put muscles throughout the body to work. Doing my best to keep up, I performed side steps, lunges, turns, and leaps in an effort to mirror Lynn’s rapid changes from one step to the next. Luckily, the phrases of the routine were timed to the structure of the music, which provided redundancy that helped me get more familiar with each step as we worked through the song. By the time we were reaching the end of the song I found myself anticipating the next steps in the routine, which gave me the opportunity to focus on the fluidity of my movements. As the song drew to a close, I was keeping up with Lynn’s enthusiastic directions, I was sweating, and, to my surprise, I was having a lot of fun.
Following the end of the first song, Lynn gave the group a few moments to take some breaths and grab a sip of water, but the moment was fleeting as Lynn turned on the next song as quickly as the last song had ended. Maintaining the high degree of energy, Lynn immediately led the group into the second routine, which introduced entirely new steps timed to the driving tempo of the new song. As before, I struggled to keep up with the class at first, but by the end of the second routine I was finding a groove and feeling the intensity of the workout. On top of the obvious physical benefits coming from the exercise, I also found myself laughing in response to the enjoyment I was getting out of the experience as we worked through the second routine. I may have looked like a fool trying to keep up, but it quickly became clear Zumba made every second of that foolishness worth it.
|Is this how it goes?|
Over the next hour our group continued with a series of routines that continued to test my coordination and my ability to keep a beat. Along the way, Lynn and the other experience Zumba participants provided me ample direction and encouragement, which made the experience terrific from the beginning to the end. Out of breath and sweating from head to toe, I paced the floor as the final song drew to a close and left the group applauding our collective effort. Following a brief cool down routine, Lynn thanked everyone in the group for attending, which wrapped up my first experience with Zumba and left me reflecting on the experience.
|Post-workout photos with the instructors|