Finding ‘My Thing’ — or, an adventure in Zumba

I’m a shapely woman. I recently heard a lady lamenting the fact that her “thighs can touch” and could only snort with laughter that . . . well, that someone could have thighs that don’t touch. I mean, really — what must that be like?

I don’t know. I don’t bother to ask myself impossible questions.

Still, I can’t play off my weight with bravado all the time. I’m a confident person and know I’m not unattractive, but I’m not always happy with how I look. But who is, right? I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone not looking to drop five pounds or so.

Or, you know. Forty.

My boyfriend and I joined a gym last year and went pretty faithfully . . . for a while. We switched gyms, Spencer moved, I went on several trips in a short period of time and, before we knew it, our routine was destroyed. My one-time enthusiasm for treadmills had worn thin. Mustering up the energy to work out became torture — and gradually, we just stopped going.

You know those Kaiser Permanente commercials — the ones that encourage you to “Find Your Thing”? There has to be one form of exercise that interests you, they say. There has to be something that doesn’t feel like a new form of suffering invented solely to destroy you. You just have to experiment until you find out what it is.

I know how important it is for me to get to and maintain a healthy weight. Since I’m also short, my ideal weight is ridiculous. Medically, my ideal weight is between 107 and 141 pounds. I haven’t been around 120 pounds since middle school, and I can’t envision getting back into 13-year-old me shape anytime soon.

And you know what? I wouldn’t want to. This isn’t about being skinny. This is about feeling confident in clothes that aren’t bursting at the seams, and being able to travel without feeling like the slowest thing goin’. This is about setting myself up for healthy habits that will last a lifetime. Though I was briefly scared straight while trying to fit into a bridesmaid dress for my friend’s beautiful wedding in September, I fell back into old habits as soon as the nuptials were over.

But I’ve found something.

I’ve found A Thing.

My friend Sandy — officemate; fellow reader — is often trying to find Her Thing, too. Over the years we’ve been seated within eyesight of each other for eight hours a day, every day, we’ve shared our battles with weight and exercise and continuously sought something that might work. Last month, Sandy heard about a dance fitness class held two nights a week. It was conveniently located for both of us and, though I’m probably the world’s most awkward dancer, I agreed to give it a shot. You could pay by the class — no commitment.

So now I Zumba.

For the first few classes, I was so afraid of embarrassing myself that I could barely follow the moves. Our instructor is young and sassy, friendly and encouraging, but I was petrified of looking really stupid. Sandy and I stood at the back of the room. I focused only on completing the dance moves in a class of more than 50 women, most of whom seemed to know far more than me.

But time has passed. I’ve gotten into a groove. After more than a month, I find myself relaxing into the routines and recognizing the songs. Once stiff and uncomfortable, I’m now relaxed on the dance floor. Many women joined the class after us and we’re no longer the “new ones.”

And last Thursday, Sandy and I were almost at the front of the room.

Nothing gave me a jolt like seeing a gaggle of giggly teenage girls in the back of the room. They were tall and lean and wearing the shortest little short shorts you’ve ever seen, bare midriffs on display. Mind you, the average age in our class is probably, oh — 40, I’d guess. Our little buddies thought they were the hottest things going.

When the first pump of the music began, I felt myself drift into the beat. Sandy and I often laugh during routines, refusing to take the whole thing too seriously. Zumba is really just dancing like crazy, and it actually is fun. And I felt strong and fit. As we segued into routines I knew by heart, I got a glimpse of the teens again.

They had no idea what they were doing.

Our instructor is all about “Zumba love.” I know it’s not nice to judge people who are just trying to work out and have fun — same as me. But did it feel good to see those skinny chickadees completely dumb-founded in the middle of the room, wickedly uncomfortable and unable to land a move correctly? My size-12 tail was a-shakin’ while they tried not to bump into one another, unable to catch up.

I couldn’t help it. I smiled.

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20 thoughts on “Finding ‘My Thing’ — or, an adventure in Zumba

  1. i love zumba!! it’s always fun but it can be even greater with the right instructor. i work out regularly but even when I run, i never sweat as good as i do when I do Zumba! And being super sore the next day is a validation that you did actually exercise!

  2. I am tempted to try Zumba – maybe on Kinect at home though. (I just cannot dance in front of people, lol!) It sounds like a lot of fun. And what a happy occasion to have a laugh at some know-it-all teenagers. 😀

  3. I love your attitude. I am constantly in turmoil over the size of my ass. You just laugh and go with it and do Zumba! I need to try something new.

  4. I love Zumba, too! I’ve never taken a class, though, I just use the DVDs at home. I imagine the classes would be a little more interesting, since the routines may vary a bit, but the timing for the local classes doesn’t seem to work for me.

  5. Very funny post! I recently tried Zumba during a ‘Loser’ challenge months ago… and went with our teenage daughters. I was the overweight one of our family bunch…those teenage bodies with non-touching thighs…and they were the ones sitting out because it was too much! Loved your story. Now, I should get back in to Zumba! Thanks for the ‘kick’!

  6. That’s so great you’ve found your groove! I taught bellydance zumba at a zumba studio for several months…it’s a nice form of exercise!

  7. I think it’s awesome you’re trying new things and doing good stuff for yourself. I went to a Zumba class with my mom recently and she totally kicked my butt! I had no idea what I was doing and she was dancing away (and if you knew my mom, she is the least likely person to be a dancer). But it was fun – and that’s half the battle. If you can find something fun, it will never feel like exercise.

  8. I haven’t tried Zumba yet…but I love running with my German Shepherd…don’t get me wrong, I’m not a “runner, runner.” I’m a run till your chest is burning, then stop and catch your breath kind of runner 😉 We all need to find our “thing” 🙂

  9. I haven’t heard of zumba, or maybe I have but didn’t know what it was called. Finding your thing really is an important part of staying with an exercise. I loved step aerobics but had to stop because it was too much impact on the knees. So now I do yoga, which is, eh, ok. I’m going to look for a zumba DVD… it sounds like fun.

  10. I LOVE Zumba. With a passion. I go twice a week, and then do it on the Wii a few more times. My instructor has so much fun, and after a few weeks of going to her classes, she all but begged me to stay in the front row to help people follow the moves. I’m definitely on the bigger side, but like you said… I found my THING. I love to dance, and Zumba is something I have found that I have a natural talent for. I just love going. Some day, I really think I’d like to be an instructor.

  11. Since I am anti-exercise (only because it sucks, LOL) I am always looking for something that will motivate me to get moving. You’re post has inspired me to drop everything and find the closest Zumba class, if only to see if it could be a good fit for me. Good luck with your classes!!!!!

  12. YAY! I love Zumba too! 🙂 So happy you’ve found your thing! Isn’t it awesome how confident you get in such a short amount of time with Zumba? Like you, I hid in the back for a few classes, but now I basically fight my way to the front with all the skinny regulars who go like seven times a week.

  13. I’m a BIG zumba fan!! I used to go on and off to gyms – they are boring, but since I started zumba 6 months ago, I have been been regularly working out. It’s wonderful! SO glad that you love it too!

  14. Every time I see or hear one of those Kaiser commercials, I find that I’m totally inspired. It’s not often that an ad campaign can get me moving, but for some reason Kaiser really hit the nail on the head.

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