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.

Book review: ‘Fitness 9 to 5’ by Shirley Archer

fitness_9_to_5Anyone who finds themselves plastered to a rolling desk chair eight hours a day will certainly appreciate this small gem from Shirley Archer: a book of quick, easy fitness exercises for the cubicle dweller.

I came across a copy of Fitness 9 to 5: Easy Exercises For the Working Week at a HomeGoods, of all random places, and quickly perused the whole thing. Easily skimmed in a half hour or so, I absorbed many of the tips without any trouble and have put them to practical use at work! Archer includes tips on strengthening specific areas of the body, highlights the calorie count you’ll be burning by completing each exercise and easily guides you through the motions with very specific instructions — and awesome illustrations, done by Chuck Gonzales.

The book is laid out chronologically as you hurry through your day — starting with slight exercises you can do before even getting out of bed and guiding you all the way through your commute home. It’s also full of tips on varying the movements as you get used to them, or changing them up a little if they’re too strenuous. I love the way Archer’s book has made me look at fitness in a new way — and helped me realize that I don’t have to be jogging in place or doing crunches in order to see some results. And since I’m actively exercising nightly, these moves are an excellent way to supplement my workouts.

My personal favorites include exercises for the wrists, designed to increase range of motion and relax sore muscles. Everyone who has spent the day typing at a rapid-fire pace can appreciate that one! I also love Archer’s suggestions for ways to squeeze the exercises in — like a squatting move that can be completed in the 30 seconds it takes to wait for your computer to boot up in the morning! Since I hate waiting for a computer to turn on probably more than anything in the world, I’ve started putting that time to good use. Even if my coworkers might think I’m a little strange!

Most of them don’t, though. (Or they already know me well enough to know that if I’m being silly, it’s business as usual.) And considering each of the 69 exercises boasts how many calories you’ve burned after completing each for one day, one week and one year — and shows you how many pounds that would equate to, should you keep it up daily — I have plenty of motivation to look a little whacky around the office.

I highly recommend Archer’s book, if for no other reason than it gets you thinking about how the simple movements in a day can really add up — and get you thinking about staying fit all the time. Instead eagerly hoping a front-row parking space is available at work or out shopping, I have no qualms with parking farther away. All those extra steps can really add up — and I’m excited to see just how much subtracting (from my waistline!) I can do! (Bad pun, I know. You forgive me, right?)

Just to whet your appetite (or decrease it?), here’s one of my personal favorites from Archer’s collection. Try it while you’re perusing the next post!

“i’m not quite ready to work!” chair squats

from Fitness 9 to 5 by Shirley Archer (pg. 34)

Before you take a seat and begin your day, practice lowering and lifting your tushie to tone your buttocks, hips and thighs. Getting up and sitting down is one of the most important activities of daily life. The leading predictor of whether you will need assisted living in your old age is your leg strength. Do squats regularly not only for a tone backside, but also to maintain your physical independence as you age.

• Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart, about one inch in front of your chair. Hold in your abdominals and relax your shoulders.

• Inhale as you sit back, as if you are going to sit in your chair. Let your bottom lightly touch the chair without sitting down.

• Exhale as you push yourself back up to standing, while squeezing your buttocks.

• Work for up to one minute.

One minute of squats burns 10 calories.
One minute of sitting while doing nothing else burns 1.1 calories.

One year:
10 calories x 5 days per week = 50 calories
50 calories x 50 weeks per year = 2,500 calories
2,500 calories / 3,500 calories per pound = .71 pound

5 out of 5!

ISBN: 0811848744 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website