If I were waiting for a sign, it would be that number

{Image via Google Images}


I totally fell off the Zumba wagon.

After getting excited about finally finding My Thing — some form of exercise I actually like — I was a faithful Zumba attendee. My friend and I went for months (and actually, she never stopped). I had my corner of the room where I could see the instructor well. When I began to feel better and more fit, motivation cam easily. For the first time in my life, I actually felt like I could move.

But.

Life gets in the way. There’s no real reason why I stopped. My weekly routine was thrown off following a death in the family, and then my motivation scattered like glitter in the wind. I was more likely to leave work and drown my anxieties in crocheting or wandering around than actually exercising, and I stopped making class a priority. My sister bought a Zumba DVD, and we dance to that occasionally, but exercising for 45 minutes once a week isn’t going to accomplish anything.

At a doctor’s visit last week, the nurse had me step on a scale. Totally routine, of course, but I was just there to get some cold medicine — and unprepared for that number. People say, “Oh, I didn’t realize how much weight I’d gained until I saw myself in photos” — and I certainly have cringed at the way I’ve looked recently.

But reality didn’t sink in until I saw that ugly number. The highest it’s ever, ever been.

I’m finally realizing I can make excuses or make things happen. I could sit around all day coming up with reasons why I’m too something to exercise — too tired, too busy, too tied-up, too overextended — but the truth is this: we make time for what matters.

I ended my month-long exercise dry spell by going to class on Thursday. It was hard. Any momentum I developed in the four months I went seemed to have evaporated, leaving me stiff and awkward. Some of the movements came back to me and a few of the routines were the same, but for the most part? It felt like starting over.

But maybe that’s a good thing.

Starting over, and starting again. Better this time.

It is time.

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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.