Starts With “Z” and Rhymes With “Roomba”

Athena ScalziI am not an exercise-inclined person. It’s a well-known fact to my friends and family that I hate exercise. Like, a lot. I hate running, I hate bike-riding, I hate any kind of weight-lifting, planks, burpees, crunches, really anything that involves physical effort. This despise of exercise mixed with my love for pastries and sweets is what makes me so utterly marshmallowy, but that’s not what this post is about.

This post is about one of the only kinds of exercise I do like. Not just like, in fact, but I love Zumba!

If you’ve never tried or even heard of Zumba, it’s basically just dancing in a really fun, upbeat way to (usually, but not always) Latin music. It’s mostly just a lot of cardio, but if you hold weights in your hand while dancing it can also be for toning!

For the past few months, I’ve been going with my mom to the YMCA in the next town over to go to their (socially distanced) Zumba classes. When I first started back in October, I was having a really rough time with it. Even though it was only for forty-five minutes, I would get so totally wiped out from it that I would almost black out every time.

I had to continually take breaks or go get a drink of water in the middle of songs because I felt like my heart was going to burst. And I was always so sore the next day. All of my muscles were like, never do that again! But then I did it again, and again, and again.

Eventually, I stopped getting sore. And I stopped almost blacking out. And I stopped needing to stop in the middle of songs to catch my breath.

I started looking forward to going, I started putting more effort into the dance moves and started not minding holding weights in my hands. I started really loving Zumba.

This is in part because I have such a great instructor! I think any class, whether it’s an exercise class or an educational class, can be good, no matter the kind, as long as you have a good instructor. Lucky for me, my instructor is energetic, fun, smiley, encouraging, and dances so beautifully that it’s hard not to want to improve so you can dance just like her someday.

It helps that I’ve always loved Latin music. But that’s probably just because I like music that you can dance to. I also enjoy EDM and techno for the same reason, it just makes you want to move; it’s so hard to not just want to jump around and pump your fist along with the music. I feel like it’s kind of hard to dance to a lot of American music, especially pop, which is most of what I listen to.

Some days, I really don’t feel like going to Zumba, but I make myself anyways. When I’m done, I’m always glad I went, and I always have a great time! I haven’t lost any weight from it, probably because I eat like shit, but at least it gets my heart pumping! It has to be at least a little beneficial, right?

Not only am I noticing myself not almost die every time, but when we stretch at the end, I’ve noticed I’m way more flexible than I was just a couple months ago! Even though Zumba is only twice a week, I feel like it’s making a difference in my muscles, even if just by a tiny bit.

Throughout my childhood/teenage years/basically whole life, I have been in many different sports, clubs, activities, yada yada yada, and I have always been a quitter. Literally my whole life. As a kid I would always try something out, like gymnastics, track, guitar, 4-H, all the standard things, and I would always give up after just a couple times. I always think I’ll like things, and then when it doesn’t immediately bring me joy like I imagined it would, I drop it.

At first, I didn’t really like Zumba, and I wanted to quit almost immediately. Not because there was anything wrong with it, but it made me feel bad about myself; the fact that I couldn’t get through one session without almost passing out, the feeling of not being able to do the moves correctly, or like everyone else is watching you misstep and move your arms in the wrong direction.

If it weren’t for my mom going with me and encouraging me to get up off my ass and go, I probably would’ve given up in the first couple weeks, like always.

I’ve always liked dancing, but I never really thought of it in my brain as exercise. Now I know that it totally is exercise; in fact it’s good for a lot of things besides cardio! Coordination, toning, balance (depending on the move), and is really one of those exercises that’s an all-over body workout.

If you haven’t tried Zumba before, I highly recommend it! I think it’s so fun, and just a nice way to get moving if you’re feeling a little couch-potato-y lately.

Anyways, I’m off to Zumba. Let me know if you have any particular songs you like to dance to in the comments, and have a great day!


27 Comments on “Starts With “Z” and Rhymes With “Roomba””

  1. I know that story. Heck, I lived that story. I started out basically the same–heart bursting, needing a drink every five minutes, sucking serious air.

    Fast forward to now: I’ve been teaching it for six years, though not so much recently with the pandemic. I love it and I’m delighted that you’re having fun with it. See you on the dance floor!

  2. Exercise, and especially sticking with it, gives you self-discipline. You can take that with you into other areas of life. Sometimes you just have to remind yourself that it’s part of your ‘tool kit’.

  3. I know they call it Zumba, but I’m pretty sure it should just be called “Pitbull Fit” given the vast number of his tracks they’ve used over the years.
    Something that’s a different sort of dance type fitness that is worth watching out for is Poundfit – it’s lots of hitting the floor with sticks. Immense fun and your quads will hate you.

  4. I grew up hating exercise. Once I hit my 50s I realized that it was a necessary evil if I didn’t want to die of a heart attack from walking up my driveway. A FitBit got me to start walking regularly. A couple years ago I started mountain biking and have grown to love it.

    I suspect one of the reasons I always hated exercise is that my PE teachers treated exercise as a punishment when I was growing up. I’m curious to know if that’s still the case with the current generation of PE teachers.

  5. I’m also an exercise-hater; the only thing I really like is bike riding, but only when it’s not too hot or cold out, which basically rules out half the year or more. And since I live in a densely-populated area where the trails get really crowded when the weather’s nice, I haven’t been out much this last year. I had been going to the gym, but that’s another thing that I stopped doing during the pandemic.

    We have a rowing machine at home, but I wanted a bit more variety, so on the recommendation of friends, we picked up RingFit Adventure, a game for the Nintendo Switch. It basically involves fighting monsters by doing exercises; it can sense your movement because one of the controllers is strapped around your leg and the other is attached to a ring that comes with the game and is used in most of the exercises — in some you squeeze it, in others you pull on it, etc. The better your form, the more punch your exercise packs on the monster, and as you progress in the game, you unlock new exercises, so it doesn’t get boring or repetitive (or at least it hasn’t so far). It allows you to choose which exercises you want to do for a given course and battle, and what level you’re comfortable doing them. Judging by how much I sweat and how my muscles feel afterward, this is giving me a way better workout than I ever got at the gym.

    I never thought I’d find something that gives me a good workout and that I actually enjoy doing, but I really like RFA.

  6. Welcome to the world of physical fitness! The only exercise I have truly enjoyed is swimming. Because I truly hate to sweat and while vigorous swimming does in fact make you sweat, it washes away. The other form was step aerobics. Very like you describe Zumba except with a 4 inch step used for increasing your intensity and varying steps. Very 90s. I’m waiting for my second knee replacement (and the death of COVID) before returning to swimming. I can hardly wait.

    Enjoy your body, and take care of it. When you’re older you’ll appreciate everything that increases your strength and flexibility.

  7. I jumped on the Zumba bandwagon when it came to town years ago. Stopped doing it a few years back when the instructor I really liked left and I didn’t like the music choices made by his replacement. However I’ve been debating giving it a go again as I did really enjoy it.

  8. This might be just what I need! In theory I like to dance, or move around vigorously in a vaguely dance-y way, and I do enjoy Latin music, but I too am a bit exercise-averse (I can talk myself into running, but only if it’s warm out) and I’d heard of Zumba but had no idea what it was. Going to give it a shot!

  9. They do Aqua Zumba at the pool I swim at. Music sounds good sometimes. As an introvert, swimming by myself is much more my jam than any kind of exercise class.

  10. Ice skating is very sneaky exercise, as is most fairly-upbeat couples’ dance (polka! swing! salsa!). Zumba is a lot more pandemic-friendly, though…

  11. Don’t forget that for an equal volume fat is lighter than muscle, you’ve clearly been putting on a little muscle as you have improved your endurance, so you will have lost some fat.

  12. I don’t know much about exercise, but as for quitting I have always instinctively gone in for a recreation class that only had ten sessions, as opposed to an open ended infinity thing—Yuck!

    I joke that I am a “recovering wimp” because my “hack” to “get a life” is to honour all commitments to others or myself.

    As in AA, the word “recovering” means I have to be rigid about keeping my word. You know, like the heroes do in David Gerrold’s Chtorr Wars.

  13. “Throughout my childhood/teenage years/basically whole life, I have been in many different sports, clubs, activities, yada yada yada, and I have always been a quitter.”

    You’re not a quitter–you were just hunting for what you enjoyed and could be passionate about, and you had to try out a number of different programs before you found the one you enjoyed. I told my kids when they were growing up everyone was born with 100 points of ability, but those points were unevenly distributed across different strengths and capabilities, and one of the things they had to do growing up was find where their points were–and the only way they’d do that was to try lots of different activities.

    It’s like picking college courses. There are millions of people who never knew how much they’d enjoy a topic until they randomly signed up for a course in a certain topic and for many that random selection (“I didn’t want a course that met before 10 AM or after 4 PM, and the only one that met the requirements was the course in XXXYY so I took that–and found my future” is pretty common).

  14. Okay, my apology in advance for being That Annoying Guy:
    “This despise of exercise”
    ITYM: “This despite for exercise”
    Again, sorry, & well done on making exercise a part of your life!

  15. Nop,

    Nope (sorry!), it’s a slightly awkward construction perhaps, but it works as she wrote it, and it rhymes too.

  16. ”…Some days, I really don’t feel like going to Zumba, but I make myself anyways. When I’m done, I’m always glad I went, and I always have a great time…”

    I’d have the same thoughts, when I didn’t feel like running, “ I know you don’t want to, but you’ll feel better afterwards…”

  17. Other than riding a bike (not a stationary bike, the kind that rolls and goes places) I also hate to “exercise.” I also don’t join clubs and take very few classes for anything.

    Riding a bike is a way to avail yourself of other virtues like environmental benefits, saving money on gas, just plain old enjoyment of the wind in your face, etc… while also actually getting exercise. It’s like exercise without exercising. From a cardio standpoint, it’s hard to beat.

    I have two. A really nice and upgraded 2005 Gary Fisher Tassajara frame (the shop referred to it -and me- as “super nice retro look”) for general stump jumping and shenanigans, and a much newer 2017 Trek Crossrip 3 (a.k.a. “The Rocket”) that I used to commute on 30 miles a day until COVID happened.

    The best thing is no one wants to see me dance.

  18. There’s a new “Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan” routine we really like – you should be seeing that one, soon.

    I’m totally with you on both counts: hate exercise, love Zumba. Been doing it for years, and have continued with online classes during lockdown, and my DH is now dancing with me. We just clear the living room floor and dance, three times a week.

    Nintendo has a Zumba “game” for the Switch, Amazon Prime has a few video classes,and you can also do virtual classes with Zumba instructors from the Zumba website, or we get emails from our instructor through FB. Some will charge a small fee or ask for donations.

    Congratulations on finding something that works for you!

  19. Great that you are enjoying Zumba. You really have to find something you enjoy in order to keep at it. Unfortunately I had to bow out of Zumba. While the instructor I had was very personable, she did not have any idea of what a warm up should consist of, and she couldn’t give us any suggestions on how to protect our knees in the twisting movements. I really had to search hard for shoes that would work. Also, having studied Middle Eastern dance for years, I had to try pretty hard not to laugh at the “bellydance” movements. I’ve recently signed up for Bodygroove, which is much more freeform dance fitness.

  20. “I haven’t lost any weight from it, probably because I eat like shit, but at least it gets my heart pumping! It has to be at least a little beneficial, right?”

    A lot beneficial. In general people who are a little fat (more body fat than recommended, not necessarily more pounds than recommended) but who are cariovascularly/strong muscle healthy, have better outcomes than those who are the opposite. There’s also the mental health benefits. Many days during the pandemic I need to remind myself how much better I’ll feel after even a little exercise or fresh air.

    Tina, often that exercise is Ring Fit Adventure. It worked for me and others in my pod for 9-10 months. I’ve beat the Big Bad three times now, using a different adventure strategy each time. I’m a little bored of it now but I’m sure I’ll go back to it later.

  21. If there is one piece of health advice I could give, and you would take, it would be this: keep up exactly this kind of activity, and never, never diet to lose weight.

    By all means, eat better, healthier food. But for the love of your incredibly complex bio-machine, do not diet. That way lies misery, yo-yo weight gain, and no measurable improvement in health.

    Regular exercise such as dancing, walking, soccer, swimming etc. will keep you healthy and feeling great.

  22. The secret to being a lifelong exerciser is to find exercise that you like (or better, love) to do. My husband always jokes that I don’t like to exercise unless someone is trying to kill me – because the only two exercises I have ever loved and invested in are fencing (several years at the end of college and the first few years after), and then karate – more than 15 years now. Pretty much everything else I’ve done has related back in some way – yoga to get my kicks higher, strength training to hold a stable low position, running so I wouldn’t run out of gas mid-bout. As long as it made me better at the thing I actually loved, I would put up with it.

    I’m fat. But I’m also 51 and can still turn a straight cartwheel, and survive a five minute, full contact, sparring session, so I feel like I’m doing pretty well.

  23. My wife and I love Nia, a different form of dance-based movement. We’re doing it via Zoom from our local studio, which has also helped keep us connected while being physically isolated in the pandemic.

    Unrelated item that may amuse JS: this guy got nowhere complaining to AT&T about their slow Internet service so he took out an ad in the Wall Street Journal! Soon they installed fiber. Kind of an expensive way to get their attention, but it worked.

  24. Oh, what a nice reminder! I totally have the urge to Zumba now. I am with you on all of it: took a while to get into, the instructor makes it awesome, love it now. I haven’t been since Covid. I took up running since then, and I can say: I’m a Zumba person, for sure. There were times in Zumba when I was just a body in motion, in almost a meditation / zen way but moving way faster! I even started to love learning new routines, to keep my mind occupied as well as my body. Enjoy it! I hope to be Zumba-ing again soon too!

  25. I also love Zumba. I am 67 and only started doing it about 5 years ago. I was retired by then and had just had my second knee replacement which made me feel like I had a new lease on life. A friend that used to work where I worked had started teaching Zumba a few years before that and everyone I knew who had gone to her classes loved them. So, when my knee was feeling good enough to start exercising, I asked her if I could join her class. She now tells me how bad I was at first but she never let on then and everyone else as well was really encouraging. Her class was only once a week and didn’t run in the summer months but I found another group of instructors who had classes on most days of the week. So I started going to a couple of those every week. When the pandemic hit the community clubs where the classes were held closed but both instructors started offering classes on line. Turns out that taking Zumba using the Zoom platform is pretty much as satisfying as taking an in person class. And one big perk is that I can get ready for it in about 5 minutes with no commuting time involved. The other perk is that it is quite a bit cheaper than taking in person classes. I’m not sure I’ll go back to in person classes even when it is safe to do so.