Along with my weight-loss and balance journey, I have also been re-discovering my love of fitness classes. Like most people interested in a variety of fitness avenues, I like to try different things and will often sign up for a session of something new and interesting when it fits my schedule. Zumba has finally made its way to Whitehorse and is making a big splash up here. I was excited to see that a lunch-time session was going to be offered here at the College over the winter because it sounded like a lot of fun – it certainly has a lot of upbeat word-of-mouth advertising! I signed up and paid for the first 6-week session, marked the day in my calendar and waited with eager anticipation. On the first day, I brought my gym kit to work with me, and trooped off to the gym with 3 co-workers to try it out. I was stoked & ready to go! Yah! The class started! It was great! And then…it started to go flat. I started to feel unhappy. Now, I love aerobics classes. I love dance. I love trying new things. I should have loved Zumba.
One thing that bothered me was the absence of pointers or breakdowns. The leader did the movements at the front of the class and was very high energy & exuberant – yipping in joy and smiling big. She was certainly fun to watch! But she led the class with no instructions or corrections. Now, from what I have heard, this is standard practice in all Zumba classes. I was told that if I couldn’t follow along, to just “do your own thing.” Okay. Here’s my problem: while the “follow the bouncing butt” method has its place in dance classes where students who have already learned proper technique follow the teacher in a led improvisation, I question the method in a fitness class where delicate lower backs and knees can easily be compromised by unfamiliar movements and where the teacher does not know what, if any, prior experience or body knowledge her students are bringing with them. So, the Zumba participants followed & interpreted, each in her own way, what she thought the leader was doing, resulting in a dozen or so compromised lower backs. In fact, just the other day, a co-worker mentioned that she loved the energy of the Zumba class but had stopped going because it was bothering her back. I showed her how to use the lower abs to lift & drop the pelvis instead of throwing the hips backward with jerk from the lumbar spine. She tried out the movement with me in the staff room and I corrected her form. She thought she might give Zumba another try as that was the reason she had quit. I was happy because she did enjoy it so much. In my opinion, this is something the Zumba leader should have been doing. Just take a couple of minutes at the start of the class to go over the proper way to do a pelvic drop so you don’t hurt yourself. It doesn’t appear that the Zumba method includes this.
Another thing to be aware of is that if you have bad knees, you should wear dance shoes (such as athletic dance shoes) instead of regular (sticky grip) athletic shoes to avoid torque in your knees during the sliding & twisting movements. Now, I have squirrelly knees and I protect them like mad from twisting movements. So, because I was not wearing a shoe that would allow me to slide, my knees quickly began to hurt. I switched to a small jump through all of the twists and turns side to side, but it didn’t really improve things much. It took the rest of the week for my knees to recover after each class. I went to three of the six classes and it never improved, so I decided not to return.
Zumba was also a bit too frantic for me. I left each class feeling … jangly (if that’s a word!) But that’s okay. I’m really glad I tried it out. It just wasn’t a good fit for me – wasn’t my cup of tea.
If you try a Zumba class and don’t love it, though, be warned! Zumba aficionados are very passionate about their classes. Be prepared to get flamed if you say it out loud, because in my experience it is not acceptable to not enjoy Zumba.
Anyway, Zumba classes are still being offered over the lunch hour here at the college and I think it is a fabulous thing to have exercise classes right on campus. I’m happy because the people who attend really enjoy it and that’s a good thing.
I have also done Bellyfit, which is similar to Zumba in some ways. Zumba uses movement from Latin America & West Africa. Bellyfit uses movements from Silk Road cultures (India, Middle East, North Africa). A Bellyfit class consists of high energy aerobic dance movements for the first half of the class, followed by yoga-inspired stretch & meditation for the second half. I liked it. It had a nice balance of energies which is a better match for my personality. In fact, I may take the Bellyfit training program so I can offer Bellyfit classes in Whitehorse someday. We’ll see. (wink wink!)