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Fairly Odd Mother

Frantically waving my magic wand to make wishes come true.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Zumba: It's Not You, It's Me

I have never felt more white and nerdy than the time I attended a family member's wedding with my husband, who was my boyfriend at the time. This family member was marrying a man of Cuban descent, who had a big family full of beautiful women in it. As I stood there in my pale, shapeless sundress, I looked at their tan skin, shapely bodies in low-cut dresses and their moves on the dance floor and sighed. I was angular and awkward to their sultry and confident.

I haven't felt that way too often in the years since then. Maybe having three little kids around me hasn't given me the time to obsess over how goofy I may be, at least in my mind's eye.

Until today.

I recently joined a gym, and with the kids in day camp, I have been able to try out some classes. This morning, I decided to try out a Zumba class, having heard all about this new workout craze from friends.

I knew I was in trouble approximately .00002 seconds into it, when the instructor stuck her hip out in a way that my hip does not move. And, for the next hour, I tried in vain to imitate the gyrations, shimmies and booty shakes I saw in front of me.

(I'm feeling a bit guilty about borrowing a video clip that isn't mine, so if you want to see Zumba in action, check out one of these vids on You Tube)

At first, it was all I could do not to laugh. The class went left--I went right. They shook their booty and my booty said, "no". I felt like a newborn fawn---all new, stumbling legs. I rolled my eyes and soldiered on, giggling at the absurdity of it all.

But, after 15 minutes of this, I felt embarrassed and ashamed of my lack of coordination. It stopped being funny when not one person caught my eye during the quick water break. Not one person said, "oh, don't worry, it took my months to get the hang of it". By the time the music started up again, I had to bite my lip to hold back tears.

Somehow I made it through the hour by basically making up my own steps. If I saw her do "cha, cha, ball change, cha", I did "step, step, step, step". And forget about the arms.

Sure, if I went another 20 or 30 times, I might get good enough to keep up with the class. But, when I have one hour to do a workout, I don't want to have to learn an entire choreographed dance routine in order to work up a sweat.

This is probably why I still love Jillian's 30-Day Shred: no coordination necessary. Perfect.

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Anonymous Cristina said...

Oh my goodness... You have me cracking up and laughing so hard!!! I feel like I was there with you with the detail you wrote. I have yet to try Zumba, but it's on my list as a few friends do go regularly (remember we talked about it recently... so you went without me, ay?) ;) I have to tell you, I tried an adult Hip Hop class last week and I felt exactly as you wrote here... The class moved fast and I couldn't remember all the steps... It got to the point I started working on feet only and skipped arms. I kept looking at the clock waiting for it to be over. Thanks for your honesty and I'm glad you know how I felt that night! :)

7:04 PM  
Blogger Gray Matter Matters said...

Oh my God, I didn't see you in class. The thing that made the first and last class that I went to even worse was that the instructor was a total spaz. Think Elaine from Seinfeld. So, to the newest exercise fad I say, no, gracias.

7:09 PM  
Anonymous Boston Mamas said...

Girl, you went, you moved, and you finished! Maybe it wasn't the prettiest or coordinated but hell, it's pretty damned cool that you tried something new!

But yes, there is something nice about Jillian - the moves are so straightforward that you don't have to worry about choreography, you can just focus on grunting.


7:11 PM  
Blogger Angie said...

Hey there! I do love Zumba but if your first class was like that video then I can see why you were totally lost. When I started I took the beginners class and was lost for the entire first class but by the third class was feeling alot better and having a ton of fun. Fun is key to me since I really hate working out :)
Although I realize your Zumba days are probably over I think it would be worth it to try a beginners class. That way you won't be the only one going left when the instructor is going right and the pace is much slower. I've been there too so I know how embarrasing it is. Classes vary greatly depending on the instructor. Some instructors are way easier to follow than others. Good Luck! Thanks for sharing! I can totally relate!

Angie Gotta

7:40 PM  
Anonymous Bill said...

Yeah, I'm definitely more of a Shred kind of workout person. I'm SO bad at picking up dance moves it's terrible. I would have had to walk out, so kudos for actually finishing it!

7:49 PM  
Blogger Shannon said...

Oh I tried that once too and I was totally lost! I can see that its fun though once you get it!

Thanks for the laugh!

8:14 PM  
Anonymous Obi-Mom Kenobi said...

A few friends have been RAVING about Zumba, but I had no idea what it was. Um. Scary for a two left footer like me. No one mentioned you needed to be coordinated! Maybe they just want to see me spin, twist, flop onto the floor. It is beautiful to watch though.

8:51 PM  
Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said...

My sister married a Brazilian man. Most of the guest at their wedding were Brazilian. I know of what you speak.

I'm impressed you tried and you finished. I would have run away screaming. And then tripped over my own feet in the process.

8:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's like line dancing meets salsa. And this is why I stick to the elliptical trainer! Good for you for going.

9:24 PM  
Anonymous mrs. q. said...

That is ridiculous. Frig. Look at everyone in that video. Other than the instructor, they all look dorky.

I had wanted to try a class and thank GOD I hadn't or I would have peed myself laughing. Think of this post as a community service.

9:42 PM  
Blogger Anissa said...

I AM a Zumba Instructor and sadly, there are alot of POOR Zumba instructors out there. I don't know who your instructor was, but when i see someone struggling, i always try to show them an alternative that keep them moving and they are a success at. It bothers me when i see Zumba instructors just facing the mirror and not really INSTRUCTING. Why not look for a DIFF. Zumba instructor. we are ALL different. I've been doing Zumba since 2001/2002 and began teaching in 2005. I hope you don't give up on it just because that instructor didn't help you out. :o(

9:53 PM  
Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said...

I had no idea there were "Beginner Zumba" classes. I probably should take those for a month or two.

And, I thought the instructor was a great dancer but it seemed like most of the people knew the routine already. I never stopped moving, I just did other dorky things that kept me moving in the same general way but were definitely not what she was doing.

10:01 PM  
Blogger Anissa said...

IF there are "beginner" Zumba classes, i don't know about them. I'm sure some instructors do that, but i don't in my classes.. every person that comes to my class (and sometimes i have 65+ people coming), they ALL were "Newbies" once. after you "break the zumba cherry", you aren't a newbie. it's just a matter of LETTING GO. have fun.. don't think about the crazy way your hips are gyrating...just do it. feel free. alot of the problems that people have is that it's NOT a "typical" group ex. class. we do things with our pelvis that alot of people do in the privacy of their homes! but heck! it WORKS your body... i have some zumba vids on youtube if you want to practice at home? I don't advise you to use them as a cardio class in your home. I taped them mainly for other instructors to learn my choreography (I won the Zumba choreography contest that Zumba held in 2007). If you would like to see some, you can email me at I just ask that you don't post my vid and have others write crappy comments about it. :) (like that other instructor--of course, i'm NOTHING like her).


10:08 PM  
Blogger Anissa said...

oh! and if you didn't do what she was doing, who cares? you were GREAT in the fact that you kept moving!!!! you rock!

10:09 PM  
Blogger Angie said...

My friend Kimberly Paine does offer a beginner class just before a "regular" class but that one is in N. Attleboro at the Y. If you look her up on you can see her list of classes. I'm not sure where else she teaches or if she does another Beginner class. I know she does one in Foxboro but she has several times/days so best to just go and look her up. She is great at making sure everyone is enjoying the class, gives clear cues and doesn't make you switch every 8 count ;-) I am SO not coordinated but like Anissa said- I do much better when I just let go, relax and don't worry too much about getting it right. I tend to get more steps right when I do that :)

10:23 PM  
Blogger Robin said...

Oh yeah, this video pretty much clinches it. I will never, ever attend a Zumba class, or any other dancercise type class. Not ever.

My poor uncoordinated ass will just have to stay in the weight room.

12:47 AM  
Blogger SabrinaT said...

My neighbor taught Zumba. I tried it once. I love to dance, and I deal with working out! What Zumba taught me is keep dancing at the club, and my butt belongs on the treadmill.

12:56 AM  
Anonymous Julie B said...

I just took a Zumba class last week and while I didn't hate it, I figured out that Greek Dancing is a whole lot easier! My ray of light was that the instructor kept telling me how great I was doing, and the other women in the class were very kind and encouraging (even though I sucked big time). However, nothing made me feel more fat, flabby, uncoordinated and out of shape than that class did....
But I'll probably go back... I'd say the instructor made the deal a whole lot better.

7:45 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Barb said...

Tried it myself more than once and decided I just can't wiggle. It is a very popular class though.

8:58 AM  
Blogger Suburb Sierra said...

Girl, you got me beat! I thought Zumba was some clear, malt liquor drink from the 90's?

I couldn't imagine how they worked that into an exercise class but I was ready to go until I read on and realized "coordination" was required. No thanks.

9:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am an experienced amateur dancer. However, I attended two different Zumba classes and found several things wrong.

1. Classes are too end up nearly bumping into others. Class sizes should be limited to help with having more fun and being able to better see the instructor.

2. No proper warm up or cool down. This is not only dangerous for some, but heightens the risk of joint injuries. This NEEDS to be part of the Zumba instructor training, but obviously it is not.

3. If you can find a Zumba instructor who is Group Fitness Certified either by ACE or AFAA. Your certified instructor will know who to work with a large group, have fun, and keep everyonoe safe.

4. I don't believe hip movements should be part of the actual dance moves, not unless you have a fairly advanced, healthy, and younger crowd. Rather the hip moves and swivels can be done stationary with both feet on the ground to lessen torquing and joint and back injuries.

5. Zumba fails to emphasize safety...that is their main weakness.

1:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FACT: Almost NO ONE is good at Zumba until they've gone about 15 times. That said, it was WELL worth the wait for me- looking like an idiot a couple times thru paid off to having a basic understanding of how to get thru the class. Before you know it, you're used to thinking on your feet literally, and you build confidence anticipating what's coming next. Dancing is a fantastic way to reconnect with your body if you are a little (or a lot) out of shape. You really don't realize how out of touch you get with your body until you take the class. While it isnt' for everyone, it is truly worth the time if only to gain better control over your body. It is SO MUCH FUN once you get over the initial shock, I would definitely consider returning and realizing how normal it is to feel the way you feel and stick it out until you get it.

10:45 PM  

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