We Need To Talk About Zumba

Look, I don't often get excited about physical activity, but have you ever done Zumba? I LOVE IT. I love it! And yes, I think that's probably about as cool as admitting I love fannypacks—"bumbags" for my British readers, who've probably just spat out their tea in shock (Americans, I'll let you google the VERY DIFFERENT MEANING that doesn't seem to have crossed the pond)—but I don't care. I am obsessed with Zumba. It is my New Thing. Well, if by New Thing we're allowing that I've only done it twice. But I did it twice with passion. 

That's the best part about Zumba, you see: you actually have to do it with passion or it doesn't work. You have to rejoice in the dorkiness of the dance moves, one of which—at least at my Zumba, which takes place in an enormous YMCA gymnasium filled with mostly middle-aged women, plus one very flamboyant 14-year-old boy who is better than all of us—is a sort of ballroom-slash-hip-hop routine to "I've Had The Time Of My Life." There's another one called "The Roof Is On Fire," which mainly just involves jumping up and down and waving your arms around as though the roof is, in fact, on fire. My favorite Zumba dance is hard to describe, but if you put your left palm to your forehead while pumping your right arm like you've just scored big—you just tried it, didn't you?—you're halfway there. 

Honestly, I don't know how the teacher doesn't crack up the entire time she's teaching it. She must have to sneak into a toilet stall at the end just to have a little laugh. 

I tell you one thing, though: as dorky as Zumba might be and as lacking in rhythm as it makes me feel, it sure does get you working up a sweat. You're moving constantly for an hour. It's kind of like aerobics, if you were doing aerobics in a nightclub in Bogota with a bunch of your mother's friends, by which I mean that it's the most fun ever. In fact, the only time I've ever had as much fun at the gym was in 1996 when my German exchange student tricked me into taking a step class with her in Stuttgart.  (My German, unfortunately, wasn't as good as I thought it was. I'd been under the impression we were going shopping.)

In other fitness news—I'm pretty sure that's why you come here, right? For my fitness news?—I'm still going to the gym in the mornings, and as well as teaching me tolerance, patience, and virtue, it's also teaching me a whole bunch of new ways to blowdry my hair. There are so many ways to blowdry your hair! Who knew? That's what happens when you have to shower, change, and primp among a carousel of other women, I guess: you start noticing that everyone does it differently. Head upside down! The side-to-side swish! I've even seen a woman bring her own roundbrush! (Okay, alright, that woman was me. A little high-maintenance, sure, but my swoopy bangs that day were nonpareil.) 

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Jul 27, 2012

Yep. I googled fannypack UK and the answer was the first on the page. I think I will start calling them bumbags now. That way if I ever travel abroad (not likely) I have one less thing I can say to embarrass myself.

Jul 27, 2012

My Zumba instructor used to make us do a move she called spank the donkey. Imagine a room of mostly middle aged women all doing that at the same time - it ain't pretty. Plus,the vigour with which she did it always made me uneasy!

Jul 27, 2012

I love Zumba, LOVE it. I enjoy being able to (attempt to) relive the time I was on the high school dance team, what of it?

Jul 27, 2012

i'm going to be that obnoxious one-upper and just put this here: jazzercise. yes, i love jazzercise (and i'm 29!). did you know it still existed? i actually haven't been in a few years because i moved away from my studio and my jazzercizing buddy (a 55 year tax attorney, of course). but it was SO fun and a really great workout. and sometimes, if you're lucky, someone would actually show up in a leotard.

i've tried zumba but it's just not the same.

Tall Girl
Jul 27, 2012

I like Zumba, but I LOVE gym rave. Dark gym room. Crazy music. Mini trampolines. Glowsticks. Yep.

Amy Brown
Jul 27, 2012

I do Jazzercise as well and have for over eight years...it is fun and varied, a great workout...go Judy! I have heard Zumba was fun as well, might have to try it.

Jul 27, 2012

You need to try sh'bam. My instructor is a Kiwi and she teaches with such enthusiasm; the former has nothing absolutely nothing to do with the latter. Plus, we dance to most songs found on the top 10.

Anna Louisa
Jul 27, 2012

mini-trampolines?? I'm officially interested in gym rave :)


Jul 27, 2012

I miss Zumba so much! My old instructor was this great, energetic Indian (like the country) girl, and she would be like, "Welcome to Zumba! It's fun fun fun all the time, no rules! Don't worry if you can't do the moves -- just KEEP MOVING!" It was awesome.

Jul 27, 2012

LOVE Zumba! I actually do it at home on the Xbox Kinect (which is not nearly as fun as in a room full of people), but my favorite moves are always the "sexy" ones where you're swinging your hips and one where we squat down and kind of... um... hump the air? Anyway, I always think I look so hot until I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and oh no. I do not.

But it is SO. MUCH. FUN.

Jul 27, 2012

I do love Zumba, but I've gotten picky about my instructors. There's one I LOVE and she's ruined me for all others. Her name is Melissa and she incorporates a bit of hip hop with some mid-90s flair into her routines. I think we ALL know how I feel about hip hop with mid-90s flair.

Jul 27, 2012

Yes to Jazzercise *and* Zumba! Hooray for dorky exercise! There's an elderly Indian man at my Y who Zumbas so well and with such passion that the instructor usually takes a break and lets him lead a dance during class. And no one can keep up because he's too awesome.

Jul 27, 2012

I think a post about Zumba with no accompanying video footage of the author doing "slap the donkey" is just... wrong.

Brianne Joy
Jul 27, 2012

I'm with you on the lack of joy when it comes to exercising. However, you just sold the concept of Zumba to me - so I will be trying it.

Jul 27, 2012

Every summer during my high school years ('94-'99), I worked with a rotating gaggle of Irish girls. We worked for a ferry company, and with tourists come Lost & Founds.

You can imagine Siobhan's dismay when, inevitably, some distraught Southerner called in search of their fanny pack.

Jul 27, 2012

The way we Brits feel about the word "fannypack" is perfectly described here:
It's a very funny list of British terms written especially for Americans, although some of them are a bit out of date... I haven't heard anyone say "brill" for at least 20 years!

Holly, perhaps you should suggest they add "just about" to the list!

Jul 27, 2012

I know the focus here is on Zumba, but I need to addresss your mention of blow drying your hair. I use THREE round brushes when I blow dry my hair. I do it to save time. Granted I don't get ready at a gym. Oddly, I really, truly dont think I am that high maintenance. That said, when I lived in Upstate NY and lost power in the winter for FOUR days, did I freak out about freezeing in my house or not being able to cook or take a hot showeer? NO! I freaked out because I had to go to work without being able to blow dry my hair (and not for practical purposes like not wanting to go outside with wet hair in 14 degree temperatures. It was sheer vanity.) WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?

Also, one time in college this really cool guy, who actually spoke to me in my history classes, said he'd seen me at the gym doing Jazzercise. I corrected him and said it was hi-lo aerobics. OMG. I was a dork when I was 18, and I still am.

Jul 27, 2012

Zumba is so fun! And yes, I tried that move and my 9 year old nephew caught me and said "what on earth are you doing aunt jen? you look spastic." i want to take him to a zumba class now. he'd be entertained for an entire hour.

Jul 27, 2012

Oh, Zumba. I love, love, LOVE it, too. It's really what Jazzercise was to the '80s, don't you think? Only a whole lot cooler. (OK, maybe not.) I go 2-3 times per week, and I always leave an hour later feeling AMAZING. I've found a particularly inspiring instructor from Argentina who makes class just SO MUCH FUN. It's not just Latin dancing -- it's also hip-hop, Bollywood, funk. I love the variety, and I love that for an hour at a time, I am transported from the routines of my regular life into a sweaty dance club where sometimes the instructor pulls me onto her little stage to dance with her. Life List item unlocked!

Jul 27, 2012

The thing about Zumba is that you have to be coordinated.

I suppose I worked up a good sweat with all the spastic movements, but mainly I focused on not making a scene while I giggled uncontrollably at how awful I was. I mean, like moving the opposite direction as everyone else in the room because I was mimicing the reflections of them in the front mirror.

I was totally the one who made people think "Hey, I might not be very good at this Zumba, but at least I'm not as tragic as that girl".

Jul 27, 2012

I, too, LOVE Zumba. I started by sometimes casually going on Saturdays, and then suddenly I was going every Saturday plus Tuesday and Thursday after work. Every week. And it is so, so fun.

So are all Zumba classes the same? Because mine, too, takes place in a YMCA gym with mostly middle-aged women AND we also have a flamboyant fourteen-year-old boy who is better than everyone else! I find myself watching him because he is just such a good dancer, but then I feel creepy for watching a fourteen-year-old boy dance and I stop.

Zumba for everyone!

Jul 28, 2012

Hi I'm Joanna and I am a relatively new reader to your blog (and a new blogger). I found you via pinterest when I read your sixty years of memories post. I laughed, I cried....I loved it. Thanks for the lovely blog! I now follow you through blog lovin' and will be reading your lovely posts regularly!

P.S. I love Zumba too! Dancing is not my forté, which makes it even more amusing!

Joanna from Jo finds Joy

Jul 28, 2012

The last time I went to Zumba, I saw a 68-year-old woman bend over, place her hands on the ground, and wiggle so that her sequine-festooned skirt created a sparkly melody. Twas brilliant; you're onto something good.

Jul 30, 2012

YEAH!! Zumba® is absolutely amazing! I've been going to classes since 2007 and got certified as an instructor in 2010. I continued with my classes throughout an entire pregnancy with no problems as well :) I now teach two regular Zumba classes a week and one Zumba Toning class (you should try this format as well). It's FUN, addictive, exhilarating and it yields results :) The demographics in my class range from 18 to 68 year-olds. I have mostly women but the occasional guy pops in as well. As some other poster commented--it's not about being uber-coordinated or doing the moves "right". Instead, it's about moving for the whole time and laughing and learning to be less self-conscious while at it!

Angie Orth
Jul 30, 2012

Nonpareil. Nightclub in Bogota. Bumbags.

This is a good one =)

Jul 30, 2012

I tried zumba 2 or 3 times with a girlfriend who loves it, but felt that I needed to have a drink or 4 in order to really get into it, so I figured it was not the exercise class for me.

Jul 30, 2012

Zumba is so fun, no matter how dorky. And a great calorie burner. I am with you!

Camels & Chocolate
Aug 04, 2012

Oooh I've never Zumba'd, but the new gym (which is very YMCA-ish) behind our new house(!) has Zumba, and I full intend to get my groove on. (Did I just remind you of your dad when I said that? Because I sure hope so--he's a pretty groovy dude.)

Aug 08, 2012

Zumba is my favorite. When I try to get my friends to go, I tell them they must first come to terms with yes, you will look like an idiot. You are an idiot.

But so is everyone else in the room. I never have as much fun running as I do doing zumba!

Aug 09, 2012

I'm too much of a perfectionist for Zumba (well, Sh'bam is the one I tried, but same idea.)

I *know* it's supposed to be about having fun, but I am a musician who is not good at dancing. So I can't stay with the beat and do the right moves, and I'm painfully aware of it. I also have no improvisational skills (in music OR dancing) because I'm too self-conscious about doing something "wrong" that doesn't sound/look good. So, theoretically these classes sound awesome but in practice, for me, they make me feel like I'm back in high school and still tragically dorky. I'd rather do 45 minutes on the elliptical while watching trashy TLC programming :)

Aug 09, 2012

I went to Zumba with my teenaged daughter. "How nice that you're doing it together," said the woman next to me. "Oh we're not together," I explained, since she was deeply embarrassed at my lack of ability to do that thing with my hips. Hey, I was raised Baptist! Zumba is totally fun though, even if I do have to hide in the back and I'm the one giving the others hope that at least they look better than I do!

Aug 15, 2012

OMG...totally addicted to zumba and when people ask me about it...I generally say that it requires you to leave any inkling of dignity at the door. I would like to think I look like the instructor...and then I glance in the mirror and realize that I might, in fact, be promoting the stereotype that white people can't dance...and somehow embody an anti-rhythm. But I love it. Your descriptions are perfect!!!

Aug 18, 2012

I LOVE Zumba too! Since I've moved I haven't been able to find a class that fits my schedule and I'm so sad about ti.

Aug 19, 2012

I love Zumba too. I do not consider myself to be a very coordinated person, but I still find Zumba fun. No one cares if you mess up, or if you modify the moves. Such a great workout and the time flies while you're doing it!

Aug 20, 2012

Oh goodness! After attending Zumba classes for a year or so, a friend and I opted to just take the course and become instructors. What a life changer and confidence booster, having to get up in front of all those ladies every week to shake your white girl booty.

There's one song I make my ladies "ride the pony." They laugh through the whole move, as we go round and round and round. We may all feel awful silly, but boy, do we have fun. :)

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