For most of us in the gym, there is the comfortable go-to area we return to again and again like homing pigeons… and then there’s the scary North Korea lord-knows-what’s-going-on-over-there space where we dare not tread. Often, it breaks down like this: women go to classes (aerobics, toning, yoga , spinning) and guys stick to lifting weight, and never the twain shall meet (with the exception of the cardiotheater, of course, the DMZ of the gym.)
Well, I’m here to tell you I snuck across the border the other night and ventured out of my comfort zone … and it RULED. I’m a weightlifter, runner and occasional yogi, but dance classes are generally just not my cup of tea. (Brrrr, just had a flash of scary Mrs. Goodman yelling at me to KEEP THOSE SHOULDERS DOWN in ballet class in first grade.) And dance classes are hard to drop in to. Everyone seems to already know the gist of the routine and newbies like me are left to struggle and spin and pray we don’t get trampled when everyone suddenly leaps to the left. Wait, or is it right? See? Confusing.
But I must confess, I’ve heard whooping and clapping coming from ZUMBA! classes and I’ve been curious. Zumba! is billed as a “party” of a workout, a high-intensity mix of Latin moves and some hip hop with a strong, fast hip-shaking beat, and when I’ve stolen peeks through the glass windows of the dance studio at Equinox on 92nd St., those classes look loose and free and funky. And so Tuesday night I dove in…
The class, taught by Richard Martinez, was a legit workout (estimated caloric burn for Zumba! is 400-600 calories) and I loved it. LOVED! The hour flew by. It’s going to take some time before I move out of the bleachers and into the front rows and no one, not even my mother, would say I look like Shakira (click on this!), but who cares? The biggest lesson in fitness is to let go of self-consciousness and just move. EVERYONE is lame at the beginning and though it feels so good to be a gold-star student and to keep doing what you’re good at, that kind of self-selection limits you from having a good time doing something new. [Note: Martinez is great and he teaches at the UWS YMCA on Thursday nights as well as at 24 Hour Fitness and 3 Equinox clubs.]
So, who knows, maybe I WILL start to think of myself as a dancer. Why not? And maybe you’ll swing over to the weight section and do some sets with me. The idea of a roped-off area at the gym is something we create in our own minds – in reality, truly, everyone is welcome everywhere, and it’s cool to see beginners taking on a new skill. It’s nothing but positive, and I have a feeling if you asked the mesmerizing girl who killed it in that Zumba! class, center of the room and in front of the mirror, if she welcomed us bumblers in the back she’d say, of course, the more the merrier.
Almost every time I work out with my trainer, a stranger will come up to me and tell me I inspire him or her. More than one person has said that the moves my trainer instructs me do are so fluid they look like a dance. It’s nice to hear this but also kind of funny – I’m just doing my thing, I’m not performing and I’m not aware of being watched. But yeah, I’ve been training for years and at this point I’m working at a pretty high level. I suppose there is extra flow and sparkle when you’ve really mastered something and made it yours. And so, red headed Zumba! girl, I want to move those kind words forward: you inspire me. You’re my Zumba! hero and watching you got me psyched about what’s possible. I may never shake it like you…and then again, maybe I will. Either way, it’s not a competition; it’s about having fun and enjoying your body. The hips don’t lie – we’re built to move. So get off the couch and shake it. You’ll only get better.
And guys – if you particularly love any fitness/dance/yoga class in any city, please please please comment on this post and let us all know. Let’s share the love! xoxo Steph
Zumba update – just took a class at Equinox with Christopher Vo and he is my new favorite. He teaches at Col Circle Fri. at 7:30 pm, at East 95th Sat. at 12:45 , and 92nd st Wed. at 10 am. Check him out! Great energy, great dancing. I’m becoming a Chris Vo groupie.