Can you have fun while working out? I never thought it was possible. I worked out regularly most of my life, but it was always a necessary evil. I always felt great after, thanks to all those endorphins charging through my body, and of course I enjoyed the physical benefits, but I never enjoyed the actual act of exercising.
Until about a year and a half ago.
Post-baby, once I was cleared to start working out again, I walked into the gym near my home, unsure of where to go. I hadn’t really worked out in about a year, and I was suffering from exercise anxiety. My body wasn’t in a shape I was used to, my cardiovascular strength was nowhere near the ideal level, and I wasn’t even sure where to start.
As I walked down the hallway to the large fitness room, I looked straight ahead and saw the cardio machines and people huffing and puffing on them, running, walking or gliding at their own rate, and suddenly my heart sped up – I hadn’t run in more than a year, and even the elliptical looked intimidating to me. As I turned to the right, the weights of nautilus machines were going up and down with and I could hear the grunts of people lifting free weights. I looked down at my arms, sapped of most of their strength, and with trepidation I turned away.
Next, I peered into a dimly-lit space just off the weight room and heard music and yelling; an instructor yelled “Level 5 – sprints! Go, go, GO!” and the class turned the dial on their spinner bikes and rose out of the bike seat. I watched the intensity and puttered away to cower in the corner – that room was not for me in the shape I was in.
As I was losing what little confidence I walked into the gym with, I heard more music coming from down the hall, accompanied by cheering and clapping. I walked toward the door and saw a group of women grooving together, all doing the same steps. They were working up a sweat, but – strangely – smiling at the same time. I peered through the window for a few minutes, listening to popular tunes I knew the words to, and fun-sounding Latin songs.
“What are they doing in there”? I asked a gym employee who walked by.
“That’s Zumba,” he said. I must have had a puzzled look on my face, because he went on to explain. “It’s a dance-based cardio-fitness class. People seem to have a lot of fun in there – it’s one of our most popular classes.”
He walked away, and I continued to stare through the window at this class which now had a name – Zumba.
I stood there for probably 10 minutes when the teacher caught my eye.
“Hey! Come join us!” she yelled to me and motioned for me to enter the room. I shyly shook my head – but she was determined. “Come on! It’s fun, I promise!”
Then some of the ladies in the class turned and motioned me in as well. I looked around the room and saw women, and a few men, of all shapes and sizes, from teenagers to grandmothers. What did I have to lose?
I took a deep breath and slowly opened the door as a new song began. The others in the class seemed to know the steps, so they took off, stepping and moving their arms together.
The teacher came back to my corner and stood next to me, told me her name and asked mine.
“Jen, don’t worry about getting the steps right the first time – it’ll come. Just get the feel of the music, get the feel of the steps and it will come together. But most importantly – have fun and work up a sweat!”
As the class moved to the left, right, front and back together, I started to piece together the moves and soon was grooving along with them – well, kind of. Before I knew it, 30 minutes had gone by and I was glistening with sweat and had laughed and smiled the whole time.
I couldn’t remember a time when I had so much fun working out. As I was gathering my things to head out the door, some of the women stopped and chatted with me, and told me when the class was – three times a week. They asked if they’d see me next time, and I told them they would.
I kept that promise, and I continued to go to Zumba each week, and soon I was at the front of the room, leading the dances while other newbies entered the room looking as scared as I must have that first time. The more I went, the more intensity I put into each move and I got a better workout each time.
When I got to Hunter Army Airfield in the fall, I was thrilled to see that there were Zumba classes here, as well. I went that first time, and had just as much fun as I did in my very first Zumba class.
The morale of the story is this – whether it’s Zumba, spinning, walking the block with friends or going for a jog, you have to find a way to work out that works for you, and keeps you going back for more. And I hope that you can have fun while doing it, too.