Get your sexy on!” Malinda, my Zumba instructor, calls out to her students during a particularly provocative hip movement. Are my hips even capable of such a gyrating, spiraling motion? I’ll give it a try, though I may be headed toward my first hip replacement with that last rotation. Here I am, edging my way toward Medicare, dancing like a crazed lunatic and loving every minute of it.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF SUE SCHEEL
- MOVERS AND SHAKERS UNFORTUNATELY, : Sue Scheel explained, the group’s only male participant was on vacation when this picture was taken at Champions Health Club in Atascadero. Malinda, the Zumba instructor, is in the middle (long brown hair and pink headband). Sue is next to her in the black Zumba top.
Zumba is a Latin-inspired cardio workout program, a vision created by Alberto “Beto” Perez in his native Cali, Columbia, back in the mid-’90s and brought to the United States in 2001. Zumba, now a household name known worldwide, has brought people of all ages together for a fitness party, dancing their way to improved health and happiness. Depending on the intensity and exertion expended, a typical one-hour Zumba class burns from 300 to 800 calories.
Attending three classes a week with a marathon day involving a class both morning and night, I admit that I am addicted. As I hobble out of my easy chair in the evening after an especially challenging workout, I smile, knowing my body is becoming stronger with every dance move I take. I quickly forget any discomfort, and by morning I’m ready to start all over again.
Several types of classes are offered at various gyms and city recreation departments throughout San Luis Obispo County, including Zumba Fitness, Zumba Gold (geared for Baby Boomers), Zumba toning (using lightweight, maraca-like toning sticks), Zumbatomic (targeting kids, ages 4 to 12), and, for those who love a quick dip, Aqua Zumba.
I’ve been riding the Zumba wave for a couple years, and even if I do say so myself, my dance moves are continually improving. Now at an age when I forget to make dinner unless I write myself a note, mastering salsa, merengue, and cumbia dance steps challenges my brain every bit as much as working the New York Times crossword puzzle on a lazy Sunday morning.
But unlike a challenging brainteaser, during Zumba class I find myself smiling for absolutely no reason at all. Maybe it’s the camaraderie shared with other classmates as we try to get our straps dangling from our cargo pants to move in a full 360-degree rotation. The positive energy level permeating the room is infectious.
Most classes are filled with giggly women, while the male population tends to peek through the window, viewing the exercise room from the safety of the other side. But there are exceptions to every rule. The male of the species can and does attend classes. At the gym where I attend, a “senior” gentleman friend of mine accompanies his wife to almost every class, executing those Latin movements with uninhibited flair.
Zumbawear apparel and accessories complete the experience. Bell-studded bracelets, Zumba green spaghetti tanks, and “Feel the Music” printed on back-pocket tassels really do assist in perfecting those red-hot dance steps—or at least that’s what I tell myself.
One morning, following and exceptionally sassy Latin workout, I approach my instructor, hoping she can guide me through a specific, stylish hip movement. The next thing I know, while standing in line at the post office, my hips begin rotating from side to side while other patrons, amazingly, seem oblivious to my newly acquired skill.
The Latin music, with a variety of upbeat tempos and rhythms, stimulates my inner dance personality, and as I chant along with the others—“You can do it!”—I ponder the words of the Little Engine That Could: “I think I can, I think I can.” I’ve downloaded an assortment of my favorite songs from iTunes, even performing some of the moves for my husband behind closed doors. But now, I’m thinking of joining in on a two-hour Zumbathon fundraiser and my instructor hopes for some of her students to join her on stage.
Sure, why not? It’s for charity. ∆
Sue Scheel lives in Atascadero. Send comments to the executive editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.