Product Review: Zumba

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I finally gave in and tried Zumba last night, so if I was the second-to-last person to try it, and you are the last person, this info's for you.

Zumba's an exercise class I started hearing about a year or so ago. At first, I let the word skim past my brain, since it's a silly word. It sounds like "Roomba", or another goofy exercise term, "Bosu." I actually figured it was a class based on a particular piece of equipment, like that old one where you'd put gross dusty booties on your feet and scoot back and forth on a smooth board like you were a speedskater. What was that class even called? Oh man, back then was such a long time ago. We didn't even have Tumblr or Real Housewives back then.

I'm also not really a big fan of exercise classes in general most of the time. I resent having to be at the gym at a certain time and having other factors influence your workout. What if the music is crap? What is the instructor is lame? What if someone stands right in front of you and blocks the mirror, or, what if it's the kind of day where you don't want to look in the mirror but there is no one there to block you? Forget it!

But then a few weeks ago I visited my friend Liz, who showed me a recent routine she had done for Zumba. It was to Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" and it involved her swinging her arms very dorkily. It looked fun. I could do that, I figure. I had another impromptu Zumba performance from another friend (this time, on the street). I started getting the impression that Zumba was actually kind of fun and accessible, so I thought I'd give it a try. There is a fitness program called P-90x that screams at you about your body requiring "muscle confusion" if you want to torture it into resembling a piece of beef jerky. Well, P-90x seems like a real drag to me, but I was getting a little bored with my workouts so I figured I'd give Zumba a try. If not muscle confusion, mild muscle disorientation.

I mentioned I was going to try Zumba on Twitter last night and one person told me that in the best cases, the instructor would offer "ironic/fun choreography, HUGE energy, and doesn't make you feel like a dweeb." The ironic/fun part was what I was hoping for. I once took a hip-hop dance class a gym which turned out to be disturbingly hard. After about 30 minutes the steps I had learned would fall out of my head and I would feel behind and frustrated (not to mention frightened at times: I was pretty sure I was going to hurt myself trying a few of the breakdance-style moves she was showing us. This is a true sign of being Old.) Then, at the end, we'd have to demonstrate the whole routine to everyone else, which basically served as a punishment for taking the class.

So anyway, long story short, Zumba to me was something of a cross between my beloved Dance Dance Party Party and an aerobics class. There are a series of 4-6 moves you learn per song, and once the song is over, you move onto a new song, new set of routines. The moves are pretty accessible to everyone, and are inspired largely by hip-hop, bellydancing, Bollywood and Latin moves. I have the hardest time with the Latin moves for some reason, but the teacher (who had a nice silent way of implying what was to come next) stressed that it wasn't about getting everything right. As my friend Natalie put it, "there are no mistakes in Zumba, only dance solos." Goofing around a bit and acting like you think you're badass seems to be encouraged, and I can do that pretty well.

Plus, the class was only 45 minutes long which I think is the ideal length for any exercise class (an hour just gets too dispiriting sometime). So I had a fun time, didn't feel too embarrassed and actually broke a sweat and felt the burn a few times. Zumba still has a dorky name, but at leas now I know that it's not a kind of robotic vacuum.