Living editor’s Fitness Review: Zumba burns calories and your last shred of dignity

By Rachel Rippetoe | September 12, 2016 9:42am

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Rolling out of bed at the ungodly hour of 8:30 a.m. on a Friday morning, I stumbled to my closet and slipped on my last clean pair of shorts. Why the hell was I awake when I didn’t have a class until 12:30, you ask? I was going to do the unthinkable: attend a morning spin class.

As a disguised attempt to trick myself into going to the gym regularly, I volunteered to review some of the fitness classes at Beauchamp for The Beacon. At the time, it seemed perfect; I’d get in shape in the name of journalism. But as I groggily and reluctantly rolled on a pair of ankle socks, perfect was not the word that came to mind. Stupid sounded more appropriate.

I grabbed my water bottle and ran out the door, making it to the cycling room with only a minute to spare. Yet it seemed that my rush was in vain. As I reached the door, a multitude of students clad in bike shorts and sports bras were exiting. The instructor didn’t show up. The class was canceled.

Not only was I seething with irritation at the thought of the several hours of sleep I skipped out on to attend a canceled class, but at this point, I was mildly offended.

This wasn’t even the first class this week where I had been stood up by an instructor. The same thing happened when I attempted to go to yoga on Wednesday morning. This was starting to feel personal, like my date had left me at the prom. Twice.

Was it something I said? (*Urkel voice*)

A very nice fellow cyclist mentioned to the dissatisfied group that she was also a Zumba instructor and if we would like to get our workout in doing something else, she would lead a class.

My morning was just getting worse and worse. She was incredibly nice to lead the class and her offer seemed to perk up the disappointed cyclists, but anyone who knows me, knows that I hate Zumba. All it does is make me sweat and look stupid. But in the name of journalism, I had to go.

Here’s the quick breakdown of my hatred for Zumba: I hate weird fitness crazes. I’m terrible at footwork and shaking my ass. I find it to be a gross form of cultural appropriation. And I honestly don’t believe it’s that good for you.

I HATE weird fitness crazes. I hate hot yoga. I hate weird green vegetable juices that come in short, clear, non-descript cups. I don’t even know what barre is but I hate that too. I hate anything that gives girls in colorful, tight spandex bought full price in the PINK section of Victoria’s Secret a reason to feel superior to me.

Call me overtly PC, but there is something that makes me innately uncomfortable about fiercely shaking my pelvis to the tune of some Latin American dance remix. I respect that Zumba originated as an offset to salsa dancing and a variety of other latin dances blended together, but then where does the booty shaking come in? In what part of latin culture does twerking emerge? Twerking came out of New Orleans with DJ Jubilee!

Where twerking and krumping originated in black culture, mainstream media has, over time, twisted the dance into something that is overly sexualized and trivialized.

In reality, as our very peppy and very kind last-minute Zumba instructor pointed out during class, shaking your butt takes strength. It works your abdominal and your oblique muscles. She called it “standing crunches,” which in all fairness could be an accurate description. But that’s not the word critics used before reducing Nicki Minaj’s butt to a punchline or calling Beyonce’s dance moves explicit and best left for the bedroom.

Why are twerking, krumping and even pole dancing just fun, creative ways to work your muscles when they take place in a well-lit, normally expensive dance studio, but when executed in any other environment they’re considered gross sexual displays? Instead of changing the dialogue about these activities, it seems that those with the power to do so just remove the stigma for themselves by copying the moves and calling them something else.

As I looked around the room of about a dozen young women, all imitating our instructor’s dance moves a whole lot better than I was, I wondered if any of this had crossed their minds.

I doubted it.

Zumba was supposed to be fun. If I was better at shaking my ass, I would probably have less of a bone to pick with it.

I am seriously bad at Zumba. And maybe I’m an old grump, but it’s no fun for me either. I can’t keep up with the chest shimmying or the hip thrusting. All these girls, especially the nice and perfect-looking instructor, can do it so effortlessly, like they just stepped out of a Missy Elliot music video. Meanwhile, I look like a construction worker clumsily holding on to a jackhammer.

The tagline of Zumba is that it is a “no judgment, no embarrassment zone.” Even if you’re a terrible dancer, there will always be someone there who is even worse.

This has never held true for me. It’s almost like I AM that someone who is always worse. I never see anyone who struggles quite as much as I do. It doesn’t help that every instructor in the history of Zumba is always beautiful and pulls down her ponytail mid class with her hair swinging so forcefully in the air, I think her neck is going to snap. It’s like everyone is J-Lo and then there’s me.

I protected my feeble ego as I participated in a synchronized squat jump by telling myself that Zumba isn’t the greatest workout anyway. A study shows that an hour Zumba class burns about 369 calories, which isn’t bad, but can be easily achieved in a 30-minute stretch on the treadmill in which I will look marginally less stupid.

This hilarious article in The Washington Post also points out that Zumba can be physically dangerous for people who do it regularly, another excuse for me to avoid booty shaking on the reg.

Ultimately, Zumba just isn’t my thing. I get the “fun” factor of it for those who love dancing but don’t feel good enough to join in on something more serious or public. I applaud the idea of finding a way to exercise without actually exercising.
But I’m no J-Lo, so I’d rather sweat quietly in the corner of a cycling class. Maybe the instructor will show up next time.

This article was first published here

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