I have always admired people who have a dedication to exercise and intense physical activity in their spare time. Several of my friends have run marathons, taken part in iron woman contests and regularly attended boot camps. They’ve spoken about their exercise preferences – high frequency, low intensity; low frequency, high intensity. My preference – low (to no) frequency, low intensity.
By low intensity I am largely referring to my love of long walks which tend to be pretty chilled by their very nature and work wonders when it comes to giving mental clarity whilst gradually increasing fitness levels. I am lucky to have London’s Thames river on my doorstep and one of my favourite walks is around Putney Bridge and back, taking in Hammersmith’s pub and house boat-lined shore and Bishops Park, covering an impressive amount of greenery by London standards.
Over the years I have actually played several sports for fun (believe it or not), mainly over ten years ago but I figure that still counts. I played netball competitively when I was very young and tennis non-competitively on Saturday mornings when I was at high school. Non-competitive tennis largely involved me learning how to hit a tennis ball without it flying out of the court and serving within the lines. Needless to say, there was no risk of me getting good enough to play a complete game from start to finish but I had fun in the process. There were also short stints with touch rugby and swimming, none of which really stuck and which I largely dreaded attending.
In London I tried my hand at increasing my fitness levels by attending a boot camp once. This was obviously not of my own accord, but thanks in large part to my very fit friends who attended it on a regular basis. My goal – get through it in one piece, preferably by not being the worst person there. Not lofty ambitions but I made it, running countless laps of the field in Hyde Park, crawling through mud, and doing those high jump things that exhaust you.
I was proud of myself for getting up early on a Sunday morning and going (an accomplishment in and of itself). But the train ride home covered in mud left much to be desired and the fatigue and aches for a full week afterwards convinced me that I needed a break from boot camps. Permanently, it turned out.
That brings me full circle to the present day and Zumba – my saving grace when it comes to elevating my fitness goals. I had seen the infomercials for Zumba years ago and never had any real desire to try it out…until I turned 31 and I realised that walking alone would not necessarily be enough to get me through the long winter months whilst still fitting into my jeans. Winter means Christmas feasts and comfort food and this combination is not good for one’s waistline.
So my sister convinced me to join her for Zumba class, the main criteria being that it be in close walking distance to our flat. I could easily get a gym membership at work and go to classes there, but I am not one for fitting in lunch break gym sessions, the main issue being that I simply can’t be bothered with having to lug in gear to the office, shower and get myself back into presentable shape by 2pm. I have great admiration for people who can do this.
Anyhow, we found a Zumba class that is less than ten minutes from our flat and I managed to drag myself down there one chilly December night. We got there a bit late which already put us on the back foot as far as getting into the moves goes and being a complete novice I struggled to keep up with the moves through the whole class. I was conscious of my flailing limbs being out of sync as we moved across the floor, moving in the wrong direction as we shimmied and did various hip hop, samba and salsa moves. In the middle of it all I realised that this was precisely why I had never taken a dance class – I suck at choreographed dancing. This is despite actually loving to dance, but only if it’s freestyle and I don’t need to co-ordinate myself with other people in any way.
By the end I realised that it was going to be sink or swim and that I’d need to get those dance moves down pat if I was ever going to be able to show my face around there again. My sister and I vowed to return. When we did, I decided to chill out, kind of follow the moves and just have fun – all in the Zumba spirit. I am a convert.