It was the fall of 2011. I was a senior in college and had the whole world ahead of me. I barely had any responsibilities at the time. My parents probably hoped that my schoolwork was my number one priority, but I’ll admit the truth here: my real number one priority was having the best time I possibly could before involuntarily entering into the real world.

Unfortunately, focusing on having extraordinary amounts of fun can really take a toll on one’s body. I learned sooner rather than later that I would need to take up some extra gym activity in order to ensure I didn’t get out of control. Luckily for me, there were plenty of classes offered at our newly renovated gym on campus, so I dove right in.

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Have you tried zumba?
Flickr by roanokecollege

I had tried yoga before and I knew it wasn’t the right fit for me. While others find yoga relaxing and calming, I found myself thinking far too much and getting both bored and frustrated from standing in the same positions that were straining my body for so long. So, I decided to go the opposite route and try cardio kickboxing. The class was an hour and a half long and after about 45 minutes, I officially gave up and admitted to myself that there was no way this was going to work for me unless I wanted to have an asthma attack.

I felt like Goldilocks.

Yoga was too slow for me, but cardio kickboxing nearly caused my death and I wasn’t ready to kick it just yet. Then there it was, right in front of me: Zumba. I’d always been interested in trying out a class because I did four types of dance between the ages of 3 and 18 and dancing just feels natural to me. I’m not exactly what one would refer to as a “good” dancer; I have some rhythm, I suppose, but both my mother and my dance teacher would (and still will) tell me that I’m absolutely not graceful. One look at me and I feel you can tell I’m not necessarily an athletic person. But despite all this, I love dancing. I’m not someone embarrassed to dance in public. I’m instead someone who realizes while standing in an aisle at the supermarket that I’ve been shuffling my feet around for five minutes.

I think the best way to enjoy something is to not be very good at it because then you won’t take yourself too seriously or expect too much out of yourself. Some friends (who are also not amazing dancers) and I had tried to go to Zumba several times in the past, but because of scheduling conflicts, we would always arrive when the class was full. But senior year, it felt like fate. Classes met Monday and Wednesday nights and I had no academic classes on either of those days. I was making this happen.

From the first time I did Zumba, I could tell I loved it. It’s just the right amount of activity and movement to really get your heart rate going, but not enough to make you feel like you are going to pass out. It easily became my twice a week hobby, and although I started off going with friends and standing in the back of the class, by about a month in second semester, I was going alone and standing right up front.

I love the fact that I found out I love Zumba. When I’m dancing, I don’t feel like I’m “working out”. I’m completely aware that I am exercising, but I’m enjoying myself and not forcing myself to keep going. I think that’s the key with working out: using machines can get tedious, and I know that I personally feel pained immediately if attempting to lift weights or do most physical movement. But, when you’re doing something you genuinely enjoy and you’re not thinking about while you’re doing it, you’re going to get a lot more out of your workout than you’d realize. People who don’t like working out, I totally agree; I don’t like working out either. But I do like having a hobby that fits what I’m looking for and I have fun while doing.

I suggest from the bottom of my heart that everyone else go out and find something that they have fun while doing that conveniently also helps you feel and look better along the way.

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