Why the hell did I go to an advanced level Zumba class?

I struggle with exercise in a huge way. If I manage to get into it at all, whatever habits I build don’t last long. It seems whenever I find something I like, it loses its luster quickly.

This has happened in the past with many different things. Cardio, strength training, various videos for both, various gyms for both. I started running for a bit, but that didn’t last long, either. I’ve never been able to find something I like and can stick with.

It’s something I’ve written a fair amount about in the past. (Tag: Exercise)

It is, therefore, quite a big deal that at present, I have worked out three times a week for four weeks in a row.

Introduction to Zumba

It all started with some free videos on Amazon Prime, which I talked about in a blog post (Depression and Exercise). The one that I liked best was my first experience with Zumba. Yes, it’s true. It’s taken about ten years for me to finally give Zumba a shot. What can I say? I guess I’m someone who is trepidatious about trying anything that looks like a fad.

Give whatever it is a good ten or fifteen years to get established, though, and maybe then I’ll give it a try.

Zumba Awesome Legs & Booty is a five-episode series. The main instructors, the ones that lead four of the five workouts, are annoying as hell. They shout, they’re too cheery, they make me feel more angry than motivated.

The third episode, though, is led by Beto Perez. It was the one I found most enjoyable and, I now know, is the only “real” Zumba class in the series.

Beto Perez faces away from the camera, towards the other people working out with him, throughout most of the video. There is very little chatter. He leads mostly through visual cues and somehow, this works.

I loved it. The music was great and I didn’t even notice the time going by.

Plus, let’s be honest here. The view didn’t suck.

First Zumba Class: Beginner Level

I decided to try a Zumba class at my gym because I recognized I was starting to get bored with the videos I had access to (and the instructors were starting to make me feel stabby).

I had never done a real, in-person cardio class before.

When I arrived, there was a woman sitting on a bench outside the room where the class was to be held. She was small, somewhat fragile-looking, and I guessed her to be in her mid-70s.

I asked if she was there for the Zumba class, to which she said yes, and started telling me all about the class and the instructor. The instructor is often late on Fridays, I learned. She teaches two other classes after the Zumba class, but she is always late for the first class she teaches that day.

There are also classes taught by the same instructor on Mondays and Wednesdays at 3. I definitely should start going to all of them, too, I was told.

It was delightful to be welcomed so heartily. The woman was surprised I wouldn’t be able to attend the Monday and Wednesday classes, though. “Oh,” she said. “You’re still working.”

Hoo boy. Yes, I’m still working. I’m 43 years old and 20+ years away from being able to retire. I made a mental note to never leave the house without makeup on again.

Everyone else who showed up was around the same age as my new friend. The attendees all seemed to know each other well. Everyone was equally delighted to meet me and welcome me into the fold. It was tremendously adorable.

About 15 minutes after the scheduled start time the instructor finally showed. The instructor, too, appeared quite a bit older than me, but not in any way fragile.

The music started and the class began.

As was the case with the Beto Perez video I liked, the instructor faced away from the class and provided visual guidance only. The walls of the room were mirrored, so she could see us and we could see her easily.

I found the moves easy to follow, and I did my best to exaggerate them a bit to make sure I got a good workout.

A couple of times, the instructor made eye contact with me in the mirror and made a point of standing up straighter while looking directly at me. She was helping me remember to keep my shoulders back and my torso upright. I appreciated the guidance and, even more so, the fact that it wasn’t done in a way that others would notice. I didn’t feel singled out and I was grateful.

The whole experience felt perfect to me. I did not feel out of my element, and according to the activity monitor I wear, I got a great workout.

The friend I had made before class approached me as the class ended and told me, with some pride, that she was impressed with how well I had followed along. I must be a good sight learner, she said.

It was exactly the encouragement and support I needed.

Second Zumba Class: Intermediate/Advanced Level

On Sunday, I was ready to try again. There was a beginner level class with a different instructor at 2:30.

However, I had plans at 4 and a class that ended at 3:30 wasn’t going to work.

So, I attempted an intermediate/advanced level class, because it was at 12:45.

Friends, this is what we call “not a good idea.”

I was definitely the most out of shape person in the room. I kept up, though. I learned the steps, and I mostly was able to do all of them.

After a while, it was clear I wouldn’t be able to do the arm motions along with the footwork. My arms just kind of… wouldn’t.

By the end, I was having trouble making my feet move as quickly as wanted them to, as well.

But for the most part, I definitely kept up!

Except something seemed to be wrong with my legs. I was ready and willing to do the movements with a bit more pep, but somehow I couldn’t quite get my legs to receive the messages from my brain.

The Aftermath of the Advanced Class

Once the class was over, I was dizzy and exhausted. Some people get flushed when they exert themselves. I did the opposite. Rather than blood rushing to my face, it all drained from my face. I caught a glimpse of myself (I avoided looking at myself during both classes). I absolutely looked like someone who was about to faint.

Frankly, I rather felt that way, too.

It seemed it might be wise to wait to drive anywhere, but I didn’t know what to do other than to leave. The next class was streaming in and it felt weird to just go sit in the lobby and do nothing.

Thus, I got in the car and started the 8-minute drive home.

Four minutes later, I pulled into the parking lot at Walgreens. I needed to pick up a prescription anyway. We’ll just go with that as the reason I stopped. And wandering the aisles for a while checking out all the new offerings in the cosmetics department? I’ve totally been meaning to do that for ages anyway!

Ultimately I made it home, showered, and went over to my friends’ house for dinner as planned. I could barely stay awake and I felt dizzy and out of it all evening. What a wonderful dinner guest I must have been.

As you might imagine, though, I slept wonderfully that night!

Plans for the Next Class

I still felt really out of it all day yesterday (Monday). I had gone to work early so I could leave early. I wanted to go to the 3:00 beginner level Zumba class with my geriatric friends. When the time came, though, I simply did not feel up to it. I still felt horribly drained and woozy.

I chatted with my cousin, who is an athlete, and he suggested that my electrolytes were probably low. I took some calcium and magnesium, which helped somewhat.

I still felt off all evening, though.

It is now Tuesday morning and I’m still feeling a little out of it from Sunday’s class. I’ll stop on the way to work and get some Gatorade or something. Hopefully, it will help.

(Update, 9 AM: I’m so out of it that I forgot to stop at the supermarket. I looked for an appropriate beverage at the cafe on the ground floor of my office building, but didn’t find anything. On the plus side, though, while chatting with the guy who works there I caught myself saying, “I don’t know how to world today,” so I think I’ve found my new catchphrase.)

Conclusion: There’s no way in hell I would do another intermediate/advanced level Zumba class. Not for a very long time. I’ll stick with the one for seniors for now.


There was a lot of guilt involved in choosing to skip the Monday class. I knew I didn’t want to go to it. But I hated missing it, too.

At some point during the evening, I made some interesting realizations.

There was no reason to feel guilty about skipping the class. Between the classes and videos at home, I had done pretty intense workouts 4 days in a row. It was perfectly acceptable to take a rest day.

But also, I realized along with the guilt I was feeling somewhat disappointed. I had enjoyed Friday’s class. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but… I’m really looking forward to attending a [beginner level] Zumba class again sometime soon!

Wow. How cool is it that I’ve found something new for exercise that I actually enjoy doing?

Trying Zumba at Home

There are tons of videos to help someone get started before, or instead of, going to an in-person class. I looked at YouTube and was quickly overwhelmed by the number of options, so here are some curated lists that might prove helpful.

10 of the Most Fun Zumba Videos Ever


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