#80: The Aerobics Membership Card

How to Zumba your way to empowerment

It all began one Sunday lunch time in January. I had been to a 21st birthday party the night before. I forgot to bring water. I was wearing a Durham Book Festival T Shirt. I clearly did not look like someone about to engage in exercise. But I stepped into a small hall in our student’s union and grapevined my way into a love of Zumba and membership of the Aerobics Society. I felt like a giraffe on caffeine, flailing my limbs around inconsistently, and injuring strangers along the way. Afterwards, my friend and I dashed into the café to glug down water, rectifying our rookie error. But I was back next week even more eager than before!

I won’t repeat what Katie said in The Swimming Goggles, in which she makes several insightful comments about the pressures of PE in school, but I will say that, like her, I never really enjoyed PE, that I never identified as sporty, and that I can be very self-conscious about exercise and my body. Like Katie and swimming, though, I have finally found my niche.

Zumba is a type of aerobics inspired by Latin dance. At the front is an instructor, shouting steps, smiling, and possibly mouthing lyrics, as the rest of the class copies. The music is upbeat, a mix of recognisable tunes and specific Zumba music. There are many different moves including squats, lunges, grapevine, box step, spins, and often some giggle-inducing thrusts. By now I have my favourite Zumba song (‘Timber’) and move (‘the sweepy one’).

I never thought I would feel so invested in a type of exercise as to become a member of a society, but that is what this card proves. It proves that every Sunday, even when I am stressed, tired, or a little bit ill, I know an hour of Zumba will improve my mood.

Describing Zumba I find myself using embarrassing clichés to rave about the ‘positive energy’ in the room, but it is so true that I shall stand by the phrase. There is a buzz in the air as a diverse group (although admittedly mainly women) work out together, and bump into each other, and laugh a lot, and gossip in between songs, and generally enjoy themselves regardless of the existence or non-existence of abs, or how many specific calories they are burning.

I am going to descend even further into soppy embarrassment and tell you that the moment I feel most confident and most present in my body is when I am swinging my hips, arms stretched wide, as the room is filled with the sound of ‘I’m Sexy and I Know It’. I must look absolutely ridiculous, but I absolutely do not feel it. The whole room is swinging their hips, the whole room is grinning inside as they do something that might look a tiny bit silly (or sexy). It’s liberating. It’s empowering.

Apparently 15 million people in the world take Zumba classes and I know I will be part of this statistic for much longer! If you fancy trying it within the comfort of your own living room, you can find routines on YouTube. (Here is a beginner’s routine. Don’t worry if you get it all wrong — that is half the fun!) And even if you remain unconvinced by Zumba, I suggest that next time you are washing up, you stick on ‘I’m Sexy and I Know it’, and swing your hips like there is no tomorrow.

Because guess what?

You’re sexy and you know it.

Eleanor is an aspiring journalist using her skills in over-analysis to write a weekly blog post about everyday objects. To read more, check out her blog Object, a collaboration with fellow Medium blogger Katie.
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