This post may contain affiliate links that help Mike keep the posts coming but cost you zero extra. Please see my disclosure page for more details.
If you missed the first half of this article, feel free to check it out here before reading the conclusion. There I explained the purpose of this post, in case you were thinking, “Why, on earth, would a man want to do Zumba?” If you already understand my craziness, please feel free to press on. Thanks for coming back!
Last time we covered my experiences in Pilates and a boot camp at my daughter’s preschool. This time, we’re getting down to business. We’ve got Zumba and Dance Fusion…
Before lacing up the Nikes and setting foot on that parquet floor, my tank-top and running shorts wearing self sat in my car and thought, “Really man? Just stand up, get in there, and get this over with. Who knows? Maybe you’ll love it.” A hopeless attempt at getting me to believe I’d enjoy what’s coming down the pike. Add that to the fact that I ‘slept’ on Clara’s floor the night before (gotta love the teething/cold combo) and you get one lukewarm exerciser. But hey, it’s a Monday – you know my thoughts about exercising on Mondays.
By now (Pilates and ladies boot camp), I’m over the fact of being significantly outnumbered by women. It may be awkward for them but not me. No. I’m just worried about the fact that I have no idea what Zumba is, where it came from, or which Justin Timberlake (JT) song I’ll have to ‘dance’ to in the coming minutes. 3 minutes ‘till game time I stand up, close the car door, and start walking the green mile.
I knew it was for real when walking into the aerobics room a friendly classmate made eye contact, nodded questionably, and asked, “You’re staying for Zumba??”
I smiled half-heartedly, returned the nod, and said, “Yep. And I’m pumped to be here!” She seemed equal parts shocked and impressed. Now I’m committed.
Some of the other ladies must have overheard, or at least noticed the presence of a Y-chromosome (a guy), because they all wanted to know, “what’s this guy’s story?” Blog article was explained in the next 2 minutes and after that they either wanted me to workout by them so I wouldn’t get too lost or volunteered to take my picture during the class (thank you to that lady). Like the others, this was a welcoming group.
They didn’t seem intimidated or put off by my presence. If anything, they were looking forward to the entertainment.
What did I get myself into??
If nothing else, I will be infinitely more prepared for wedding season.
This was by far the most intimidating class I had done to-date. My JT thirst was quenched with the first song of the class. With Can’t stop the feelingpounding sound waves through the air and permeating my veins, I was lost in total dance-step-land without a guide. The dumbbells (admittedly small), yoga mat, and aerobics step I had by my station (because that’s what the other ladies did) were just an afterthought as grapevine morphed into a 1-2 number… I may have even noticed a waltz in there. No I didn’t… I don’t even know what that would look like.
The song ended and I was sweating bullets. 2 reasons – 1) my heart rate was way high, meaning this would be one heck of a workout, and 2) HOW AM I GOING TO GET THROUGH THIS??? I was a bit nervous, to say the least. What made it worse was that the instructor was facing us. Everything was backwards – by the time I realized the right leg was moving, it was already planted and the left was swinging forward, now backward. Hip shake, arm roll. Dude? At one point I turned around in a last-ditch attempt to follow the movements. That helped slightly.
Thank God that during the second song we began incorporating our aerobics step. What was once a foreign land of unicorns and floating ballerinas now became, if only slightly, more similar to a football agility session. I could survive this. I have quick feet and I used to be an athlete.
I had hope. More than that, I couldn’t back out now. The classmates and instructor all knew the plan. How could I write another article about fitness if I walked out of this class? That’d be weak. I wouldn’t do that.
After the initial shock of song 1, this workout was a ton of fun. 45 minutes flew by in what seemed like 10. I could’ve gone for another hour. I’m not just saying that because I know these ladies plan to read this. No. This was a quality workout and I had a blast. What’s more, it was difficult writing notes after this class. Sitting in my car I was drenched in sweat and after a few seconds the pen wouldn’t write on the paper due to excessive sweat coverage. This workout was for real.
We incorporated squats, plank, lunges, step work, and yes, dancing. I’ll even admit I did learn a few moves. I’m not promising flawless execution but I will caution those around me on the dance floor in the coming wedding months – prepare to be impressed.
Moments you want to cry
We all debriefed following the class and the word ‘impressed’ was not used. However, the class and instructor all seemed satisfied with my performance. I did earn a few compliments, but I was most happy to hear the class wasn’t put off by the presence of a guy. Entertained, curious, and moderately satisfied with the moves – yes. Uncomfortable – no. As a trailblazer in a foreign land, this made me smile. These ladies were a tight-knit, yet open, group and I was completely grateful for their warm reception.
Now I needed to hydrate. There was a lot of DNA left behind in that gym – definitely the mark of a great workout. You know what? I’ll probably go back to this class at some point. That’s how much I enjoyed it.
Completing this class was the equivalent to a career minor leaguer getting called up to the big leagues for a weekend… And facing this generation’s Randy Johnson. In 1 word – challenging. Not for the faint of heart, Dance Fusion was an hour of cardio-heavy dancing. No dumbbells, no aerobics step, just you and the floor. And sweat – lots of sweat.
Sure, they threw in a couple rounds of pulse squats to the rhythm and plank work but dance was king here, and here, the king reigned supreme.
As this was the last in the round of 4 workouts, my ego was sufficiently checked at the door and I was locked in. I had zero concern about being the 1 male in a sea of 12 females. All that concerned me was mimicking the movements of that instructor. It was her and me… No-one else.
Like anything else, there is a learning curve to this class. If you are able to put aside the fact that you’re going to look foolish at times and just take the experience for what it is – a workout – you’re ahead of the game. Toward the end of the hour I felt much more comfortable with following along and did notice that a couple other classmates had the same struggles, which was nice to see. Dance wasn’t only punishing to the fellas, the women were equally affected.
One of the many things I enjoyed about this class was that the instructor faced the same direction as the participants, and used the mirror to make sure us minions kept in line. Because of this, I was only 1 second behind rather than 2. I didn’t have to invert the movements in my mind before acting on them – big win.
Another thing I respected was the fact that I was sweating bullets 10 minutes into this thing. The instructor seemed pretty fit and now I can see why.
If we thought Zumba would help with wedding season dance moves, I had not seen anything yet. I went from a 1 (out of 10) all the way up to a 3 just from taking this course. That’s a 300% improvement.
This is the class that yielded the intro to last week’s article… Here’s a refresher:
Sweat was pouring off my nose while I was struggling to hold plank position, all while waiting for the next sequence of movements. My eyes were fixed on the wooden floor below my face to avoid any awkward moments. Here comes the next sequence. Quick downward dog, back to plank, then a hip rock to the right, rock left, back to center, and hold. Mary Sue is in front of me and I wanted to avoid creeper status at all costs, so I stared down at the floor and awaited audible instruction.
Booty man (I was going to link to this song but frankly, it doesn’t pass the PG test. You get the idea by the title. If you’re crazy curious – look it up) was playing in the background and the women seemed to be loving it. Me? I couldn’t help but feel completely out of place. After all, I was lone-wolfing it in a Dance Fusion class with 12 ladies ranging from ages middle-school to what I’m guessing are 50s. Now we’re back on our feet for grapevine (don’t worry, I don’t know what that is either…).
“Shake those hips!!” The instructor yelled as she seems to stare through my face to the back wall.
“This is how they shake…” I thought in the sheepest of tones. Then came the thought, “Can’t we go back to plank? I’m strong and I can dominate plank… I’ll keep my eyes on the floor, I promise.”
Our instructor must not have had ESP because my prayers weren’t answered. “Right, Left, right, right, left…” My brain was working on full tilt trying to follow along while my body was close to empty trying to play catchup.
This was a 3-front war and the enemy was closing ranks and surrounding me. The crazy thing, though, is that a tiny part of me loves it. What’s more, this is the fourth experience of its kind and I still haven’t quit. I think I’m crazy…
This was the mental and physical tug-of-war that played out over the course of the hour. Dance Fusion whipped me and I’m a better man for it.
Moments you want to cry
I know my scale tops out at 5. Still, I’m going with 10 here.
Some of the ladies seemed skeptical of my presence at the onset but I couldn’t help but notice the respect they showed afterward. I heard a few ‘nice job!’ comments lobbed my way and the instructor even came over for a chat. Susan (the instructor) seemed pretty stoked to have a guy in the class. She mentioned this workout is a tough one but she’d love to see more guys step out of their comfort zones and give it a shot. “It’s a great workout and our group doesn’t feel uncomfortable with a guy in the class at all. We’re all here to workout and I think having a guy here helped push some of these ladies to work harder.”
Would I recommend this workout to a friend and/or try it again?
Most definitely. I may need to mentally gear up for this one again but yes, I’m in for a reboot.
I accomplished 2 amazing things by taking these four classes. 1) I’m in better shape and more well versed in terms of exercise than I was when I started, and 2) I have so much more ammunition to embarrass my wife on the dance floor this summer than ever before. Previously, I had no clue what I was doing but now… Now I have false hope that I might remember some of these steps in the coming months, and that’s improvement from past years.
This experiment started as a cute idea that had the potential to make for a decent story, but coming out of this I know I’m not done exploring these classes. I was challenged mentally and physically, and most often had a ton of fun. The workouts were all great and the community was welcoming. The only negative was my perception before beginning.
What will they think? – Who cares (by the way, they don’t. They just want a workout like the next guy or gal).
Will I be welcome? – Yes.
Will I keep up? – Yes, if you stick with this whole exercise thing.
Is it worth my time? – 100% yes.
Why can’t dudes do Zumba too? Dude, I have no idea why they don’t. They can, and if they’re physically able to – they should.
If you’re there for the right reasons, because you’re promoting your own fitness and therefore quality of life, and you’re not breaking any gym rules or laws, why not go? I did a slight amount of research for this article and found no bylaw stating dudes cannot do Zumba, Dance Fusion, Pilates, boot camps, or any other exercise class.
These classes put me WAY out of my comfort zone – but I’m glad I did them because, as a whole, it was a great experience in terms of fitness and for my personal growth.
Get yourself out there and don’t be afraid to get your dude-sweat on. I had a ton of fun and I’m not done (we’ll see if there may be a third installment of this series in the future… Let me know your class suggestions!). And ladies, thanks for welcoming me into your Zumba-dance filled world. It’s a new day out there team, and that calls for new norms. I never thought I’d hear myself say this (see myself write this) – I’ll see you on the dance floor!
Thanks for reading!
If you’re interested in discovering a better version of yourself – whether with fitness, finance, or family – then subscribe below to MikedUp Blog’s FREE newsletter and let’s improve together!