When my wife gets into something, she really gets into it.
Sometimes she immerses herself in a new writer, or a musical artist, or a television show. I was thrilled when she got into Breaking Bad and crock-pot cooking. Her love of Carol King, Nancy Grace, and Auntie Mame…not so much.
My wife’s latest obsession is Zumba, and this dance fitness class is changing her, both inside and out.
And—by the power of holy matrimony—it’s changing me, too.
Ever since my wife suffered a stroke nearly two years ago, we’ve been trying to live a healthier lifestyle. I joined a gym. My wife cut out sweets, and dropped 25 pounds. We recently quit smoking.
Still, I was surprised when my wife said she wanted to give Zumba a try. Her post-stroke recovery has been amazing, but she’s still unsteady on her feet sometimes. I was worried a fast-paced workout might overwhelm her.
Zumba is essentially aerobics class with loud Latin music. In fact, Zumba was created in the mid-’90s when aerobics instructor Alberto “Beto” Perez forget his standard music, and had to improvise a workout class on the fly using the salsa and merengue tapes he had in his backpack. His students loved moving to the high-energy Latin beats, and the “Zumba Fitness Party” was born.
My wife went to a local Zumba class “just to observe,” and was immediately hooked. She joined the fitness party that night, and came home smiling, breathless, and sweaty.
“It was so much fun!” she said. “It wasn’t like exercise. It was like dancing!”
Her enthusiasm was infectious, so I agreed to go to a Zumba class with her.
Geezers Laugh At Me
My wife’s Zumba instructor, the amazing Mindy Gansley, teaches a Zumba Gold class on weekday mornings. Zumba Gold is a milder version of Zumba, geared toward seniors and others who might have mobility issues.
This will be a breeze, I thought. I do 45 minutes on the elliptical at the gym. I can shuffle around with a bunch of geezers for an hour. No problem.
Yes problem. I’m sure this won’t shock anyone, but I was wrong.
Zumba kicked my ass. I was a huffing, puffing, sweaty mess after two songs. I flailed about, trying to “keep my core tight,” but feeling very jiggly. I’m a musician—why couldn’t I keep the beat or find the rhythm? I spent the whole class trying to mimic Mindy, and failing to catch up. I felt like an uncoordinated dork, and I’m sure I looked like one, too. I got the feeling the senior citizens in class were laughing behind my back
“I should’ve brought my sweat towel,” I told my wife after class. I always brought one to the gym, but didn’t think I’d need it for Zumba. Silly me. I was drippy and gross.
“Next time?” She asked, a bit of hope creeping into her voice.
I’m a lousy dancer. There’s a big difference between playing music and moving to it. And salsa and merengue isn’t my favorite style either. (How about Heavy Metal Zumba? Anybody with me?)
But I knew I’d be back at Zumba again. Why?
Because watching my wife move to the music, smiling from ear to ear, and beaming like a schoolgirl, was a sight to behold. It was like traveling back to a less troubled time, before she started dating a pudgy musician with two left feet, back when she would cut loose and really dance.
She looked as graceful as before her stroke, as carefree as before we had kids, happy in a way I hadn’t seen her look in far too long. Her beauty stole my breath and got my heart racing more completely than any cardio workout ever could.
I don’t really care what effect Zumba has on my wife’s body. I thought she looked great when she was 25 pounds heavier (the weight went to all the right places, and her curves were kickin’!)
But I like the effect Zumba has on my wife’s inner self, like it’s reawakening some dormant spirit, re-nourishing her soul. Damn, I’m a fool. Why didn’t I take her dancing more often? Maybe there’s still time.
“Absolutely! I’ll Zumba with you again,” I said. “I’ll dance with you anytime, my love. Always. Forever.”
Originally published in Wayne TODAY, February 2013