You can zumba if you want to.

Here’s the short version: A few years ago, I lost weight.

Oh, you wanted more? Okay, here’s the longer version…

June 2006. How adorable is that original Cinquecento?

I’d struggled with weight issues my whole life, which isn’t really a new story these days. In April of 2008, I was well and truly fed up – I suppose literally as well as figuratively. There was no humiliating event, no panicked feeling, nor any inspiring revelation. The turning point for me, in fact, almost went completely unnoticed. I was sitting at an orchard with my sister and my mother, drinking coffee, eating doughnuts, and making a plan to start walking together every Sunday so we could lose weight.

The hubris of it all bitch-slapped me in the face.

Oddly enough, I didn’t make a big deal out of it. I didn’t yet recognize that my lack of overt reaction was actually a sign that things had just clicked into place. Finally acknowledging the truth about what I’d done to myself created a little bubble of calm inside of me, and I knew it was time to start doing something to be and feel better. On Sunday morning, I quietly went for a long walk. The next day, and every day for the rest of the week, I went for walks on my lunch break.

The following week, I pulled up a program I had used in the past to help me track my food. I did some calculations, figured out a reasonable calorie limit, and started tracking every bit of food I ate. At the end of the day, I held myself accountable. To deal with days on which I went a little over my limit, I added some time to my workout the following day.

August 2009.

Two weeks after that first Sunday walk, I stepped on the scale and saw that I had lost 2 pounds. That was enough of a spark to get things going. I dug out my weights and running shoes and got to work.

A year and a half after that sunny day at the orchard, I had lost 70 pounds. I had reached my goal – and then some – by following a very simple plan: eating less and exercising more.

I kept the weight off until last year when, for a combination of reasons, some of the weight started to creep back up. When my favorite skinny jeans started fitting me quite snugly, I knew I couldn’t fool myself anymore. And so, I was faced once again with the task of losing weight. At least this time it’s only 10 instead of 70 pounds that I need to lose.

The very dramatic foot-stamping and shouted promises to get back into shape had very limited effects. I’d have a great week and then, patting myself on the back for the good job I’d done, I would spend the following week sitting on my laurels…and ass.

Then, a few weeks ago, the real turning point came. I now recognized its anti-climactic quality.

It was a zumba commercial. I know what zumba is but had never seen this particular commercial for an Xbox fitness game. In it, a woman is in her living room, wearing uber-tight workout wear, showing her chiseled abs, and sweating up a storm. Then a friend joins her. They looked like they were having So! Much! FUN!

I shuddered and knew that it was not for me. Sure, it looks energetic and it probably burns a lot of calories, (somehow I feel the hipper term “mad calories” is called for instead.) Any cardio workout done for an hour at intensity is going to burn a lot of calories and help a person lose weight. And if zumba, or any other sort of workout-of-the-moment inspires people to start exercising and improve their health, then that’s great.

My preferred equipment. The weights, not the cats. They’re just moral support.

But it’s exactly the kind of thing that has never motivated or inspired me for more than a day or two. Why not? What will motivate me?

Part of it stems from my thought of how incredibly stupid I would feel doing zumba in my living room. Let’s face it; it looks kind of silly. Plus, it’s much too trendy and cool for me. Mainly, though, I don’t want to think of dancing as a workout. I love to dance, but the minute it becomes something I’m doing because I ‘should’ or ‘have to’, then it’s not fun anymore. It becomes a chore instead.

I prefer my dancing to be social or in my room behind closed shades. I don’t want to be distracted by whether or not a particular move was adequately working my core or my latissimus dorsi. I associate dancing with not trying to achieve any objective other than a feeling of freedom, of being completely in the moment, of simply having fun.

What it comes down to is that I’m very much a cards-on-the-table kind of a girl. If I’m exercising, I want to know that it’s exercise. I enjoy more traditional exercises and feeling the direct effect of my actions. I like feeling strong when I’m lifting weights, or the clearing of mental cobwebs when I’m jogging.

As I started to analyze the reasons why I was so opposed to a perfectly good form of exercise, that familiar calm settled upon me. I knew what I wanted. I needed to get back that feeling of strength and clarity that I had when I was regularly doing my jumping jacks and lunges, or driving out to the hiking trails to spend an hour sweating and breathing in the smell of the mountain.

So, to banish these sneaky 10 pounds once and for all, I’m avoiding what’s hot and trendy right now, and instead going back to my tried and true: less food and more exercise; fewer excuses and more accountability.

I’m sure some days, the calisthenics just won’t cut it. On those occasions, to shake things up a little bit, I’ll close the shades, crank the tunes up to 11, and dance around my living room. But it won’t be zumba. It will probably look more like this:

How do you like to work out?


11 comments on “You can zumba if you want to.

  1. Way to go, Leo! You mentioned before that you had lost a fair amount of weight, but the transformation is impressive. (And yes, that Cinquecento is adorable.) I too like lifting weights – and dancing, not so much. A severe lack of coordination and an aversion to public humiliation meant that I attended an aerobics class once – and never went back.

    I’ve got a tiny frame – little bird bones and delicate joints, so high impact exercise like running doesn’t suit me well, but I love, love, love walking as fast as I can… which is pretty fast. Last summer I walked four miles in 55 minutes nearly every morning for about three months and felt fantastic. I’m also a big fan of bike commuting. It’s like getting a free bonus hour of workout time, replacing the hour that is usually sat on my rear in the car. The math works out like this: 1 hour in the gym + ~1 hour (round-trip) in the car = 2 hours (round-trip) bike commute. I haven’t lost any “free” time but I gain an hour of cardio. Can’t wait to try it here in England, but the roads are significantly less bike friendly than Portland’s were. >:-S

    • limr says:

      The one thing I really miss about living in a city or larger town is the ability to walk or ride a bike to school/work. I loved being able to do that. Right now, I have a 25-mile commute, about 2/3 of which is highway. No way I could do that on a bike in a reasonable amount of time. But to move closer to work would mean not only more expensive housing, but it would also put me in a much more crowded area and that would stress me out. I like my space 🙂

      The roads in England don’t really leave much space for cars, much less cars plus a bike. If nothing else, the English love their walking and there are trails everywhere, so I bet that would work out even if the biking doesn’t quite.

  2. […] through the torture of hearing any more about my tasks for this week, I offer a new post over at Modern Day Dinosaur.  I’ll give you a hint: there are before and after pictures, and Men Without Hats! Share […]

  3. margaret21 says:

    Yes, I think zumba in my living room woulds be plain daft. In the local fitness centre it would be torture. All that competitiveness… I’m with you all the way. Stretching exercises to keep me supple, weight bearing to keep my muscles and bones toned and strong, power-walking to keep me fit and burn the calories: I know what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. But walking, in quiet woods or on more scenic mountain paths. Well, that’s my time for me, to recharge my mental batteries. And if it’s good for me physically too, then that’s a bonus. Zumba doesn’t fit in to any of that. Phew!

    • limr says:

      It just seems way too fussy for me. I think dancing around might be fun once in a while if I’m not in the mood for my regular cardio, but I wouldn’t want to do it all the time, regardless of the style. When I was in grad school, my friends and I went salsa dancing quite a bit, but again – that was dancing. We weren’t going to a workout class.

      I wish I had the scenic views that you have in this post:
      But ours in the Hudson Valley aren’t too bad either 🙂

  4. Lenore Diane says:

    Good for you, Leonore! Interestingly enough, I’ve been ignoring my own weight lately. I’ve gained 15 pounds in the past 5 months. I’ve ignored the creeping up of every pound. This morning the number on the scale frightened me, and I realized I had better do something. I’m not in the moment of clarity yet – but I can tell I am approaching it. As sure as the clock jumps an hour ahead this weekend bringing with it more daylight (so to speak), I think I’ll find myself moving more and eating less.

    Again I say, good for you! Your taste in music is dandy, too!

    • limr says:

      I don’t know how I convinced myself for so long that I was just a little bloated. I think I had to stop avoiding the question last semester when I realized I wore skirts to work every single day because my pants were getting to tight for my taste. I’ve been avoiding the scale since Christmas, which is a deliberate move, not to hide from the truth, but to delay the truth until I’m strong enough to handle it. If I’m already firmly established in my good habits, it’s easier for me to see a ‘bad’ number and not get derailed. Ah, mental trickery 🙂

      Dontcha just love that song? 🙂 And I love how absurd the video is.

  5. Wow, you’re beautiful in both pictures. What an impressive transformation.

    I’ve heard mixed reviews about Zumba. I haven’t tried it, but based on taking the reviewers into consideration, it seems that my more extroverted friends love Zumba, while the introverts tended to hang in for that one session, vowing never to go back. I’m an introvert. (No, really.)

    My workout history was another four paragraphs. I decided to spare you that and just say that you’ve found the key combination: moving more, eating less, and enjoying what you do!

    • limr says:

      Thanks, Hippie! It makes sense that extroverted people would enjoy zumba – or probably most workout classes – more than introverts. I don’t mind going to the gym, but I still prefer my workout tapes in my living room, and I never ever liked any kind of class other than yoga class. When I go walking or jogging, I like to go at times when no one else is on the trail. Oh yeah, I’m totally introverted, too 🙂 True story.

  6. gojulesgo says:

    I should point out you look gorgeous in both pictures, but also — congratulations! That’s a huge accomplishment! I think moreso the change in mindset than the number of pounds. I really enjoyed reading this post; I’ve been going through a startlingly similar journey this past year! (56 lbs down since last June; 33 to go!) People want to believe there’s a secret, but it really does just comes down to the ho-hum, ‘eat less, move more.’ I think where it gets interesting, is exactly what you pointed out here: being accountable, and being real with yourself. If I ‘have’ to write or ‘have’ to bake a cake for a birthday, it’s not fun, yet I really love doing both of those things. After the initial couple of months, I’ve been losing weight really slowly (in fact I’ve been in a rut for a month now, but I think it’s stress) because I finally accepted that I had to change my lifestyle. I can’t diet and then be done. And I refuse to start a calorie limit or exercise routine that won’t be a part of day-to-day life, so I just try to eat the foods I love in moderation, walk the dog every day and occasionally hike, swim and do Pilates, all of which I genuinely enjoy (I love being outside, too!). Everytime I think, “I could just go hardcore for the next two months and finish this,” I remember that that will just make me miserable and put me right back where I’ve always been – yo-yoing!

    Three cheers to you, seriously fabulous post, and to heck with Zumba 😉

    • limr says:

      Thanks Jules, and congrats right back atcha! Go Jules Go! 🙂 56 pounds is awesome, and that last 33 will definitely go, too. I used to hit these little 2-3 week plateaus every 10 pounds and I’d start up again. It was a little weird, but maybe it’s the body’s way of taking a little breather before pushing on. And stress really is much more of a factor than people expect.

      I soooo know what you mean about being tempted to go “hard core” and get it over with, but for me, and it seems for you too, slow and steady is the way to do it if we want the results to stick. It’s got to be sustainable.

      To heck with Zumba indeed! 🙂

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