The Zumba class was filled with people from teens to seniors. The weights ranged from size 2 to 22. And the instructor, telling us she had lost 50 pounds doing Zumba, ran through the usual warnings–don’t push, don’t do what you can’t do, just keep moving. She then broke into a description of the first dance, it involved slides and hop-hop-hop, and turns and some sort of hand jive.
She faced us and the music began. Most of the people in the class knew this routine. I didn’t. Hands waved, hips tied with jangling belly-dancing scarves pulsed, and the dance was on. I had no idea what to do. My brain has trouble seeing someone facing the class and transferring it to movements facing the teacher. I hop-hop-hopped–right into a woman who was experienced enough to have successfully translated the movements of the instructor.
There were whole routines that I marched through rather than danced through. Sweat began to streak my T-shirt, so I was getting the cardio effect, if not the dance. Truthfully, I felt horrible. Dumb. Clumsy. Heavy. Slow. But at the end of class, eight people had left and I was still standing.
woman I met before class, came up and said “Isn’t this the best time ever?” She meant it. Her hip belt jangled with bells and spangles. The flashing spangles matched her eyes. She was thrilled. I felt far from “best time ever.” Too far.
After class, I sat in the car, wishing I could stop at Starbucks for a sugar-laden drink. But sugar is out of my life. It’s off limits. Behind the line. And as I sat there, I decided to move Zumba behind the line, too. Half of being smart is knowing what you are dumb at and not doing it.
In America, the idea is that you can do whatever you put your mind to. You can be whoever you want to be. And I don’t believe that. You can work hard, and you can be determined, but some things aren’t possible for everyone. And after possible, there is the willing. And I am not willing to hire someone to tutor me in Zumba. I don’t think it’s fun. I don’t look forward to it. And in exercise, the key to doing it often is doing something you like. So, with no regret, but a bit of guilt, I moved Zumba behind the limit line.
I am not limitless. But what I want to do is choose what is possible and find the joy in that. I’ve spent too much of my life in grim determination proving I can work as hard as the best, as long as the best, smarter than the best. Determination is a daily tool, but I want to switch the grim to joy.
The gym has a lot to offer me, but Zumba is not part of it. I will find another movement joy, and meanwhile, Zumba and the love of sugar will have to be beyond the limit.
—Quinn McDonald owes a debt of gratitude to her own coach for the metaphor that made her feel successful about giving up Zumba.