Setting Limits

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.

imagesShe 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.

images-1 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.

25 thoughts on “Setting Limits

  1. I quit beating myself up if I can’t get to the gym three times a week, or even once a week. I do enjoy group classes better than working on machines. My favorites are group kick (kind of a kickboxing class) and Centergy, which is a combo of yoga and pilates. Nobody cares if you can’t get the routine, as long as you do something to get that heart rate up and build strength. I’ve learned that nobody cares but me if I don’t get the routine right away. BTW, I tried a “groove” dance class, but was lost too, so I gave that one up after one try. Find what works for you and enjoy it!

  2. My granddaughter and daughter-in-law started skipping along the beach . . . me too. I cannot think of the last time I skipped and my body knew it! We checked out who could cover the most distance in 20 (exhausting for me) skips . . . I covered about half the distance!!

    When did I stop skipping? And why? It’s such a delightful thing to do!!!

    Yes, it needs all those exclamation points. And maybe we could all take up skipping. Just imagine is all those intrepid walkers and joggers skipped instead. What a delightful sight that would be.

  3. Another option for home exercise is workout DVD’s. I checked out a Zumba DVD from my local library and actually had fun doing it. I’m not a particularly coordinated person so that’s saying something. It was basicly a breakdown of all the steps used in the Zumba classes. I also like Collage because you can actually preview a small part of everything that’s offered on the site.

  4. Its great that you tried something new and know enough about what you like to decide for yourself if its right for you. I do believe that anyone can do anything with practice, but if its not fun, there are better things to pursue that can be more joyful.

    • Wait till you are a bit older, you’ll get over the idea that anyone can do anything with practice. I cannot, for example be the prima ballerina of the Phoenix Ballet, or be a trapeze artist, or President of the U.S., no matter how hard I want to practice. There is a lot to be said about ability, talent, and yes, practice. But practice and intention aren’t enough anymore. So knowing limits is a new way to understand your (or in my case, my) world.

      • I appreciate your response and you may be right and time will show – Today, I do think that if you enjoyed moving the the music, you could do it in some form until the oldest of ages and if you have a passion for politics, you could later in life run for local office to make a difference – as we age we may not have the physical ability to be a trapeze artist (I was at the circus today and won’t have tried that at any age) – but as older people we bring our worldly experiences that the young have not acquired and this can be of great benefit for using our creativity

        • Agree. I can do a lot of things and choose to do those that I am good at, as they are ones I enjoy, put energy and practice into and can bring about change. What I disagreed with is your sentence: “anyone can do anything with practice,” which I think is one of our culture’s erroneous assumptions. Of course we should struggle with things like calculus and algrebra and not give up, but there is also value in self-assessment and re-assessment. About Zumba–I don’t enjoy moving to music. I don’t enjoy dancing. I enjoy hiking and will most likely use the rock-climbing wall at the gym. That sounds like a lot more fun to me.

  5. I *choose* (my word for the year) to do Yoga or Tai Chi, at home, in the quiet of the evening, lights off, Pandora playing softly in the back ground. I’ve done this for many years — way before Pandora in fact. For me its not only exercise but also meditation.

  6. We attend a street party once a month in a town not far from home in the summer months. One time there was a group doing Zumba in the middle of the street and my grandson (then 10) and I had a chance to join in. It was fun. We didn’t know the moves either but we enjoyed the music and just moving. We are both introverted but it felt good to get “outside ourselves” and let the rythym take us away even if we didn’t do it at the same time everybody else did. There are no classes nearby so it was our only experience and a good memory.

    • I’m glad it was a good memory for you and that you had fun. I’d count eating glass as more fun. But then again, as my French mom used to say, “One’s man poison is another man’s poisson.”

  7. Yay, Quinn! You are awesome in your self-acceptance and understanding. I’m strictly a treadmill person myself – I can read and walk at the same time which is the perfect blend for me.

  8. when first began to do zumba two years ago, I felt kust like Quinn… ungraceful, awkward, not at all enjoying it. but now, I really ike the classes. it took me about five months to learn the moves,..Our teacher is very unsympathetic , a mature woman, not glam. at all, and does not try to have the class do all those Hollywood moves!! it is now a part of my life..

  9. Quinn – you should be proud that you gave it a try…more than once! It’s better than I’ve done. I absolutely hate going to the gym and abhor group classes! I do very well working out on my own at home. I get on the Nordic Track and lift light weights or take a walk outside. Beyond that, if I absolutely had to rely on getting my exercise at the gym, I think I would give up and become a couch potato.

    My best friend will only work out at the gym, she loves it and loves taking classes. It’s always interesting to me what works for one person that doesn’t work for another. We all have to find our own rhythm and find something that will keep us going and moving. Don’t be hard on yourself or feel guilty, you found what doesn’t work for you.

    • I’ve found a lot of what doesn’t work, and it’s bothersome. Gym seems like such an excellent idea, but the group classes are not a place I can learn much. I’m a slow, kind of plodding learning. I’ve taken three different kinds of martial arts and love them, but when it comes to the forms (think Tai Chi but much faster and longer combinations) I have to practice for hours–by myself. I think I’ll like the gym for the treadmills when it’s too hot to walk outside. And the weights. I love free weights.

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