Basic steps to put some zoom in my Zumba?
September 19, 2012 4:43 AM   Subscribe

I'm a dude, pushing 40, relatively uncoordinated with very little rhythm, and taking a Zumba class. Can you assign me some homework?

First: I'm not tremendously stressed about this -- no pep talks required!

But I took my first Zumba class (with my wife) last night, and as the only guy in the course (and according to the instructor the only guy to ever take the course) I feel a little more stand-outish than the other of people in the group.

I'm also not exactly somebody with an innate sense of rhythm and movement. Other than learning the hand jive for a high school production of Grease, I've never learned how to dance.

So the class was fun, but I found myself feeling cloddish and baffled trying to figure out where the feet should go. I'm also going to miss the next two weeks due to a vacation, so I'll be coming back to a situation where even the other beginners are quite a bit more advanced than me.

What would you recommend to either learn some basic steps, or just generally improve my ability to -- I dunno, shift my weight and hop rhythmically? DVDs? A Web site? Books? An app? Again, I'm going on vacation for a couple of weeks, but I wouldn't mind spending 15-30 minutes a day jigging around in a hotel room.

I'm in relatively good shape -- running, ergometer, occasional weights. Fitness isn't a concern, but coordination and basic dance skills definitely are.
posted by Shepherd to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
My only suggestion for your vacation is to listen to more music with a Latin rhythm. Get the beats in your head so you get used to the feeling of the music.
When you get home, see if there's a zumba gold class. It's for "seniors" by my gym also advertises it for beginners. They go a little slower but it's mostly the same thing. And keep going. I used to dance but I still felt like I had two left feet my first few classes. It's not an instinctive way to move.
posted by missriss89 at 5:17 AM on September 19, 2012

Zumba dances are all pretty much made up of basic steps to which students add their own flair. If you hop on YouTube and search for "Zumba basic steps," you'll find a lot of videos to follow. This example is pretty good.
posted by xingcat at 5:25 AM on September 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

1. you rock for doing Zumba as the only male. Most people would find that very very uncomfortable and they would run from the room screaming, never to return. I'm a woman with a relatively good coordination and rhythm, but Zumba intimidated the hell out of me. I felt like EVERYONE WAS WATCHING ME since I so clearly didn't know the moves. I felt like a three legged donkey on rollerskates, and at the end of my first (and last) class I ran from that room as fast as my feet could carry me. You rock in a major ass rocking way for doing it. I am giving you internet high fives and a double thumbs up.

2. Do you listen to music throughout the day? I think your first goal should be just to hear the beat and get used to moving your feet to that rhythm. Agreed with above to try with Latin music. The beat/rhythm is someone distintive and follows some familiar patterns. Even making little steps with your feet from side to side under your desk while you listen to music at work can help. Hearing the beat, learning the types of patterns the music often takes, can help you anticipate what might happen next and where you might be headed next.

3. Just keep going to the class! You'll learn the songs and start to be able to know what is coming next, which is half the battle. If you know that your foot is going to need to go left next you can sort of ready yourself for it.

Again, for real, I think you rock.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 5:28 AM on September 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

One thing that really helped me when I was taking dance class was learning a little African Dance. Here's a simple video teaching you how to isolate your hips and chest. It's more exaggerated than something like Zumba, but it teaches you how to be aware of the different parts of your body.

Then, after you've gone over that a few times, look at this Zumba video. Compare the instructor's stance to the older woman in the back. See how her knees are bent, and she is mainly hopping on her toes?

Then look at the woman in the black shirt. She is following the moves, but knees not as bent and using the whole of her foot flat on the floor. African dance uses the same body isolation movements, but because it's more pronounced, it's easier than picking up on subtleties used in Zumba. But the basic premise of a semi-squat is still there, making it easier to be loose. Once you feel loose and comfortable with your body, you can concentrate on the steps. Break them down into basics. Side to side. Do side to side until you have it down pat. Then forward and back.

All dance is practice, practice, practice. It helps to have a personal instructor to point out say, if your shoulders are up, but this is for fun! Just get some basic moves down pat and that way if the instructor goes into a fancy step that's too fast for you, you can still move doing your basic steps and practice them at home later.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:14 AM on September 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

That is awesome! Gold star for you!

I will also suggest listening to Latin music during your vacation. On top of that, try counting along with the music. It can be as simple as '1 and 2 and 1 and 2', if you are not so musically inclined. If you know how to hear/count the beats, that's half the battle. The other (more difficult) part is getting your body to the right place on the right count.
posted by Fig at 6:18 AM on September 19, 2012

Do a search online for Zumba DVDs. There are several and the first one is just a primer on all the different styles and steps. It's really good, well worth the $15-20 or so. A bunch of places want to sell the whole set of DVDs all bundled together, but you can also find them individually as well.
posted by mmmmbobo at 7:03 AM on September 19, 2012

Find an arcade, play some Dance Dance Revolution. Play a few rounds on the lowest difficulty, then step up to second or third. All of the steps are on a beat or in direct relation to one (i.e. exactly between two beats), but on the low difficulties there aren't as many steps so this isn't as apparent. Playing on a higher-but-not-too-high difficulty will really let you get into the groove without getting overwhelmed.
posted by curious nu at 7:23 AM on September 19, 2012

Hi, I do Zumba at my gym and I had the same problem for the first two or three classes. Though I am younger than you and female, I also have low talent for rhythm.

By the third class most of the songs came together and now things are going well. There will always be a couple changes in movement that throw me, but, meh. MEH! Usually it is because I do not see them coming or stopped paying attention to the people around me. The more of these kinds of classes you go to, the better you will get at figuring out how the instructor is signalling the changes and how to pick it up in the body language of your classmates. Realize, even among the others, there are some who come every time and others who are new or come only when they can.

So frankly, I would say, enjoy your vacation! But adding these songs (some of ours are real songs, others are the hokey Zumba(TM) songs) to your playlist can get you more able to anticipate the progression of the music and therefore the moves.
posted by whatzit at 7:38 AM on September 19, 2012

I have Zumba 2 for the Wii and it's ridiculously fun. That might be a way to get the steps in a low pressure atmosphere.
posted by 26.2 at 9:02 AM on September 19, 2012

Start by counting. All dance music is pretty much in 4/4. Find that beat and count, 1 2 3 4 2 2 3 4 3 2 3 4, and so on.... Every time you turn on the radio, start counting. Tap along with the beat. It's a lot easier with electronic music like Swedish House Mafia or Avicii, because there is a kick drum on every beat, but it's always there. With Latin music, there's often a wood block or something similar hitting on the beat. Once you can always find it, dancing becomes a LOT easier.
posted by empath at 9:27 AM on September 19, 2012

Hi I am coordinated and love to dance and Zumba is a real challenge for me so please do not feel badly about your coordination based on your Zumba experience. Everyone in zumba struggles at first, as long as you are having fun and smiling it does not matter if you don't quite get the beat.

I have the Zumba DVD which is great to practice to in the privacy of home.

as for dancing, i'd take some beginner lessons in Salsa and Swing which may help with your rhythm. you can take them very casually as drop in classes, just google for salsa or swing in your town and see if you can find places that hold those classes. Often dance studios offer drop in classes or progressive classes. Confidence is half the battle, just believe in yourself and keep trying and enjoy!
posted by BlueMartini7 at 12:05 PM on September 19, 2012

Others above have given good advice on how to keep up/catch up during the 2 weeks you'll be away, but I wanted to reassure you that you are not alone in feeling clumsy or uncoordinated, and that it WILL get better once you can go to more than one class. I am in a similar type of fitness class and at first I felt ridiculous and was constantly going the wrong way. But just like whatzit, after the third one or so I felt much more confident. I am a very uncoordinated person and have trouble imitating the instructor in regular old aerobics classes (which I HATE, by the way--I much prefer Zumba-type stuff), so if you are in any way coordinated at all you will have an easier time than I did.

A few things that have helped me:
  • At first I liked to stand in the back because that way no one could be behind me, watching my ass go the wrong way. This is irrational because there are mirrors at the front behind the instructor and frankly, everyone can see everyone, but whatever. It helped psychologically. Now I don't care if I am in the very back row or not (though I still don't like to be in the front).
  • I find it helpful to watch myself in the mirror. I am not super-fond of knowing what I look like as a dancing fool, but it helps me get the moves right.
  • Our instructors told us if we ever got confused we could just drop the hand and arm movements and concentrate on the legs because that provides the majority of the cardio benefit. So at first I just did the leg and feet stuff whenever we did a move that seemed too complicated. Now, a couple of months later, I generally do the arms as well as the legs for almost everything.
  • Ultimately, this is a fitness class, so it's less important that you do the dance moves exactly right than that you are getting a cardio workout. I don't know what a professional would say, but I say if you are moving and getting your heart rate up, then as long as you aren't crashing into other people, who cares if you go left when everyone else is going right.
Oh, and have fun! Like Puppet McSockerson said, good for you for sticking with it. I find myself really enjoying these classes and even looking forward to them; I hope you get to the same point!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:46 PM on September 19, 2012

Just nth-ing what everyone else has said; that uncoordinated feeling will just get better with repetition! So many Zumba dances are based on the same basic steps, and once you get that basic vocabulary down, you'll feel much more comfortable and be able to pick up new moves more quickly. I am some days the only guy in my Zumba class (the most we ever had was 3) but I still really enjoy it—just keep rocking it out and have fun!
posted by Zephyrial at 1:58 PM on September 19, 2012

I have a Zumba Fitness Rush game on the Xbox that uses Kinect. It plays the song and you dance, and the screen shows if you are moving "correctly" or not.

If you have an Xbox and/or Kinect, I suggest it. It's fun.
posted by tacodave at 3:14 PM on September 19, 2012

I don't do Zumba but all I can say is, play some music and just move to it.

Don't care what you do. Feel the music, move your body and get all the self consciousness out. Do it in front of a mirror and get used to yourself dancing and doing moves even if you're just making them up. Do it while jumping up and down on the bed. Just have fun with it, get into it, pretend you're a rock star , pop star, on dancing with the stars, whatever.

To me, dancing is a very unfamiliar feeling. I think you might feel the same way. So getting familiar with it can be a little something to do while you're away.
posted by p1nkdaisy at 1:36 AM on September 21, 2012

Response by poster: Hey, thanks everybody! We've got a Wii, so I'm totally going to look into that, as well as just listening to more Latin music and getting more used to moving with a beat.

Less Swans, more Samba will be my mantra for the next few weeks...
posted by Shepherd at 8:25 AM on September 21, 2012

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