The Meat and Potatoes of Life: Trying to teach hips illogical things makes no sense

| September 20, 2013 | 0 Comments
Lisa Smith Molinari

Lisa Smith Molinari

Out of sheer boredom and motivation to reduce my ever-expanding waistline, I somehow found myself trying a Zumba class at the base gym this week.

An old veteran of the now out-of-style step aerobics craze, I figured, “How hard could it be?”

Gyms across the nation are now offering Zumba classes, which incorporate salsa, meringue, hip-hop, African beats, samba, reggaeton, cumbia, Bollywood and belly dance moves into group fitness routines.

I had seen a Zumba DVD infomercial once, with spandexed men and women writhing and jumping to Latin, Caribbean and tribal beats, claiming that you could “party yourself into shape.” It made exercise look more like a wild night out in Tijuana than a workout, so I was intrigued.

After placing my keys and water bottle in the corner of the exercise room, I tried to find a spot where I could remain anonymous. I was relieved to find that our instructor looked like a middle-aged mom, just like me, and did not have a figure that screamed, “I am about to kill you.”

She put on some catchy Latin music, and next thing you know, I was kickball-changing, single-single-doubling, and body rolling my way around the room as if I had been doing it all my life.

But after 30 minutes, the mild-mannered instructor bid us all adieu and told us that our “warm up” was finished. The real Zumba class was about to begin, and the real instructor would arrive momentarily. What?

I had only a moment to wipe the sweat from my brow and slurp some water, when in walked a woman with Beyonce’s muscular thighs, Pamela Anderson’s generous bust and Charro’s rolling “R.”

Suddenly, driving African beats blared from the sound system, and using only crazed facial expressions and minimal hand motions, Charro ordered us to rhythmically gyrate and flail our arms while in a semi-squat position.

A few minutes later, we had moved on to reggaeton, whatever that is, and were ordered to stick out our rear ends and rotate our hips in complete circles from right to left while pumping our hands out in front of us. I was able to rotate my hips counter-clockwise, but when she asked us to go the opposite direction, I was unable to maintain the fluid roll of my hips, jerking awkwardly from side to side.

I thought this might be due to the magnetism of the Earth’s polls. Like toilet bowl water, I can swirl one way in the Northern Hemisphere, but would have to travel south of the equator to be able to rotate my hips in the other direction.

Halfway through the class, I was soaked with sweat, and we hadn’t even gotten to salsa and meringue.

Despite the fact that everyone around me seemed to have the basic salsa steps down pat, I was so confused, I just marched in place. And meringue, for me, was more of a lesson in how to sprain one’s ankle. I prayed that it would all be over soon.

Somewhere between the Brazilian samba and the Columbian cumbia, Charro started jumping three feet into the air. Like lemmings, we followed. Finally happy to have a dance move I could understand, I leapt like a gazelle. But then I remembered, I am 47 years old and have given birth to three large babies. My innards are not where they used to be.

Thankfully, the jumping routine ended before my uterus broke loose, and we moved onto our final dance, Bollywood. At first, it seemed that Charro was merely putting us through a cruel endurance test when she demanded that we get into a deep plie squat while holding our arms out in a sort of King Tut position. Just as my quads were about to snap, she began to twist and turn her torso back and forth, rising like a cobra from a basket.

I left the class feeling exhausted, sweaty and humiliated. I realized that my northern European genes made it nearly impossible for me to perform the sexy writhing movements of Zumba.

But interestingly, my stomach had performed its own wiggling dance all by itself, and at least I could be proud that it had kept perfect time to the beat.

(A 20-year military spouse and mother of three, Lisa has plenty of humor to share in her column, “The Meat and Potatoes of Life,” at

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