Rural Living

Zumba Yes, Kayaking No

Exercising a Woman's Prerogative


by Margo Oxendine, Contributing Writer

Margo Oxendine

They say it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind.      

I’ve changed my mind about several things this past year.

First, there’s exercise. In the past, my idea of exercise was a leisurely walk in the woods. But something — perhaps the fact that I was finally out of bed after spending a long winter there — compelled me last April to go to a Zumba class.

I was quite leery at first. I imagined a roomful of svelte women who didn’t look as if they needed exercise. This has always been my experience: I lumber into an exercise class, filled with resolve, only to discover that I am the largest, clumsiest woman in the room. I am wearing black sweatpants. They are sporting sleek, colorful little outfits. I do not return.

But Zumba is different. There were about 50 of us in the school cafeteria that night. We ranged in age from 67 to 5. We were of every imaginable size and ability level.

The first night, I stumbled around not knowing what to do or which direction to kick or wave my arms next. A Zumba “class” is not exactly a teaching experience. The leader simply turns on some crazy-dance-beat music and gets right down to it. Those who’ve been before jump right in; newcomers wander and fumble through the tunes, dancing right when they should move left, sometimes tripping over their own sneakers. Funny thing, though: Everybody laughs and has a good time.

On their second night of Zumba, newcomers recognize some of the moves and execute them properly. By the third class, you’ve got it down and are boogieing away with the crowd. If you look around, we resemble a well-rehearsed dance team. We’re not exactly the Rockettes, but still.

Another thing that happens by the third class is this: You become addicted to Zumba. The Latin and reggae-beat songs scream through your head all night long. I can’t count the times I’ve realized in the middle of the night that my brain is singing, “Let’s Get Loud!” It doesn’t make for peaceful sleep, but you do leap out of bed on the morning of a Zumba class. We gather twice a week. If it were four times a week, I’d be there every night.

So ladies (there are only ladies in our class), you might give Zumba a try. Well, give it three tries, and you can lose a couple thousand calories each night. Sure, you’ll crave a cheeseburger afterwards, but it won’t matter.

Another thing I’ve changed my mind about recently is kayaking. Just last month, I mentioned in this column that I love kayaking. I do not. In fact, I will never, ever, fold myself into a small plastic boat and grab hold of a metal paddle again.

The realization came to me just last week, as nature propelled me down the Jackson River in a raging thunder-and- lightning storm. It was sunny when our “party” of 30 departed. Most take just one kayak adventure per year. It’s sort of like riding a bicycle, except the “road” is somehow alive, rushing you headlong into a place you do not want to go. By the time you remember which way to paddle to avoid a large rock, your kayak is sitting atop it, taking on water.

Despite the size of our group, the kayak supplier did not send a guide or any knowledgeable backup with us. We were simply shoved off the riverbank and left to fend for ourselves. Just one of us — the fellow who managed to smoke cigarettes and check his text messages during the trip — seemed to stay dry. The rest of us had to holler for help from time to time.

In my case, I had to be rescued from underneath my overturned, waterlogged kayak and helped across slippery river rocks to shore. I was secretly thrilled to watch the kayak zip downriver without me. But then, my able rescuers managed somehow to save the dang thing, return it, and force me back inside. It was the longest, most arduous and scary 10-mile trip of my life. I believe I was going backward or sideways more often than forward. I needed help three times.

The joke of the day became, “There’s a big rock; Margo’s going down!”

So, I have changed my mind about kayaking. But I am not likely to change my mind about Zumba. Unless, of course, lightning strikes me there.


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