Aisling: “Once I Started With Zumba I Honestly Haven’t Looked Back”

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My Zumba Year – How to start and keep loving your Zumba routine!
It’s just over a year ago since I started Zumba classes with Lily. I want to start this blog article by celebrating that and to offer it as encouragement – if I can stick with one form of exercise for a whole year (and I don’t intend to stop) then I’m sure anyone can.
Lily has asked me if I’d be willing to share my story with you to offer encouragement and inspiration. So how did I come to Zumba and why do I think it has stuck?
First, a little about me. I work full time in a busy arts centre. Prior to that I worked in music education – running choirs, teaching singing, delivering large creative music projects. My schedule was irregular so it was difficult to find exercise classes that I could go to. When I moved to Dublin two years ago to take up a new job I decided to give Zumba a try.  Given my huge love of music and my reputation amongst my friends for dancing at the drop of a hat, I thought it might suit me. 
Zumba is definitely fun and it is also a serious workout. Picture me at the end of my 1st class with my face roaring red and my hair literally dripping wet not to mention my brain fried from the sheer concentration of trying to follow the steps! Despite this unattractive beginning, once I started with Zumba I honestly haven’t looked back.
So how did I stick with it so far? For a start, it gets easier and more and more fun – you’ll be surprised how quickly you get used to the steps and how your fitness improves.
Secondly, Lily’s classes are conveniently close to either where I work or my home at times that flow easily with my daily life. This has been a major factor in being able to stick to the routine. 
Thirdly, unlike other teachers, Lily runs her classes through the summer so you can stay in your exercise rhythm year round and you don’t have to start again from scratch in September. 
Finally, Lily’s classes are great value for money and buying the flexible no expiry class cards helps me stay committed as well as saving money.
I commit myself to going to one class a week and consider anything beyond this a bonus. Maybe because I don’t pressurise myself to do more than this, I often I make it to two classes and, very occasionally on very good weeks, even 3!
So in short here is what I have learned – my top tips for loving your Zumba routine:
• You are not lacking in self-discipline
What makes it difficult to stick to any routine is not lack of discipline – it’s whether or not the practicalities of getting to the class are easy or awkward. As Lily’s classes are either close to work or home at times that easily fit my daily routines, I don’t have to summon tonnes of determination every week to go.  In fact I’ve found I can actually stick to a routine quite easily – and even enjoy it!
• Having choice and flexibility in class days and times really helps 
I go through periods in my work for example where I ‘m on duty on Saturdays but with Lily’s classes I can go on Tuesdays or Thursdays on those weeks so I am better able to stick with it even during busy work times.
• Eat a banana or a small snack about an hour before the class
It is great having 6pm classes so I can go straight from work to Zumba, but it is also dinner time and there’s nothing worse than trying to get through a high energy Zumba class while battling the hunger shakes!
• Bring a big bottle of water with you 
Try to hydrate throughout the day and before the class as well – perhaps keep the water bottle on your desk to remind you to drink.
• Invest in a pair of dance fitness shoes
This will protect your joints and also make doing all the twists and turns easier. It takes a little adjustment at first as they feel quite different to normal runners when you are wearing them, but I’m really glad I bought a pair. Also, if you enjoy other forms of dance (which I suspect you might if you are a Zumbaddict!) you can wear them for those classes too.
• The busier or more stressed you are, the more you need to go to Zumba
I find it is very tempting to stay late at work out of anxiety when times are stressful, but in fact I am always more productive the next day and better able to cope with the stress if I choose to go to Zumba instead. Exercise helps me to let go and relax mentally which is not something that comes easily to me, but it has certainly improved this past year with the help of Zumba.
• The mental battle is harder than the physical
It was a huge ‘aha’ moment for me when I realised this. Get yourself some support – whether it be asking your friends and family to remind you that you always feel better after going to a class, setting a reminder on your phone to go off an hr before the class with a positive encouraging message on it, or putting a picture of you when you looked and felt great on your fridge or by your bed to remind you of your goal.
• Don’t worry about getting the moves wrong! 
Easier said than done of course, especially in the beginning. But remember this is about exercise and fitness so the main thing is to keep moving at all times – your heart and lungs don’t care if you moved your left foot or right hand at the wrong time. The body just loves having a workout – so just keep moving.
• Wear a watch in class
This really helps me with the mental battle and wanting to give up in the middle of the class, especially in the beginning when my fitness and energy levels were low. Sometimes a whole class can feel like forever. Wearing a watch helps me beak down the classes into smaller more doable chunks of time. I can see there is only 20 mins left, for example, which feels doable. Or I can encourage myself and say well done when I see I am halfway through a class, or almost there.  Now a year on I don’t need it as much it still helps me on bad or tired days.
• All that Zumba shaking and hip wiggling is great for your organs
Being in good condition isn’t just about the outside – it’s also crucially to do with the condition of our vital organs on the inside that keep us alive and healthy. Wiggling and shaking may not be very ‘Irish’ but it is excellent for toning and conditioning the internal organs which is vital for true health. Plus it’s great fun, freeing and joyful to move your body in new ways!
Thank you Lily for the great classes, the encouraging atmosphere and for inviting me to write this blog post which I have really enjoyed. I  hope these tips help some of you and I look forward to at least another year of great Zumba classes – see you there!
Aisling O’Gorman

Follow Aisling’s tips and come along to one of the Zumba classes to try it out for yourself. Click here for class locations and times.