One of the strongest and most common arguments I see for running is that You. Can. Do. It. Anywhere! In theory, this is great. You can run in your neighborhood*, you can run down Waikiki beach while you are on vacation**, you can run at your local high-school’s track. These are all truly great reasons (and places) to start running.
For me, though, all these great options are missing one thing: accountability.
I started running in 2012 and have done it off and on, waxing and waning between serious and casual, low these many (six-ish) years. I have gone running with a partner? exactly once that I recall (Thanks Dustin!)
(If there were others I have forgotten, please find it in your heart to forgive me. And call me! Let’s go for a run soon! Walks/bike rides/swims are good too!)
Enter Zumba, and my membership at the YWCA.
Let’s be real here; I was firmly opposed to getting a gym membership for a long time, mostly because I had a poor track record. I belonged to the Y for a number of years in my early adulthood where I went maybe once a month. I then finally cancelled my Y membership and instead enrolled in the inexpensive gym at my work; shortly thereafter, I lost my job there. (I think it took me another six months to cancel my membership at the gym I could now no longer attend since my badge was deactivated. Yikes.) Times I actually visited that gym? I think once, for the initial assessment (I would talk myself out of going because it felt weird to have all my co-workers walk by while I was sweating it out on the treadmill.) (I’m sure none of them would have given it a second thought) (Hello, insecurity).
After that, I took a break from gyms (and exercise, truthfully), and it was a few years before I repeated my mistakes. My husband and I joined one of those inexpensive 24-hour gyms with no frills. We belonged for at least a year before I finally gave up and cancelled our membership. Total times we attended? Once, and it wasn’t even me (Gold star, hubby).
This all goes back to my main point: I. Need. Accountability. None of these solutions was inherently wrong. They may have worked wonders for other individuals. We are all an experiment of one! But, I have found that if I’m going to show up on a regular basis, I need some structure. Telling me I can come anytime I want, generally means no specific time; therefore, never.
Zumba has neatly solved this issue for me.
Now I understand Zumba is not for everyone. If weight-lifting classes, water aerobics, or Insanity classes light you up, please feel free to substitute your favorite group class. Because I think they all have the same thing in common: accountability and camaraderie.
Zumba gets me to the gym at least twice a week, because if I want to go, I have to be at the gym with my dancing shoes on at either 6:15p on Tuesdays or 9:30a on Saturdays. Y’all, do you even know how early that is on a Saturday for me? If it weren’t for Zumba, I can assure you, I’d be laying in bed with my cat sitting serenely on my head. Zumba has also given me some half-way decent dance moves to use the next time the spirit moves me (read: likely never, but you never know?). But most of all, it has given me great friends who have supported me through job changes and cranky days, car accidents and apartment moves.
It’s true that having exterior accountability is a huge motivator for me. #obliger But aside from that, it’s just plain fun! It’s changed how I view gym visits from drudgery to the highlight of my week, which in turn has encouraged me to try out other activities while I am there, like spin class, weightlifting, and kettlebells.
But most of all, my Zumba class has made me insanely loyal to my Y. Here’s an example: I picked my gym mostly because my best friend belonged there, and she was going frequently (especially to Zumba), so I figured I could ride her coattails until I got my gym-going legs beneath me. But I also joined because it was on my way to and home from work. Some months later, the YMCA (not affiliated, surprisingly) renovated their location and made it even closer to my work. In another life? I would have been all over the new-shiny. But I have not even gone in to check it out. Why? Because no matter how pretty/state-of-the-art/convenient it is? It does not include my Zumba crew <3
So folks? If you’re looking to make your workout habit stick, whether it’s running, cross-fit, or Zumba, consider taking a peek out of your newbie-athlete turtle shell and introduce yourself. Sweat-friends make the best friends.
*Assuming you feel safe, which could (and likely will be) a post unto itself.
**Who would do such a crazy thing? Me.