6.26.2010

The Fat Lady...Dances

Recently I discovered the joy of Zumba classes. One cannot live in South Florida, as I did, and not develop a certain love for Latin music and dancing. Now here in the corn-fed Midwest, salsa dancing is not quite the muy caliente rumba of Miami, but at least it involves decent music.

A Zumba class, for those who may not know, is a mix of Latin and Middle Eastern dance moves, combined with some more traditional aerobics steps. Every instructor brings something different to the classes; Irene teaches Saturday mornings and her classes are pretty traditional - a Latino Jane Fonda would feel right at home. Michelle teaches Monday mornings and her classes are heavy on the salsa and merengue. Dominique teaches Tuesday evenings, and befitting her young age, her classes are heavy on more street and hip-hop type moves.

Typical of gyms and dance studios, we do our classes facing a mirror. Seeing myself gyrating while wearing exercise clothes is about as appealing as cold, congealing spaghetti, so I rarely look at the mirror, and when I do it's more often to see some of the middle aged Midwestern women around me doing their comical variation of Latin dance. But one thing has become clear to me, and it is something for me to keep working on: I don't trust my body.

Eleven years ago this September, I had what an engineer would call a major catastrophic failure of my left leg. In a dance class as part of my graduate training, my leg gave out. I had a complete separation of my lower left tibia, as well as tearing almost every ligament in my ankle, tearing my MCL, and tearing the medial meniscus in my knee. A year ago this August, I re-tore my MCL. To say I don't trust my body is an understatement.

I used to be fairly good at dance. I went into it with my whole heart. I was the fat girl who could move, a sort of graceful hippo. My Zumba teachers have been impressed at how quickly I pick up the dance steps, and I credit living in Miami rather than a couple years of dance training and classes where, even as an opera singer, we had to learn 60+ counts of a dance sequence for a mock audition. But in my post-injury years, I've gotten to the point where I just don't trust my body.

It's not a conscious choice. Favoring my leg is still an unconscious decision. I'm working regularly to get past that, with gym workouts and making the conscious decision to do something that my gut would say "Your knee! Your knee!," such as going for a hike. Sometimes I come home and have to ice my knee or take an Advil. But I had to do the same thing while in therapy and know this is an extension of that. I watch professional athletes on TV come back from considerably more catastrophic injuries, so I know I can get past this, and continuing to drop the weight will help.

Meanwhile, don't question your Geiger counters. It's probably just this fat lady dancing off the weight.

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