Clive has fun...at a Zumba class
PUBLISHED: 09:56 21 March 2012 | UPDATED: 21:08 20 February 2013
Clive Agran embraces the popular dance work-out in an effort to regain his physique.
Shoving the wheelie bin to the curtilage as Rother Council requires, I heard an unusual noise that was as alarming as it was unfamiliar. Rhythmic yet disturbing it sounded not unlike a distant steam train. Although the Kent and East Sussex railway does run nearby, this was 7.30 in the morning when Thomas and his pals are surely tucked up in their sheds.
Growing increasingly anxious, I held my breath and the noise instantly ceased. When I resumed breathing, the noise returned. Could there, I wondered, possibly be a connection between my breathing and the noise? I leant against the large green bin for support when the awful truth hit me that I was puffing. Stuffed as it was with post-Christmas debris, the bin was doubtless a few pounds heavier than usual but surely not enough to justify the sort of heavy breathing one normally associates with a certain type of unwanted phone-call. I may be an old man but Im not that sort of old man.
The simple but shocking explanation is that Im evidently not very fit. Sitting at a desk all day staring at a screen, even though I frequently scratch my head, is clearly not keeping me in shape.
Somewhat depressed, I went to the village pub that evening and mentioned to one of the regulars that I needed to lose weight and get fit. You should try zumba, he suggested. No thanks, I replied, Im not a great fan of low-calorie, non-alcoholic beer. When he explained that it was the latest craze sweeping the western world, I was immediately interested. Having been the last in my class at school to own a yo-yo and second from last to have a hula-hoop, now was my chance to restore some street credibility by being one of the first in Sussex to zumba.
To give you an indication of the extraordinary level of my commitment, I dashed down somewhat breathlessly to JD Sports in Hastings to snap up an almost matching pair of tracksuit trousers and top for little more than the cost of a years subscription to this magazine. Whilst not perhaps an outfit that would attract many admiring glances in Rio at carnival time, it gave me enough of a psychological boost to put aside any misgivings and make my way to Bexhill High School on a cold Monday night with a metaphorical salsa in my step. So here I am in my snappy tracksuit all ready to zumba.
The virtues of exercise
Even completing a form at the reception desk that not only lists all manner of chronic illnesses and life-threatening diseases but also asks me for the contact details of my next of kin, fails to dampen my enthusiasm. By way of making an unambiguous statement, I bound up the stairs at the end of the corridor two at a time, burst through the swing doors and enter a huge gymnasium where half-a-dozen women as athletically attired as I am are standing around chatting.
Although most are rather young, theres one who can remember yo-yos and hula-hoops and she and I discuss the virtues of exercise. A former hockey and tennis player, Jane Garniss turned to jogging but problems with her spine obliged her to give it up. Now she zumbas twice a week, here at Bexhill on Mondays and at William Parker School in Hastings on Thursdays. I love it. It isnt a chore, its good fun and I think Ive toned up. Women, Im reliably informed, dont build muscle but tone up instead. Its a bit like the subtle distinction between sweating and glowing.
Adding a personal stamp
While weve been talking, at least another fifty people have come into the gym and they are all women! Not normally uncomfortable around the fairer sex, Im now beginning to feel just a tad self-conscious and am hoping that another grizzly geezer will show up, but none does. My disappointment is to some extent mitigated by the arrival of our extremely attractive instructress Claire, who turns on some suitably Latin music and takes us through a comparatively gentle warm-up routine.
Although I like to think Ive been endowed with a certain sinewy grace, I cant pretend to be a natural dancer. Consequently what seems to the others to be fairly simple and straightforward steps that Claire is now demonstrating are a formidable challenge to your correspondent. My anxiety is further heightened by some girlie giggling that occasionally erupts around me in response, I suspect, to my innovative manoeuvres. My fears are soon allayed, however, when it becomes increasingly apparent that Im not alone in imposing a personalised stamp on the steps and theres laughter simply because everyone is having fun.
After a few energetic minutes and just as I feel Im at last beginning to getting to grips with the moves, were given a short break and all those who have sensibly brought a bottle of water which is everyone apart from me take a few sips before we resume our places to learn an entirely new sequence. Presumably the thinking behind these frequent changes in routine is constantly to present fresh challenges and fight tedium but they also make it hard for slow-learners to ever properly master the moves. By the time I would have been enjoying my third drink if only I had remembered to bring a bottle, I have developed a genuine empathy for John Sergeant and his pitiful performances on Strictly Come Dancing.
Things are about to get worse, however, as the class has been split into two groups and Claire is inviting me to the front to join her in leading one half of the class while her colleague Karina, who incidentally is a genuine Brazilian to whom exotic wiggling comes quite naturally, looks after the other half. It is testimony to the remarkably relaxed atmosphere that, rather than summon up my dwindling supply of energy and bolt for the door, Im comparatively relaxed about prancing about inexpertly in front of a large group of female strangers. Fortunately their eyes are fixed on Claire and they are endeavouring to replicate her moves rather than my idiosyncratic lurches. Some of the pelvic thrusts, gyrating hips and shimmying shoulders are, quite frankly, not something that you could reasonably expect a normal bloke to execute but, even though the results were doubtless quite hideous, I honestly did try and now know for certain that I would never have made a decent (or indecent) belly-dancer.
Probably attributing my lack of coordination to an acute case of dehydration and consequent loss of limb control, Karina kindly brings me a bottle of water at the next break. Now thoroughly refreshed, I tackle the next series of moves with reckless enthusiasm. Despite my weary body and aching muscles, Im genuinely enjoying the evening in a way that I dont think I would a keep-fit class. Its hard work and very tiring but the lively music and Claires encouragement help to ease what might otherwise be painful.
Having said that, Im not entirely sorry when its all over, not least because it gives me a chance to use what little breath I have left to chat to Claire. A personal fitness trainer as well as a zumba teacher, she was the first to bring zumba to East Sussex about 2 years ago and now runs classes in St Leonards, where she lives, Hastings and here in Bexhill. Why are there so few blokes? I suppose its because its primarily aimed at women but we do attract the odd man. Thanks, Claire.
Claire and her colleagues hold zumba classes at: Bexhill; Cross-in-Hand; East Hoathly; Hastings; Seaford and St Leonards.