In Which the Poet Takes a Zumba Class

In recent months, as I added freelance editing work to an already crowded roster of daily activities, I realized that much of what I do is very, very sedentary.

I have two children, no car, and a garden — all of which provides a nice base level of everyday activity. But what’s more of a challenge is incorporating regular bouts of high-intensity, intentional physical activity. There’s a free gym at work, but given that I work part-time and have a family and other commitments to get home to, it’s very hard for me to convince myself it’s a good idea to interrupt my very focused workday and then stay late to make up for it.

One neat solution I’ve found has been a weekly Zumba class. Let me be clear: I am a back row dweller. I am rhythm-challenged (you will not typically see me at poetry readings or hear recordings of my poems — sound and rhythm are just not the aspects of poetry that come most naturally to me) and also seem to have trouble telling my left from my right. I feel totally ridiculous while in class, and I also tend to sneer at myself that Zumba is just like Jazzercise, only mas picante — for the ladies who want to believe they are all Latin hotsy-totsy as they work out.

But … It’s good for my heart. I can tell. It wakes up my muscles and gets the blood flowing. Most of the work I’m doing and the things I am pursuing for “fun” (serious poets might identify with the air quotes here) involve my mind. But here’s the thing: My mind is also my brain, which is a physical organ, which needs me to keep those arteries nice and clear. There may be some great poetry written as a result of stroke-induced aphasia, but I’d rather not contribute to that body of work.

I think my neighborhood is just about the best place to take a class like Zumba. We are very near the University of Chicago, and the class is actually in a building belonging to a big Lutheran seminary. While there are indeed some very fit people in the class, I get the sense that many are also quite brainy — and all are compassionate. These are not bouncing hard bodies who sneer if and when you make a misstep.

Fellow poets, what do you do to get yourself up and moving? How do you feel about it? Do you find it to be a challenge, as I do? How do you keep the life of the mind from being an utterly sedentary life?

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