If you have read my articles before, you know how I like to switch things up a bunch when I am working out. Although I have my favorite stand-bys and weekly routine for working out, I definitely crave a shock to the system time and time again.
The worst thing that could happen when you are dedicated to an active lifestyle is losing sight of that inspiration.
To me, it’s like a relationship: when your traditional workout routine is losing its luster, kick it up a notch and step out of your comfort zone. You could potentially find a new love or it could make you appreciate your current workout even more. Either way, you have nothing to lose and it’s a sure way to get your workout in for the day.
Recently, I personally was feeling like my routine was getting a little blasé so I thought, what better way to spice it up than dancing it out!
After my experience with the Alyson Stoner Project, I thought it was time to take it from my living room to the gym. I had shaken it up a bit with Zumba classes, but wanted to fill up my dance card with a different beat. So I pretended I was a hip hop diva for the night and hit up a hip hop class at the local gym.
I had made a pact with a gal who comes to my Step Sculpt class to go with me. We had both been wanting to get our dance on but were too inhibited to venture into the class alone. Fortunately, we had each other for our first class.
We walked in and the front row was pretty sparse, so I decided to fill in the gaps and take one for the team. I looked around and most people appeared to be pretty unsure of what they were about to get themselves into. I overheard a few ladies behind me predicting what the class would be like and slightly making fun of themselves for being terrible dancers.
There was even male representation in the class. It never occurred to me that a hip hop class could be a place to find a date. But then I thought that it was a perfectly genius idea, particularly for the fellas. They would most likely be outnumbered by women, and I am sure they enjoyed those odds. So men, don’t feel left out of this workout. The guys in there were working it and some flowed with such grace and ease that I was incredibly jealous of their hip hop skills.
Before I knew it, the music started blaring from the speakers and our instructor was cuing us to reflect her movements. I stopped in my tracks for a second and just stared at her. She was moving her rib cage like it was disjointed from the rest of her body. It reminded me of a whip, cutting through the air. My jaw probably hit the floor in utter amazement.
I tried with all my might to replicate her movements but I am pretty sure I just looked like a spastic human, trying to keep up. That was fine with me though- my heart rate was elevating and I could feel those muscles in my core becoming engaged. In my head I was secretly making mental notes of the different dance moves so I could practice them at home before the next time I went out dancing with my gal pals.
I loved the format of this particular hip hop class.
For the first thirty minutes, we focused on a few eight counts per song. This allowed us to get our heart rate up gradually and “master“ the moves as best we could. Then about the fourth song in, our instructor switched gears and made our quads burn until I thought they would fall off. Our heart rates were still pumping with all the level changes and leg work we were doing, still working at a high intensity.
This was the first time I did leg work that actually involved some rhythm and dance. I was used to the ol’ monotonous lunges and squats to target those quads, hamstrings and glutes. This switch-up was a much welcomed change and helped me keep my mind off my aching legs.
By the way, the music was incredible in this class. As soon as I got home, I downloaded a few of the songs I could remember. They are definitely keepers on the Ipod and great jams to work out to, even if I’m not busting a move.
The first thirty minutes blazed by and it was time for our choreography section of the class. As soon as we were learning the first steps, I pretended I was at the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders’ training camp. I was just waiting for one of the coaches to come in and tell me to dip down lower or make my movements bigger.
Fortunately for our class, our instructor was nothing but kind. She was so encouraging and supportive, even though she might have been thinking that a lot of us lacked any hint of rhythm. Continually showering us with words of affirmation and positive vibes, I almost started believing her that I actually was dancing well. That just speaks to the power a good instructor can have over your success in a workout.
Before I knew it, the hour-long class had zipped by and it was time to stretch and go on home. I had all the fabulous songs stuck in my head and as soon as I got home I practiced a couple of the new moves I learned, hoping I could improve the appearance of my execution. Fat chance, but I wasn’t going to quit.
I was intrigued by this class and wanted to hit it up again. So I went back and much to my surprise, my body was more comfortable with the movements and I was able to tackle them with more ease and sassiness. I was so tickled that this only encouraged me to be more confident.
As my confidence grew, I felt I was able to work even harder, less aware of the other people in the class. I wasn’t constantly thinking after every little mess up, “oh my gosh…did they see me mess us?” Instead I was relishing the fact that I felt awkward as hell during my first time, but decided to come back and test the waters again.
I guess that extra practice paid off! Now I know I am not a Justin Timberlake or Beyonce when it comes to the dance moves, but at least I got my rear out there and tried something new. I got over the embarrassment, worked my muscles in ways that were unfamiliar to them and broke a sweat. So in my book, that was a freakin’ fabulous accomplishment!
Just so you know, a hip hop class doesn’t solely involve gyrating your hips and pumping your chest. Here are some of the core benefits of a hip hop workout:
- Cardiovascular challenge, which can in turn lead to a healthier heart and lungs
- Balance improvement and coordination
- Stimulates the brain as you are memorizing the moves
- More energy
- Weight loss potential
- Confidence is boosted when you master the moves and gain a sense of accomplishment
- Stronger muscles, potential to sculpt and create more definition
So go forth and hip hop. Check out your local gym for class times. Or you can even pick up a hip hop DVD and do it in the privacy of your home. Whatever you do in your fitness journey, find something that inspires you and empowers you to feel a sense of accomplishment and happiness.
* – Girl (Stephanie Remigio) doing hip hop dance photo credit: Bailey Shiffler via DailySkiff.com
* – Group hip hop class photo credit: BalletAustin.org
About the Author
Kimberly Westphall is the author of Blogging Fitness and a regular contributor to Midwest Sports Fans. She is a recent graduate of the University of Kansas where she majored in Journalism. She participated in a podcast with Jerod, which will help you get to know her even better.
While at KU, she was an anchor and online web producer for Jayhawk Sports Talk. Kimberly made her MSF debut in 2009 discussing the fight between Kansas’ basketball and football teams and also had her column about the Dallas Stars Ice Girls featured at Dallas Sports Fans.
She has a passion for fitness and is on the lookout for emerging fitness trends and workouts. Her favorite group exercise format is kickboxing, and when she’s not hitting up the aerobics studio both as a participant and instructor, Kimberly is training for marathons with her best friend Jackie.