Pre-Intoxication Guidelines for Zumba Fitness

Dear Zumba Fitness International, (and fellow Zumbaranians)

Having regularly attended a 9 am, Saturday morning, Zumba Fitness class, I have, unintentionally, acted as a lab rat for the hypothesis. “Just how many hours before a Zumba class do you need to stop drinking without experiencing a long list of side effects that would rival the average prescription drug disclaimer on a TV Commercial. You know, like (insert deep baritone announcers voice here) “common side effects include: (announcer speaking a 250 words a minute now) nausea, projectile vomiting, loss of bowel and/ bladder control, hives, rash, anxiety, numbness in hands, feet and nose, sinusitis, rhinitis, OMGitis, hair and fingernail pain, sensitivity to light and noise, dehydration, flatulence, lack of coordination, walking into walls, mirrors or windows, intense perspiration of alcohol, loss of memory,  desire to lose some memories, and pleading with a divine creator for assistance with promises of not repeating the behavior”.

It occurred to me this morning, after a lengthy birthday celebration which started early and ended late at a Waffle House, that maybe you had already covered this and I should check your website.  Seeing you have not, and assuming this was an oversight, I am happy to share my research with you (my non scientific, non controlled, not stistically valid sample of ‘one’, research)    BTW, I think law enforcement should drop the BA level testing and consider the “Waffle House” (or IHOP or Denny’s) Test. As in, you are pulled over late at night on the weekend and the officer asks “have you been drinking?”   You: (I’ve had a couple”.  Him:  are you on your way to or coming from a diner for breakfast at 1 am. You: (sheepishly) yes, am on the way there now to meet some friends. Him: “you are under arrest for driving under the influence, get out of the car”. (Disclaimer:  at all times mentioned herein, Uber or Lyft was used, do not drink and drive).  Anyhow, here’s my Zumba fitness class pre intoxication guidelines.

1. It should not need to be said that you should not have a cocktail DURING CLASS.  Most instructors frown on that because….-their insurance doesn’t cover them or you and, they want to be drinking to and are not allowed and you’re just going to make your class mates envious. (If anyone DOES know of an insurance policy that covers drinking while exercising , please let me know- I’m going to that class, at least once). And then everyone is going to have mimosas and what would THAT look like?

2. Drinking ends 24 or more hours before class. Again, you would think this doesn’t need comment, but if you’re experiencing “symptoms” 24 hours after your last drink and you’re blaming alcohol, you’re in denial about just how out of shape you are and you need more exercise. And less excuses. Or therapy.

3. 24- 12 hours before class. This what I have come to term the “reasonable zone”. The probability of avoiding symptoms within this time frame involves a number of variables like whether it’s closer to 24 hours or 12, whether you’re measuring your consumption by number of drinks,  or liters, or some either percentages or multiple of liters thereof and whether the circumstances of your consumption has video which either you or your companions think is “the Hangover” , the movie, worthy.  E.g, if there is a live tiger in your house, or you are missing a tooth, Do Not Attend Zumba class, regardless of the time period between your last drink and class.  Call your attorney.

4. 12-7.5 hours before class.  I confess this is the time period with which I have most consistently experimented. I will also say that in this time frame, class attendance requires a very dark pair of shades, and at least a Grande sized, extra shot espresso.  Don’t worry, with practice, you can Zumba with a Starbucks in one hand without spilling it.  My experience is that depending on consumption and whether you’re closer to 12 hours or 7.5, this time frame will involve some of the side effects mentioned above.  Most frequent:  the conversation between you and your Divine  creator. Second most frequent?  Let’s just say I measure those classes by whether they are a “no trip, or 1,2 or three bathroom trips during class”  (and severity of side effects) experience.

5. 7.5 to minutes before class.  Again, I confess that today is the first, and last time I try the 7.5 hour zone.  You do NOT want to be leaving a Waffle House at 1:30 am in a Uber and be in Zumba class, 7.5 hours later.  Do not try this at home.

However, science is a community affair where the many build on the research of pioneers. I pass the baton to my millennial Zumba friend who by virtue of age and or fitness, like our astronauts, are prepared to boldly go,where no one has gone before”. (If however, you drink consistently from 7.5 to minutes before class, please attach video.  Thank you).

Katie “Barre” The Door

“I’m not here to torture you”, said the instructor at the minute class started. Knowing people usually say the opposite of what they’re thinking, I thought “oh shit, here we go”.  

I’ve wanted to try Barre for a long time, but I needed to find a female friend to take me, because I can tell you from experience, when a guy shows up to take a class with a room full of women, they look at you like… Well:

1.   A group of pediatric nurses watching a newborn boy get circumcised 

2.  Like they want to search you for roofies

3.  Like “creepy” just walked out of the dictionary and came to class.  

Trust me, you would never go to another country without a passport, do not go to a women’s exercise class without a female to escort you.   

For the uninitiated, barre, according to the barre evolution website may be defined as “Barre (bar) n.: Exercise modality that uses a ballet barre for balance, your own bodyweight for resistance, and a series of small, low impact movements to rapidly yield a tight, toned and transformed physique.”   These “small, low impact, isometric movements create what is called “barre burn”. While “burn” is a good term, it’s a little misleading and here’s why.  Anyone who’s ever built a fire, or seen a fire built will identify.  In building a good fire, you need tinder (something to start the fire that burns easily, like paper) and then kindling (small sticks of wood or little branches that will,catch first easily from the tinder, and then pieces of wood which gradually increase in size.   Think of this muscle “burn” as the smoke that rises after the match is first put to paper, followed by the glint of flame as the paper flares I fire and starts to heat the kindling, followed by the hotter flame as the kindling is consumed, followed by the raging fire as the larger pieces of wood are consumed in flames.  Or if you e ever seen a building burn, you know that first there is a little smoke and then in a moment, the entire building is consumed in flames.  This is your muscles in Barre 

This might be just one of the thoughts that enter your mind as you stand, feet wide apart squat, your toes turned out to opposite walls, standing on your toes, doing infinitesimally small bends.  Or, you might think of that one time when you thought, “why can’t I climb a barbed wire fence, I’ll be careful” , or as a guy, “how hard can a split really be?”  Ever woke up in the middle of the night, with a charlie horse so bad, you literally levitate straight up out of the bed, to land on the floor, on your feet, massaging your cramped muscle?  This is barre. 

Ever gotten a foot cramp so bad when driving, you literally had to pull over to get out of the car to stand on the cramped foot to get the cramp out?   This is barre

But in fairness it’s a cross between the excruciating burn of isolating a muscle to exhaustion with the shaking and quivering which comes from actually having exhausted the muscle.  

They have accoutrements of torture including straps (yay bondage), hand weights, little green balls (I never did find out what the balls were for) , mats and some wooden thing on the wall about four feet wide and going up about 8 feet with little round rungs. My escort said it was for you to hang by, but she forgot its name.  The rack I said, it’s “the rack”. 

If there was a warm up I missed it. The class progresses from push ups and planks, to arm and shoulder exercises (if you want an idea what this feels like hold your arms straight up with your palms outstretched.  Now watch Gone with the the Wind.  Drop your arms). Then gluteus and thighs. Then abdominal.   Thankfully the difficulty of coping with the searing pain in so many parts of your body is slightly distracting.  

There was a clearly announced “cool down” period which involved a series of more exercises in which the instructor was not clamoring for more pain.   The lack of clamoring did not reduce the pain.  

If, like me, you’re happily wandering through the sadomasochism of various modalities of exercise, barre is clearly a torture session you don’t want to miss. I can’t wait to go back. 

“Squeeze Your Anus” Ashtanga Workshop Weekend

You’re about to learn more about your “pelvic floor” than you thought was possible or maybe even what a “pelvic floor” is and how squeezing your anus can change your life. Or at least, your pelvic floor. Irresistible title, I know.  

Not long ago, In October of 2015, I wrote “Ashtanga Yoga – A primer” passing on my introductory knowledge of Ashtanga derived from two classes which consisted of the advice of “skip class and have a friend hit you in the stomach with a shovel.”  Ashtanga a primer  Imbued with this new found knowledge my logical thought was, “I should go to a class every week after the holly days.”  (Not very smart, I know)

A slightly more elucidating description of Ashtanga is “This form of yoga is intensely physical and athletic. Ashtanga yogis practice a prescribed set of asanas, channel energy through the body using bandhas (locks), and concentrate on singular points using drishti (gaze) in asanas.”  (An asana is a pose or movement running from the easiest of, “bend over and touch your toes” (or the floor or put your palms on the floor and bend your elbows out) to a more complicated form of twister where you fashion yourself into a pretzel and look at parts of your body you’ve never seen before.    Like this. 

 You don’t even want to know how to get into this. In one class, a girl said someone should clone a life alert bracelet into a yoga alert bracelet – “help, I fell  into this pose and I can’t get out    Just for the record, I can not do this now, nor ever imagine it happening. 

After happily surviving NOT passing out the first two classes in January I follow my plan of regular weekly attendance when I see that internationally know Ashtanga Yoga teacher, is coming to the studio to do 10 1/ hours of instruction on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday in April, and I look at the individual classes with a la Carte pricing, and one fixed fee for the whole shebang, including waterboarding and I think, “YEAH, that’s me”!!! (Again, not smart.  If you’re a regular reader you know good judgement is not my hallmark.  Although, Senator Bob Packwood did say, “Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment ) 

Today is Sunday and I have survived,  however, I am using my last functional appendage, one hand, to type this message.  By Friday morning, two days ago, I am anticipating the start of the first class Friday night with a mixture of fear and excitement.  Or terror.  Or dread.  However, Friday was pretty much a 2 1/2 hour lecture practice on paranyama (breathing) and bandhas, (locks)  (Hold on, we’re almost to the squeeze your anus part) 

First breathing. Ashtanga uses a from of breathing called Ujayi (pronounced “ooo jay) in which “…Ujjayi (translated as “victorious”) breathing should be both energizing and relaxing. In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali suggests that the breath should be both dirga (long) and suksma (smooth). The sound of Ujjayi is created by gently constricting the opening of the throat to create some resistance to the passage of air. Gently pulling the breath in on inhalation and gently pushing the breath out on exhalation against this resistance creates a well-modulated and soothing sound—something like the sound of ocean waves rolling in and out.”  Ujjayi Breath.  More simply, open your mouth an exhale as if you were fogging a mirror.  Now,  close your mouth and exhale, keeping the same restriction in your throat. MOST simply, I call this Darth Vader breath.  Breathing through your nose with Mouth closed, do your best impression of Darth Vader breathing,  this is Ujjayi breath.  (Now, try to breath this way for an hour- Bahahahahahaha)

Ah, finally bandhas.  Mula Bandha.   “Squeeze your anus”, he says.  “Huh?”  This is probably not an exact transcription of what  what he said but here goes at the very bottom of the bowl of your pelvis, you have a network of muscles attaching front to back and side to side like a warm apple pie’s top lattice Crust, nicely browned and perfectly weaved.  (Ok, he didn’t say the pie part, but I was hungry ). The muscle part was true though (kinda)  

 and by contacting these muscles, you help to lift your internal organs from crushing each other and eventually, bring peace to the Middle East. Or maybe kill your craving for Cocoa Puffs.  To do this, squeeze your anus.  Then while doing that, contract the muscles you need to stop. Urinating mid stream.  Now, you may be laughing, and you may be trying to squeeze your anus right now but if you’re trying to do both, when I tell you to hold this for the next hour, you’ll stop laughing.  However, when he said this eventually reverses something of the natural incontinent type symptoms which advancing age brings, I though, “hell yeah, I’m in!!!). However, he did point out that your supposed to keep these muscles permanently locked (meaning squeeze your anus 24 hours a day) unless, you’re using the bathroom, giving birth, menstruating, or drinking tequila with a stripped named Mercedes in Guadalajara.  I’m pretty sure  I squeezed my anus once for 24 hours in college and it made me want to vote republican.  

Clearly, I’ve summarized the 2 hours and thirty minutes but suffice it to say that by the end, I was thinking the last time I put so much focus on Darth Vader breathing and squeezing my anus was when my freshman dorm mate Pat and I double dated the two sorority girls to USC homecoming in 1975.  Lesson learned, “remember where you park your car anytime your”re parking with 40,000 other cars- it’s a loong wait till the parking lot is empty  and you can see it.  Which equally applies to squeezing your anus for an hour)

My greatest fear the last seven years of yoga was being in a completely packed yoga room, mats only inches apart, 7-8 yogis in a row and I lose my balance falling over into the hot chick next to me creating a human yogis dominoes effect.  I escaped that fear for 7 years. Until today.  While the entire row didn’t fall over, I took her out like a linebacker sacking the quarterback in the playoffs.  

 
On the positive side, she we very gracious about it, the class got some much needed comic relief (who doesn’t like being laughed at by 50 people?) and I lived.  Reminder lesson, even when our greatest fear comes true, it’s not as bad as we have catastrophized.  

My best moment?  Yesterday morning, we’re over an hour in where we’re trying to do several of the harder poses in the middle of the sequence and I’m not even close to doing it right and looking around the room, literally dripping sweat all over my mat, and thinking, just as a matter of observation, that I have clearly the absolute WORST form of anyone in the class, and he comes over, taps my foot and says “good job).  I only made it 6 1/2 hours of the 10.5 for the weekend, but hooray for me.  

As I was leaving today,  the studio owner goddess guru sweetheart asked if I was coming back for the last two hours, called “Do WHAT with my leg”, in which hip openers are offered to allow you to put your feet behind your head while sitting up.  “No,” I said, “I have Chik Fil A hips, they’re closed on Sunday’s.”  

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