This has been quite the adventurous year for me health-wise. In the past 10 months, I’ve tried everything from supplement cocktailing to an eight-week fitness challenge. My body and mind have been tested and pushed in the most interesting directions. However, one direction I’ve been avoiding is one you might not expect as it's seemingly harmless: dance cardio workouts. Yes, at first glance, they seem like a carefree, fun-filled way to clock in your exercise for the day. But, for someone who is uncoordinated by nature and can’t follow a dance combination to save her life, this type of fitness is terrifying.
Here’s the thing: I actually love music and dancing. I have no problem hopping on a dance floor at a wedding or special event and bopping around aimlessly to music. However, choreographed, structured dance classes that require complex movement and combinations intimidate me just as much as public speaking. I’ve just never had the ability to look graceful and effortless when I dance, which is why I often choose familiar, casual environments to let loose.
Now, that's not to say Jazzercize-like fitness programs haven't fascinated me for years — the individuals hopping around in neon bodysuits and leg-warmers always looked like they were having such a great time! According to dance cardio studio 305 Fitness founder/CEO Sadie Kurzban, the reason said partakers seem so euphoric, it's because they are. "Cultures across oceans were dancing away before they were riding bikes or rowing or boxing," she said in an email to The Zoe Report. "I believe dancing is a human need. It's playful, it allows us to self-express, to connect with ourselves, to let loose, and to not take life so seriously."
Fair enough. I was recently invited to a #MovingTogether event hosted by activewear line FP Movement, and featuring 305 Fitness. It was here that I finally decided to take the plunge and become one of those dancing happy people. For context, 305 offers high-intensity rhythmic cardio courses to the tunes of a live DJ — fun, right? While an average Basics class is about 45 minutes (an Advanced course is 58), the one offered to me at the event was 30 minutes, which helped appease my dance class phobia. I figured, if I was miserable, at least I would just be so for half and hour.
Now, to be clear, the setting in which I took the 305 Basics class was not a traditional one. In lieu of a studio, my session took place in a hotel banquet/conference room that overlooked Los Angeles (which is not a bad view to take in while you're working out!). Our instructor for the day was the vivacious Christie Valdiserri whose infectious energy made me instantly want whatever she was having.
After a brief intro, an uptempo remix began blaring, prompting the class to start moving. Because our session was a short one, Valdiserri launched quickly into the meat and potatoes of our workout, which consisted of high-intensity movements. Instead of the yoga flows, boxing combos, and squat reps I have become accustomed to this year, I found myself rapidly side-stepping, forward strutting, dropping my lower body, and spinning in place while popping my hip. It was as if I had transported myself to the college dance parties I used to frequent in my 20s where I always left exhausted, sweaty, and ready for more. I literally felt like Jennifer Lopez.
Within 15 minutes of shaking my body around the room, my heart rate was racing and the sweat was starting to trickle down my face and neck — and I was feeling great. Despite the fact that I definitely flubbed at least 50 percent of the moves demonstrated, I kept on dancing like no one was watching. In fact, I wasn't even aware of what was happening around me. My focus was on letting my body move to the beat and rhythm in its own, natural way.
According to Kurzban, this is on par with the course structure of 305 Fitness. "It's amazing for your cardio and respiratory health — we do tons of cardio moves like boxing, jumping jacks, running in place, and fast feet," she explained. "Our class is also awesome for your mental health — your body is flooded with endorphins during and after class, and class helps build self-confidence."
Considering the pace and high impact, I can see dance workouts as a great cardio alternative for those with an aversion to running, boxing, or other HIIT workouts. What's nice about the format of the movements and courses is that they can be adjusted to your comfort level. "Our class allows clients to scale up or dial down according to how they might be feeling that day," said Kurzban. "To pare down, we recommend folks take the high impact out of the moves, reduce jumping. Some clients choose to only do the footwork and then add the arms when they're feeling good."
Because there is less stress on resistance or muscle building, I would recommend supplementing the workouts with strength-training courses like yoga or Pilates. This will ensure you're giving your heart and your muscles the proper attention they need and deserve. At the end of the day, I see this experience as yet another one that has challenged me and made me step out of my wellness comfort zone — which is always a good thing. Looks like my cardio dance card will be full for the rest of the year.