Average Jane



Zumba, and how I failed at life.

I have a tweaky back. The tweakiest, actually. It’s a kind of tweaky that baffles the experts. Nothing structurally wrong. MRI is clear. But my back muscles, when massaged, snap and twitch like a tongue full of Pop Rocks. I’ve done physical therapy before and it did help. Months ago I did chiropractic and I am quite sure it made it worse. Or at least made it not-any-better. (I kept going, though, because it’s nice to get insurance sponsored manhandling twice a week.) I decided that I need both a new bed and a new sofa because they both suck as far as back support goes, and while I will miss my country style denim couch with yellow and blue plaid throw pillow (and matching plaid oversized rocker), my brand new ice blue set will be just as delightfully tacky and hopefully more comfy indeed. After researching new beds, I decided to wait on that for a while (but am looking for good deals if anyone has intel).

My back hasn’t been better or worse lately. I stretch when I can and workout regularly but the back pain is pretty consistent(ly awful).

Which is why I was shocked when in the middle of Zumba class I felt a shock of pain spread laterally across my lower back. I think I must have been thrusting or shaking with slightly too much gusto.  My hips and shoulders perhaps went in opposite directions and I twisted and shimmied my way though the first 4 songs. The class, filled with middle aged women in Jazzercise shoes, and young, thin little blondes wearing tight tanks and spandex pants, watched as I slinked off to the side to stretch my back and writhe in pain. My friend Marco (the only dude in the class) mouthed “Oh my God you’re such an old woman” before getting back to shaking his shoulders along to the latin beats.  I finished stretching and tried to get back into the slightly-innapropriate-for-the-gym choreography. It was a cosmic failure. I had to leave the class in shame, leaving 60+ year old women in my wake. Marco had a field day. I could barely make it home.

I went home, popped some Alleve and laid down on an ice pack for a few hours before falling asleep on the couch. Marco was right. I’m old and broken. I threw out my back doing Zumba. I fail at life.

The next day, though, I went back to the gym. I have to go somewhere after work to avoid traffic and since I had left my wallet at home, I couldn’t just drink for the intervening hours. I laid in the sauna for 20 minutes and then hit the stationary bike so that I won’t feel bad when I eat that ton of candy today at the office. I did notice a completely jacked body-builder type staring at me as I sweat my way through a pathetic cardio effort. Our exiting coincided to the point that he was driving off as I was walking to my car.

He shot me a smile. I awkwardly grinned at him. With a back that’s FUBAR, I gotta get motivated somehow to show up again today.

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Comments

  1. Zumba scares me.
    Especially because my attempt at “jazzercise” was an epic fail… haven’t set foot in a non-yoga class since.

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 7 months ago
  2. * LiLu says:

    Oooo… gym flirting is so much fun… especially because you know the chances of seeing him again are so good! Good luck!

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 7 months ago
  3. * Lisa says:

    Thanks so much for your post on Zumba! I have just started having back problems after having never had them (and (I’m 55). I’ve been doing tons of Zumba and love it, but it occurred to me it might have been the reason. Back to six-mile walks for this gal.

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 6 months ago
    • * celia says:

      Hello,
      The same has happened to me. Thought I’d eventually found some workout I actually enjoy!!
      My back is injured and i’m off work. There should be more warning re this problem as it appears to be quite common. I will be returning to walks and swimming.

      | Reply Posted 5 years, 11 months ago
  4. * Jenny says:

    Just did the same thing as Average Jane. I am 55 and in pretty good shape. Love Zumba. But…the twisting started to
    hurt a bit. Today I stupidly got caught up in the fun song and twisted my way into not being able to move. Yeah…super embarrassing. Might as well wear a target on shirt or sign with a big “L.” My hips and butt move great to left and right, front and back. It is the twisting of back that can cause probs. Maybe warmups need to deal with this unusual movement. I hate
    to think this is because I am old. ick

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 5 months ago
  5. * Nadira Jamal says:

    I know this is really late to post, but I wanted to tell you that this probably wasn’t due to you being “broken”. Hip movements can be very stressful for your lower back, if you don’t keep your pelvis slightly tucked. (You don’t have to overtuck, but your lower back should be long, not swaybacked.) I’m a professional belly dancer, and we do almost everything in that posture to avoid injury.

    I haven’t tried Zumba, but every single person in every single clip I’ve seen has had a swaybacked posture, even the instructors. So I’d suspect they weren’t telling you to adjust your posture in the class where you hurt yourself.

    If you enjoyed Zumba, you might want to try taking belly dance classes for a little while to get used to the tucked posture, and then try it again. It usually takes my students 1-3 months to integrate this posture, so a single class session should be enough. (If your belly dance teacher doesn’t emphasize lengthening your lower back, run away! She probably isn’t very good.)

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 4 months ago
    • * Bren says:

      This has been helpful for me. I am a Zumba instructor and have just completed many hours instructing and my lower back feels very, very weak. I believe that I’ve been so busy instructing that I’ve not paid close enough attention to my own form! Now, how do I teach my classes when my back is this close to going out completely? I’ve just shot myself in the foot, haven’t I? 🙂

      | Reply Posted 6 years, 10 months ago
    • * Sally Crouch says:

      Thanks, Nadira, for your great advice.

      I’m a zumba instructor and have had some sciatica problems for a little over a month now. It’s been getting a lot better, though,partly because I’m cutting back temporarily on practice and classes, partly because I’ve been experimenting with different postures.

      Have pretty much come to the same conclusion you suggest: that I need to keep my behind tucked under, when I “wiggle”. Thanks for confirming my thoughts on the subject.

      Sally C.

      | Reply Posted 6 years, 4 months ago
  6. * Lib Lib says:

    I’ve had a bad back since childhood so everything I try is a question mark in regards to my back. My first Zumba class I tried to keep up with the instructor, bad idea. I went home and was changing the sheets on a bed and threw my back out. I had been dancing for years and had to quit. I’m now back at Zumba Gold and doing fine but agree with Nadira about tucking the pelvis. That is so easy to forget in the excitement of the class but it can save you from lots of pain later.

    | Reply Posted 6 years, 8 months ago
    • * Deanna says:

      I had a hip out of alignment back in Sept. and was seeing a chiropractor for 2 months, can’t afford to go to him anymore. I was okay, I also clean houses for a living. I recently started Zumba and now my back and hip is hurting soooo bad i had to go back to the chiropractor Tuesday, I couldnt even move. It hurts when i bend over, sit, or get up. Should I stop Zumba til I feel no pain at all, til I get better, I really like it and want to do it and my class is in the morn.

      | Reply Posted 6 years, 7 months ago
      • * Kathy says:

        I have been a 4x week Zumba addict for 3 years. I am now recovering from a microdiscetomy for a disc herniation. I hate to admit it but all the movements of Zumba have probably contributed to my problem. I really love it though and is going to be hard to move on to a new exercise but at age 52 have to do what’s best for my back.

        Posted 6 years, 7 months ago
  7. * jade says:

    I am or was A zumba instructor for about a year and for 3 months of last year was in pain lower back, i had a break from classes and pain got worse. I got scans and had bulging discs and hip forward rotation which was also causing my tail bone to pinch on my nerves to legs and give great sciatica pain.. My chiro said the best thing that has happened to his career is zumba as so many ppl injured through it now.. I have been a fitness instructor for 8 years and trained in boxing, weights etc.. I have never had an injury. I must admit i love zumba but i have been out of action for 3months now unable to do the smallest of chores beacause of zumba and also lost my business..

    | Reply Posted 6 years, 7 months ago
  8. * Angelia says:

    Hey Ladies, I feel your pain. I attended a Zumba thon for 3 hours and it was so much fun. Once I left and went home my tail bone hurt so bad. I kept attending Zumba until I could not do it anymore. I love Zumba and I lost 20 pounds in 3 mo. I tried walking on the tremill and its still hurt. Its a very bad situation, but I don’t want to stop doing Zumba. Anyone have opinion on what should I do now? Need to execise, I am overweight.

    | Reply Posted 6 years, 7 months ago
    • * littleleers says:

      I am interested in reading the comments about Zumba and back problems. I participated in three drop in classes and felt the moves were too fast and contorted for the participants. No wonder there are back injuries and who knows what else.

      When doing intensive aerobics either as an instructor or participant, it is imperative to also build and maintain your muscles to help fuel you. Go to Askthetrainer.com and you can find some easy and gentle weight training exercises to build this strength and flexibility. Either that, or find a good trainer to work with you for at least 5 or 6 sessions to learn how to work with free weights, stretches, etc.

      I am studying for the AFAA Group Fitness Certification to be able to teach a Zumba-style class. I am learning how to keep my future participants safe and still having fun. I think that a Group Fitness Certification should be a requirement BEFORE teaching any kind of aerobic instruction. Wish you the best!

      | Reply Posted 6 years, 4 months ago
      • * lynn says:

        I am concerned about Zumba and prolapses of the female pelvic organs/bladder/uterus etc. Is there any one out there that would know if this can create such a problem????

        Posted 5 years, 2 months ago
    • * cindy says:

      Angleia, i also had a back injury …do to zumba. I did it for 30min. three days in a row. Lots of isolation in the hips and waist…my whole left side is messed up, and going down my leg as well. Today is better. I used heat packs, ice packs, icee hot, and did some yoga stretches that i could stand, plus tried not to lift anything of 20lbs. or over. That is kind of hard, because i have a 9mo. old. Luckily i also have a 9 yr. old that can lift for me until she goes to school after the weekend. I love zumba too, and it def. get me motivated and makes me sweat, and keeps the weight coming off.

      Maybe you should do just a little zumba and more of the other stuff. LIke for me, i will only do zumba one day a week, and do other types of exercise the rest…that way i still get to do what i enjoy, but i don’t hurt myself to where i can’t do either. That really sucks when you can’t do anything, and start to slip backwards into your old habits. For me i know that exercise and eating right go hand in hand…if you lose one…the othe will start to slip as well! ;( Best of luck to you!!!!!!!!!!!

      | Reply Posted 5 years, 7 months ago
  9. * Nadira Jamal says:

    Angelia: The first thing to do would be to let your back heal. Rest, stretch, and see your doctor. They may suggest a chiropractor or some other kind of therapy.

    Once your back is doing okay, I’d suggest taking belly dance classes. We maintain a dropped tailbone posture while we dance, which protects us from lower back injury. Any decent instructor will teach you how to drop your tailbone*, and maintain that posture while you move. (I have my students check their posture at least 4 times during every class.) Once you can maintain that posture without thinking about it too much, you can apply it to Zumba, so the hip movements won’t stress your back.

    I’d absolutely recommend taking a class, since a live instructor can help you identify when you’re slipping out of that posture. It’s very hard to correct yourself when you first start out. There’s a great teacher directory at:
    http://shira.net/directory.htm

    Plus, it’s really fun!

    * Some teachers refer to this as tucking your pelvis or lengthening your lower back

    | Reply Posted 6 years, 7 months ago
  10. * Dawn says:

    I did a 2 hr Zumbathon about 3 weeks ago and we had about 20 minutes left and I just could not do it. Something in my lower back just tightened so badly that I could not move. I decided not to do it for the next few weeks so I could rest it. This week I tried it again and only lasted 30 minutes before my lower back tightened. I think it is imperative that the instructors make you stretch beforehand, rather than just jump right into it. I will probably end up in physical therapy because chiropractors and massage therapy has not worked. We shall see.

    | Reply Posted 6 years, 5 months ago
    • * littleleers says:

      My criticism of Zumba is that far too many instructors neglect a proper warm up and do not know how to keep their participants safe. Zumba is a blast for sure, but it is a recipe for injury due to improper warm-ups, cool downs and dynamic stretching.

      | Reply Posted 6 years, 4 months ago
  11. * Gill Judge says:

    I am a really fit woman in my early 30s and have just discovered Zumba. At first I adored Zumba as it was everything I love- high energy dancing, fun, a bit stupid, crazy dance moves with the real potential to tone muscles. I have been going to 3 x 50 minute classes a week. I have been getting a very sore back recently and today I went to see my Chiropractor who told me that he has been inundated with Zumba related back injuries. He said that instructors don’t do enough warm up exercises, there are a lot of sharp, quite intense almost jolting movements that the body isn’t used to and the classes are not sectioned into different ability levels so basically everyone, whether they are a beginner or an Advanced Zumba dancer are all doing the same moves. I also find that the classes I attend don’t have a limit to the number of participants- so often 50-60 women will be packed in one room with not enough room to move properly. I still love my classes but think people need to be aware of all of this before starting Zumba and if they are prone to sore backs, just be aware to take it steady and not an emmulate the instructors in the first few classes otherwise they could end up in agony!

    | Reply Posted 6 years, 3 months ago
  12. * carey says:

    sorry to hear this is your experience – zumba is fun, but every individual needs to take it at their own pace. if you are not 20 and you have done movement like this before go slowly, little by little – there is a class called zumba gold for this reason. i think it is sad that some people have such a negative take when they feel unsuccessful – zumba is not about right and wrong. it is about enjoying music and movement together – ie dance. the truth is every individual is responsible for their own body – that means the care and maintenance of this one and only body you get, and an awareness of their own strengths and limits. listen to your body and the signals of joy/pleasure and pain/injury – they are their for a reason – if it feels good, do it. if it hurts, stop! but you must listen, carefully – it does take practice to sense the nuances. modify your movements to work for you – you do not have to do it just like the instructor or 20 yr old does. take responsibility for your experience instead of putting it down or others, especially when there are many who enjoy it very much and find it a release to uptight attitudes. if you really want to enjoy it then you will find a way to accent your limits and rejoice in your gifts. life is not a test – you don’t pass or fail – you live it. best wishes. welcome to the reality…right here right now. enjoy the moment and dance through life!

    | Reply Posted 6 years, 3 months ago
    • * carey says:

      that is
      “accept your limits and rejoice in your gifts”
      sorry @ my typos above…

      | Reply Posted 6 years, 3 months ago
    • * Nellie Pledge says:

      hey it has been mentioned about responsibility of the instructors advising correctly, and this is what is needed. Warm ups are brilliant but it still has to be stressed about taking care and not taking literally the instructions.

      | Reply Posted 5 years, 2 months ago
  13. * Julie Chedzoy says:

    Hi im Julie and i have little pain in lower back. I went for an MRI scan it it’s clear no problems. The doctor said im able to do dance or whatever. I will cause no problems. I thought then i will take up Zumba dance. At the moment all is ok doing the Zumba dance but if my lower back is hurting now and again, might be muscular, am i ok to carry on doing Zumba? I just like to know im doing the right thing. Im 29 years old and im slim. I like to keep fit and healthy. Look forward to hearing from you soon.
    Julie Chedzoy

    | Reply Posted 5 years, 12 months ago
  14. * ZUBMAMichelle says:

    I am a ZUMBA instructor as well and I have suffered from back pain since 2006 and periodically it does tend to worsen depending on how my stature is in my class. I instantly feel that if I am not elongating my back and tucking the strain is emense on the hips and siactica. I instruct my class to always have bent supple knees and to tuck, tense the abdomen as this will prevent further back injuries. I also tell them if there is a move they can not get then they can supplement with something they enjoy. ZUMBA is all about movement, proper alignment and carido. I love ZUMBA and I do agree that this form of exercise can definately hurt your “soft tissues” in your lower back. If you do not have an instructor that constantly says “bellies in, tuck, and supple knees” WALK AWAY as they are not ensuring the safety of the class. I periodically will mingle with my students and help their posture(when they are familiar witht the choreo). This lets them know I am watching and helping them with proper posture. In my certification classes I have to say “Posture” was really stresses and the feet positions. Sorry I am on role here: Foot positioning is very important because I see many people on thier toes all the time, salsa, merengue and reggaton is not performed on your toes. This causes plantar fascitis and this is painful, swelling of tendons, and misalignment of bones in the feet. If you instructor is constantly on their toes “WALK AWAY”! If you are familiar with dancing there are some move done on your toes not an entire hour of it. As an insturctor I atten other ZUMBA instructors classes to see new moves and music, to broaden my spectrum unfortunately I have wintessed many instructors who do not correct student and they themselves have poor posture and foot positioning. I am not an expert however I am aware that certain things cause injuries.

    For people 50(or first time goers) and above you may want to try ZUMBA Gold- this is a program targeted toward individuals who do have limited movement due to back injuries, knee hip replacements etc. You are still getting ZUMBA just at a more convenient pace and the specialist take care of the students to ensure the safety and well being of each person. I love this program.

    I hope this helps some of you all out. I am sorry you guys have had such a rought time with ZUMBA and hope that you won’t completely forego the program. It is a great program and it does have many benefits.

    One more important thing “your instructor should be showing alternate moves/ variations for folks that may not be able to do a certain move” I do this in all my classes. Because I suffer from chronic back pain(not associated with ZUMBA) I show alternate moves and I specify if you are having issue like me her is a variation, that still works your core and the stabalization is not being coprimised.

    Wishing you all the best of luck!

    | Reply Posted 5 years, 10 months ago
  15. * Chris says:

    Thank you for your guidance. I am grateful for this blog for a couple of reasons. One is I know back issues can be healed through prayer as I’ve experienced it twice since I’ve started dancing Zumba in the past three years, however, the belief of back issues is very strong and until collective thought is completely dissolved on this issue, praying about it could be a full time job (not an unworthy one, but there are other issues in life we all are balancing). At any rate, I’m grateful to know it’s not just me and that there are practical answers which don’t involve giving up Zumba. Your suggestions about posture, tucking, etc. are good reminders. I am considering teaching Aqua Zumba but in reviewing the dvd note there is a lot of jumping and this does not seem wise for people with back issues. If I decide to teach this class I will have to modify quite a bit for myself, but will need really good shoes. I’m seeking a recommendation for shoes with plenty of cushion and am wondering if you can recommend a brand to try. Thanks again.

    | Reply Posted 5 years, 10 months ago
  16. * Mary says:

    I hope no one starts praying to heal their back pain. The US government has already spent millions researching whether or not prayer heals and every study showed the same result: praying does not work. So focus on the proven ways to manage and heal back pain. Please don’t waste your time praying.

    | Reply Posted 5 years, 8 months ago
    • * Jenn Wakefield says:

      Exercise doesn’t work either. Neither does eating right. Oh and driving safely doesn’t keep you safe either. And studying doesn’t make you smarter. And wearing a coat in the winter doesn’t keep you warm. Have you lost your mind? I can’t even believe you said such a thing.

      | Reply Posted 5 years, 2 months ago
  17. * Donna says:

    Im wanting to try zumba, it looks like such fun. But I have si joint problems and a extremely loose tail bone. From all the years I worked on concret floors and didnt always stay on my feet. Im very clumsy sometimes. Im abt to be 42 this week and Im very overweight for my height, a good 60lbs. I went through 6wks of p.t. and the therapist is the one who figured out my problem. The dr just wants to keep spending my money on mri tests that wont show up either one of my problems. But anyway my therapist told me that I needed a low impact work out to go with the core strengthing routine she gave me. I dont have a problem with wiggling my hips. I was just wondering should I even both trying it before I sign up and make a fool of myself at church. Thank you for any advice.

    | Reply Posted 5 years, 7 months ago
  18. * Anne-Marie Beaudoing says:

    Finally, I found a site where everyone is experiencing the same problem that I have. I am 62, very fit and started doing Zumba 8 months ago. Now, my lower back and hips hurt so much that I have to get out of bed at night. I love Zumba, but clearly, the moves are just too hard on the back. I got an MRI, back Xrays, and was told to give up Zumba! So now, I am learning to live with chronic back pain and sciatica and I fear that some of the damage is irreversible.. Please, stop doing Zumba if your back hurts; the pain is sending you a message to stop! Best regards to all!

    | Reply Posted 5 years, 7 months ago
  19. * Amanda Smith says:

    As someone who has been a gym fanatic for over twenty years, and who has done body combat and other martial arts classes for years – and NEVER had any probs, I am a bit p*ssed off that not once now, but twice, I’ve sprained my lower back doing Zumba, and it’s been 7 days now and I’m still in pain… What I want to say is to instructors – you know what? If people like me are ‘falling’ due to zumba, when we never had probs with any other classes before, then there is something wrong in the way you are teaching it, perhaps not enough warm up, not enough lectures about protecting your lower back, moves that change too fast, poor prompting by the instructor, failure to teach steps before the music starts (which results in people jerking suddenly, and straining), etc.

    Zumba is a good class, but instructors need to really be better about preventing injury. They are very careful in kickboing and combat classes, so why not zumba – especially if it’s KNOWN to cause strain???

    As I said, I’m a bit p*ssed off, would have appreciated a better warning/warm up from the instructor BOTH times, cheers

    | Reply Posted 5 years, 5 months ago
  20. * Anoosh says:

    Does anyone know any more Zumba BlogSpots on the Internet? I have looked very hard and carefully from many search Engines. Thank Heaven for Average Jane. Average Jane you are doing a HUGE HUGE favor for those of us who have actually jumped on to this Bandwagon. Disco Dancing somehow had that same magnetising effect and Go to http://www.Freeality.com which lists MANY search engines, meta and mega Search Engines and it seems like EVERYONE and their UNCLES are jumping on this Zumba Bandwagon. Of Course the Allopathic/Medical profession remain MUMM on this because if you don’t get injured their business will slacken and they’ll be out of business! This even includes Chiropractors, Podiatrists, Orthopedic Surgeons, etc

    | Reply Posted 5 years, 2 months ago
  21. * Wendy says:

    I am a Zumba FANATIC. I have been doing it 6-7 days a week, sometimes 2 times a day. I hit every single Zumbathon I can (3 hour sessions). I do Aqua Zumba, Zumba Gold, Regular Floor Zumba, and Zumba Toning. I have lost 30 lbs doing this in the past 3 months. I did 3 back to back sessions this week and am only now experiencing sciatica in my left leg. But I don’t blame Zumba. It is MY responsibility to warm up before jumping in (as I forgot to do twice this week, because I was running late). It is the instructors responsibility to warm us up, yes, but every class I attend, they do 2 warm up songs and a cool down song or two. Stretching is not included in any Zumba class I have ever attended, other than in song. So I put it on the participant (AKA ME) more so than on the instructor. Every instructor I have does the low-impact options for us, and as of 2 weeks ago I stopped using the low impact options because I felt I was ready to do more. So my injury is MY fault, and I will continue Zumba… it has changed and is changing my life. Any sport or activity you participate in, can cause injury. ANY of them. Heck I was in an interval training class just two days ago and one of the bands snapped (after the instructor JUST told us they wouldn’t break) and it broke a girls hand. Anything can happen at any time.

    Stretch out before you go into class then get in there, listen to the music and do what YOU are able to do, not what everyone else is doing, because there are 50+ different levels, abilities, shapes, sizes, etc in each class. Have fun with it. I love it, and will never stop. This sciatica will heal itself in time. I will be taking the week off this coming week and only doing 2 classes of aqua zumba, to help my back. Then the following week, I will be back in the advanced classes having a blast.

    | Reply Posted 5 years, 2 months ago
  22. * Ashley says:

    I slipped two discs in my lower back two years ago, I refused to do surgery. Since the. I have done a lot of research tryin to find what works for me. I actually started to be pain free when I discovered belly dancing, and learned how to do it correctly, being constantly aware of my posture. It has made a huge difference.

    | Reply Posted 3 years, 5 months ago
  23. * Duha says:

    In early Zumba classes, one of Beto’s instructors said that the difference between Latin and Belly dancing was that in Latin, the center of the shaking is the back, while in belly dancing the center is the stomach. Guess that the back centered posture is part of Latin dancing.

    | Reply Posted 2 years, 6 months ago
  24. * Duha says:

    and yes, I’m 36 and always had back pain (lamber disc) but after exercising daily with Zumba for a whole month, one leg started the shooting pain. I’m in physio now

    | Reply Posted 2 years, 6 months ago
  25. * L says:

    I was doing zumba and hurt my back, my disc etc. I stopped after 3 years and its done temperament damage to my back.

    | Reply Posted 1 year, 5 months ago


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