IN AQUA ZUMBA, there’s the shallow end of the pool, and there’s the end where your toes definitely do not touch.
At Rainier Beach Community Center, the class technically takes place in the shallow end. But as soon as I arrived at the modern, new facility, I saw some devotees head straight for a cart full of float belts and weights. I like to bet on the regulars and followed them.
They were deep-enders. My previous encounter with water aerobics almost took me out, but I felt determined and picked up a belt and webbed gloves. After some consultation over whether to use hand weights, I skipped them. I put on the belt and lowered myself into the deep end of the pool.
I treaded water as I waited for class to start and told myself I could always paddle over to the shallow end if it got too intense.
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I was curious to see if Aqua Zumba was more fun than Aqua Fit. I got my butt kicked in Aqua Fit, but I can’t say I found it especially fun. It felt too much like an aerobics class.
Zumba, however, has lively music. I like land Zumba. And Toni, the popular Aqua Zumba teacher at Rainier Beach, told us to have fun no matter what.
The water churned furiously as we tried to imitate Toni’s energetic Zumba moves at the side of the pool. She modified moves for the pool and had us sweep our hands through the water, using resistance to challenge us. My webbed gloves ramped up the intensity.
I had a harder time staying afloat when I lifted my hands overhead and out of the water; I had to pump my legs furiously to keep from sinking.
Toni kept the moves straightforward, with lots of knee lifts and kicks, though she did teach us some dance numbers that had us jump from side to side and turn in four directions. From their chairs, the lifeguards shimmied their shoulders along with us.
The music was always fun. When Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” came on, the class let out a few hoots and hollers.
The conga line was the best. We circled the deep end twice, arms waving overhead to the music.
Aqua Zumba is intense enough that about 20 to 25 minutes into class, I may have considered moving to the shallow end. I justified it as a way to get the moves down. But as soon as my toes touched, I realized it really was better in the deep end. I paddled back.
It’s also possible to talk to other people, and you will want to. The regulars are fun and chatty, and we laughed over our inability to stay where we started in the pool and do the moves like Toni, who has a huge smile on her face as she dances.
After class, some of the women went to the side of the pool to do more crunches. Instead, I moved over to the Jacuzzi and water slide to complete my aquatic experience.
Aqua Zumba felt less like a fitness class and more like splashing around in the pool to music. And I liked it.
If there’s an Aqua Zumba class near you, and you’ve always considered adding some kind of low-impact, water-based exercise to your regimen, my advice is to go there. It’s a great way to get a low-impact cardio workout, to swivel your hips under water and Zumba like no one is watching.
Nicole Tsong teaches yoga at studios around Seattle. Read her blog at papercraneyoga.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific NW magazine staff photographer.