Ironically, the home workout I've been actively avoiding since March (when lockdown measures were put in place) turned out to be the workout I needed the most: dance. Now, I am not a dancer and have never been a dancer. I never took ballet or tap as a toddler, and while I absolutely love hitting the dance floor at weddings, I still get a little bit of anxiety before that initial twist and turn.
It's really the fear of embarrassing myself — stumbling over the choreography, tripping over my feet — that has fueled my resistance to dance.
And it's not like these worries are totally unrealistic, either — I once accidentally signed up for an advanced dance class, only to be told that I probably wouldn't be able to keep up. I stayed, FYI, and the instructor wasn't exactly wrong — I ended up just jumping around in place for 45 minutes, feeling stressed and panicky the entire time.
For the record, I've also had a few positive dance class experiences, but usually with friends, and not enough to motivate me to keep it going as a part of my regular workout routine.
Then, I interviewed Paula Abdul and was enlightened about a dance instruction app called Steezy. Nursing a hand injury, I needed a non-weight-bearing workout to substitute my planks, so I decided to give Steezy a shot for myself. I reached out to Kiira Harper, a choreographer for Steezy, for some beginner advice on taking the platform's classes.
The first answer I needed: is Steezy a good option for beginners? Because, let's face it, I am no Paula Abdul on the dance floor.
"Yes, absolutely!" Harper told me. "Steezy offers a plethora of dance class options, from dance workout to hip-hop styles, dancehall, even dancing in heels! All levels are listed, and it shows the beginner exactly what they are getting themselves into. You'll get your heart rate going, blood pumping, and sweat definitely dripping with whatever you choose in the comfort of your own home."
Much to my delight — that was exactly the case when I signed on to my Steezy account for the first time. The category selection was impressive, to say the least, offering everything from TikTok dances to hip hop to what I ended up choosing — dance workout, which Harper recommends for beginners.
After asking my fiancé to steer clear of the living room for a bit, closing the curtains, and pushing the table to the side, I decided to go with a 20-minute dance workout class for my first Steezy experience.
The class was a mix of classic cardio and bodyweight moves mixed in with smaller and simpler dance segments. The class started off with a series of jumping jacks and squats, which helped me feel confident from the get-go — then, we progressed to dance moves on a beat that, according to the instructor, mimicked the squat movement.
Immediately, I realized that what kept me away from dance workouts in the past — feeling embarrassed in front of others — was eliminated from my new normal of exercise. Working out at home, without an audience, helped me to stop worrying about what I looked like while trying to ace the moves, or how many times I stumbled over my feet. As I started to relax, I felt the tenseness in my shoulders drop, my mind stopped racing, and I zoned in on the movements. Simply put, I was so consumed with having fun that my anxiety dissipated — two things I really, really needed in that exact moment.
"Dance is about a feeling first," Harper told me. "Enjoy yourself! The more you enjoy yourself the better your workout will be." And I found that to be true during my first Steezy dance workout class. As my 20 minutes came to a close, I surprised myself. I didn't want to stop moving, so I searched through the database for another dance workout class, and pressed play.
Harper's advice isn't reserved for solo dance fitness in your living room. It can be applied to those studio dance classes that always left me nervously sweating or hiding in the back corner. In the past, instead of focusing on the physical, emotional, and mental benefits I was getting out of the class, I'd obsess over what others were thinking about me. Just think about how much genuine happiness could have come out of those experiences! Now it just seems like a missed opportunity.
So, once lockdown measures are lifted and I can safely attend an in-person dance class, I'll be taking my newfound confidence to the front of the studio floor — whether I can keep up with the choreography or not.