It looks intimidating, doesn't it? That room at the gym where they have classes with names like Cardio Kickboxing, Step Funk and Pump 'n' Jump. As you've walked by, you've watched the exercisers out of the corner of your eye - it looks like loads of fun. But you know you could never do that - you trip over yourself walking from the Stairmaster to the treadmill, both of which are getting really boring. Well, guess what? If for a few minutes you can stop telling yourself that you can't do cardio dance, maybe - just maybe - you'll discover that you actually can.
Granted, if you seriously have a problem moving and counting to four at the same time, one count for each step, then cardio dance is probably not for you. If you can count to eight while moving, then there's a chance you may actually become good at it. Can you step-touch? Meaning, can you take a step to the side and bring your other foot to meet it? Can you march in place? Can you step forward with one foot and then raise the other knee? Can you step forward with one foot and, while standing on that foot, raise the other knee three times? If you can do that, then you've already performed a cardio dance move - it's called a "repeater" (a rather obvious name for repeating the same knee lift more than once). It only gets better from here on.
Here are some tips that will help you make the most out of your cardio dance experience:
Dress properly, including and especially your footwear! The right shoes can make your cardio class a joy; the wrong ones can cause injury. With cardio dance, you are moving sideways quite a bit, as opposed to forward, like you do when you walk or run. So you will need shoes made especially for cardio dance. If you don't want to invest in shoes specifically for cardio dance right away, at the very least make sure you have cross-trainers - that way, if the classes don't work out for you, you can use them for other activities. If you're a woman, make sure you're wearing an athletic bra that gives you a lot of support, even if you're doing a low- impact class - a jogging bra, at the very least. You really don't want to be flopping around - it's uncomfortable, and if you're more than a B cup, it's downright painful.
When come to class for the first time, show up early and let the instructor know you're a beginner. That way he or she can take some extra time with you or at least make sure you're in a spot where you can see what's going on.
Start off with a simple class, something with a name like "Beginning Aerobics" or "Hi-Lo I." Don't even think about the "Tae-Yo-Fusion-Funk-Pump III" class yet! Go as basic as possible. When you're starting to get bored of basic, then try something more advanced or adventuresome, like a funk class or a Step class.
Follow the instructor as if you're looking at a mirror. Don't think about right and left too much - that can get confusing. Just imitate/ mirror what the instructor is doing to the best of your ability. Don't think about it too much. Thinking gets in the way of doing. The less you think, the better off you will be.
Once the class has a basic step down, the instructor will usually try to change it a little, add something fancy like a special kick or a different way of stepping or - yikes! - a turn. If you are an absolute beginner at aerobics, this may throw you at first. Don't worry - just keep doing the basic step the way you were originally taught. Or if you do try the new way and you get lost, go back to the basic move. Always, if you get confused go back to the original step until you get your bearings.
Instructors will often add arm moves to your foot moves. Consider those optional for now. Arm moves are good because they add intensity and help get your heart rate up, especially if your arms remain at or above heart level. But if you're starting off, they can be really confounding. Try them only when you feel really confident with what your feet are doing.
Your cardio class will often end with a bit of strength training. Do the moves mindfully. With many of these classes, you're only using light weights, or body resistance, so you must focus on the muscles being worked, or you won't get much of a workout. And if you can't do those last couple of crunches, don't sweat it. It's not a competition.
If you get one of those cheerleading instructors who wants you to yell and scream and you aren't the yelling, screaming type - then don't! Seriously, vocal participation is not necessary. Let everyone else look silly.
If you're really shy about doing cardio dance around a crowd of people, then try some videos at home first. There are loads of cardio dance DVDs out there for all levels of fitness. Just make sure to read the reviews first to make sure they are appropriate for your beginner's level.
Here's the real beauty of working out to cardio dance videos - you can pause the routine and backtrack as many times as you want until you get a step down. The first couple of times, accept the fact that you may not get too much of a workout because you are learning the moves (part of the enjoyment should come from learning, really). But after that, you should be fine. One caveat - be careful of doing some moves on carpet, especially anything where you're leaping around, turning or sliding your feet on the ground. And make sure you've cleared some room - it's no fun to step-kick your coffee table.
If you keep coming back to your cardio dance classes, the time will come when everything falls into place and you feel like you're lighter than air. Enjoy it - that feeling of exhilaration is the dancer's high, and there's nothing quite like it.