My Friend Abby Normal – Learning to Walk Before You Can Zumba

Do you feel Abby Normal?
Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein.

One of my favorite scenes from the movie Young Frankenstein has to be when Igor (Marty Feldman) admits he brought Dr. Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) the wrong brain. When Dr. F asked whose brain he was given, Igor replies “Abby. Abby something…. Abby Normal!” I’ve often wondered how they got my brain for that scene.

I’m not a stupid person, although I certainly still have much to learn. But it seems I’m doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over. I’m pretty sure, somewhere in my head, there’s a little fella kicking the skipping record player and cursing a blue streak because it’s in a rut. “What’s wrong with you! Why won’t you move forward you ridiculous piece of … vinyl!” And so it goes, and where it stops, nobody knows.

Maybe I’m being a bit melodramatic. I do usually learn from my mistakes. But sometimes I try something, look back to analyze it, and realize it’s really not that different from other methods I’ve tried. “Hello Abby. Will you be staying long?” There are lots of reasons why I believe I’m abnormal, but today I’ll just highlight one of them. We can save my various other flaws for analysis at a later date.

Some time back, Abby, my abnormal brain, had a brilliant idea. “Let’s try Zumba! You love to dance. This will be fun and it counts as exercise, so go pay for the class and get your butt in there!” It’s true. I do love to dance. Nothing gets me motivated like upbeat music. So there I was, in a class of mostly skinny minnies, ready to salsa my way to a hot bod. What I failed to realize beforehand was that a.) I’m seriously out of shape, b.) salsa looks good on tacos salads, not on me, and c.) wall-to-wall mirrors are demoralizing when you already feel like a buffalo stuffed in spandex. My only salvation came from the fact that they lowered the lights and turned on the disco ball thing. It’s a lot harder to watch a buffalo attempting to dance when the light is only on it for a millisecond.

Despite my feeble attempt at looking fabulous, while hyperventilating my way to exhaustion, I was determined to push through to the end. I endured all 45 excruciating, heart pounding, dear-god-someone-kill-me-now minutes, and by George, I did it with gusto and a smile. And a few gasping breaths. And a frantic need for water.

The next day found me sore in areas that I’d happily forgotten existed. I also had a tightness in my chest and some trouble breathing. Abby poked her head in and said “But hey! You had fun, right?” Sure I did and I’m sure next time will be easier. But by that evening I was concerned about the difficulty breathing and these little flutters I was feeling in what I assumed was the general area of my heart. I was ready to strangle Abby. I called my doctor to make an appointment.

Long story short, they ran an EKG and some other tests to see if all was okay. I can thankfully tell you my heart is in perfect working order. All these years of low-carb living haven’t damaged it in the least. But it did turn out my lungs needed a “do not disturb” sign. I had pleurisy. And if you’ve never had pleurisy, let me tell you what it’s like. IT SUCKS. It sucks huge rocks covered in spikes, coated in regret for ever even attempting Zumba. And it took seemingly forever to get over. It was like that annoying family member that just won’t go the heck away. I was pretty sure I’d end up on the front page of some local paper, in a story about my freakish demise. WOMAN DIES ATTEMPTING ZUMBA, FRIENDS SAY SHE DANCED LIKE A BUFFALO. The crazy part? Abby kept saying “Just think, when you get better you can go back!” I’m pretty sure Abby hates me.

I know that the pleurisy and Zumba were just coincidental, as Zumba doesn’t cause pleurisy. That lovely condition is brought on by infection and other such wonderful instigators. But it’s kinda like getting food poisoning. Once you get sick eating chicken, you tend to never want chicken again, even if it wasn’t actually the chicken that did the dirty deed. But I let Abby talk me into it, and again I was back at Zumba. This time I took it very easy. Now I looked like a lazy buffalo in spandex. But I left without needing an ambulance, or another trip to the doctor.

This encouraged Abby enough that she pushed forward with other ideas. “Hey, someday you should run a marathon!” Whoa Abby. I think not. This body, even at its thinnest, wasn’t meant to run. If I’m running, you can be sure something big and scary is behind me, and you’d probably better run too. With my natural, uh, female enhancements, running is beyond a bad idea. Crossing the finish line with two black eyes is not on my bucket list thank-you-very-much. I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of duct tape it would take to keep me in place for something like that. Although, if I got enough momentum going, I could probably just bounce my way to the finish. Thankfully, Abby has shut up about that idea for the time being.

The thing is, Abby has other plans for me. Plans I’m not so sure about. Plans that sound crazy, even to me. She’d like me to be fit and athletic. I can totally get behind that. In fact, I welcome it. It’s how she thinks I can get there that scares the bejeebes out of me. I’ve tried several of her ideas, and usually end up wondering if I was dropped on my head as a child.

But I also realize that sometimes we have to attempt things that seem scary, if we want to make real change. I’m prepared for that. For now, Abby and I have worked out an agreement on my exercise routine – one that I pray will not require any kind of medical intervention. So far it seems to be working, although I’ve just gotten started. How dangerous can walking be anyway? For me, there is really no telling. I’m not exactly graceful. But I’ve agreed that once the walking routine becomes easier, it’s time to go back to strength training via the Slow Burn method. Abby will just have to be patient as I ease back into this.

Easing back into a solid exercise routine is what makes this effort stand out from all the rest. I’ve always jumped in head first, not really taking stock of how hard I’ll hit said head.  And giving up before you really get started is pretty pathetic, even for me. So this time, no skipping records. I’ll give the little man in my head a break. Maybe he can read a book and learn some new words for the next time Abby comes barging in with an idea. And she will. I have no doubt she will.

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  1. Great post, Amy. Love the movie and have done Zumba for a while until they moved it to the new gym and the club atmosphere was gone. ;-( We had people of all sizes during our class and it was a blast, though I was toast after each 1 hour session – but, yes, it was fun!!! Maybe I’ll find a place at our new duty station one day.

  2. “FRIENDS SAY SHE DANCED LIKE A BUFFALO.” I loved the whole article, but this one made me burst out laughing! By the way, I had pleurisy once, too, and while I still had it, I had to sing a solo at a benefit concert. How I managed it, I don’t know. I think I took a breath between each word. You are right – it is no fun! Have fun walking!

    • Ugh. I have no idea how you sang with pleurisy. I could barely breathe enough to talk at times. You are officially my hero for even trying that.

      • I did it because I can do anything I set my mind to! :0) But one person did come up to me after the show and ask what was wrong with me because it seemed like I could not catch my breath…

  3. SO funny. I started Zumba in June. I go twice a week and I stay in the back with the other sad dancers. But I like it for some strange reason. Even though I’m too fat and too old. I’m a gluton for punishment!!
    Great article. I just love your sense of humor!!

  4. OK, now….I have to quit laughing out loud and spitting my drink all over the keyboard! This was hilarious! So much fun, Amy! I remember my one and only run-in with Zumba, too. I thought they were going to have to carry me back out to my car! At least I’m not a slow learner in THAT regard! 🙂

  5. Love this article because it is so true and hilarious. Someday I will get the nerve to go into a room full of mirrors(scary!!!)… you are an inspiration. Lmbo at …lazy buffalo in spandex. Thanks for the great read Amy. I had to share with all my coworkers so they knew why I was laughing. 😀

  6. Loved the article Amy!! I’ve tried Zumba before the my lack of coordination made me give it up! it’s really difficult but you stuck with it anyway! there’s a class across the street that I just might have to try again. We shall see if I get over my shyness of looking scary on the dance floor!

  7. I recently tried Zumba Toning, where you use little weights, as well as trying to co-ordinate moving them AND dancing.

    Gotta say, my mother wouldn’t let me dance to popular music (or even listen to it) growing up – so un-cordinated is an under statement.

    However, I endure, and it’s partly because I dished out the money for (a) the weights; and (b) a 10-class card. I’ve also recruited an acquaintance, because misery loves company, I guess, and it also keeps me going, because I don’t want to let her down.

    There are a variety of ages and sizes in the class, so that is a great thing to keep me going – because I don’t have to do the comparison thingy with a bunch of anorexic, exceedingly fit individuals. Not only that, the instructor says that she was in so much pain there were days she couldn’t get out of bed, before getting fit, and now teaching Zumba (the regular, the toning, the kids version, and the aqua). So, perhaps there is hope for this old, tired body.

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