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Built to Heel


September 2, 2013 by Julia

Recently, I decided to try out Zumba classes at my local gym, Rohan Strength & Fitness. I wanted to get in some exercise outside of dog training and decided to choose something that was entertaining, as well as a good sweat. The trainer for the class, Julie, is a former NE Patriots cheerleader who is upbeat, supportive, and relatively easy to follow. The classes are fun, but they are also a reminder that I was built to train my dogs, not to dance.

Standing Tall

According to the Interwebs, the average female dancer is 5’2″ to 5’7″. I am 5’11”, so I am literally head and shoulders above the average. My arms and legs are proportional to my frame, which means there is a lot of limb to move around. This fact stands out in class when we are doing pivots or swinging motions. It takes a little more speed and coordination for me to get my arm three hundred and sixty degrees and I often fall behind. Even bends take a bit more, since there is a whole lot of space to traverse before I can “get low”.

I've nicknamed this photo "The Schlumpy Amazon" - until I received it, I had no idea I was  taller than the judge! And that's even with slouchy posture.

I’ve nicknamed this photo “The Schlumpy Amazon” because I’m slouching and I’m still taller than the judge!

In contrast, my long frame can be used to advantage in training with my Boxers. Training friends with medium or large breeds have often envied the way my long legs allow my dog room to move. When my heeling is in good form, I can stride to the sound a metronome, my left foot coming down with each tick. My long arms can make cues easier to read, whether it is a shortened arm swing during about turns or a hand raised high for signals.

Left is Right

Every dance routine I’ve ever learned, Zumba included, has started out on the right foot. This seems to be the standard for individual dancers in almost all cases(partners obviously work alternate sides so they don’t step on each other). I am left hand, eye, and leg dominant so my very first instinct is always to move left.  I am fighting my natural instinct from the very first beat.

In contrast, my instinct to go left foot first matches exactly how I was taught to heel. I can start on my left, halt on my left, turn on my left and swing my left foot around for the about turn. I leave my dog with my right foot, but it doesn’t feel unnatural. My dog is on my left, so using my right foot gives me the feeling of moving away from them.

Left, Right, Left, Together

I am going to keep attending Julie’s Zumba classes – she’s fantastic and I have a good time. But all those step-right dance moves will also remind me to be I’m grateful that I’ve found a primary sport that is a natural fit for my body.


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