Brazilian Music and My “Sneaky Workout”

I have to be honest and say that I loathe exercise. I like the way exercise feels once I’m in the middle of doing it, but it often feels like a chore to get there. It’s frustrating, trying to keep up with an instructor who barks orders and expects you to keep up perfectly without missing a beat while you’re still unsure of whether you have the moves down cold. I’ve heard people say that the trick to falling in love with exercise is finding something that you truly love to do. I’ve learned in the past week that my path to regularly breaking a sweat and supplementing the weight loss I’ve had through changing my eating habits might just be through dancing.

I recently went to a concert with two Brazilian groups–Dende & Hãhãhães and Percussivo Mundo Novo. If you’ve ever heard Brazilian music before, you know it’s pretty hard not to move while you’re hearing the intricate drum patterns of a Carnival-ready samba or batucada number. I started out the concert doing a mean chair dance, but eventually had no choice but to get up and let my body twist, turn and flow at the whim of the sounds and rhythms being lovingly unleashed by the bands. I had a blast, dancing and sweating, all to the tune of music I really enjoy. And I know I did something out of my body’s comfort zone, because the lower half of my body was pretty sore the next day! I was proud–and satisfied–to have paired strenuous physical activity with something I love.

That encounter with two sets of Bahia’s finest rhythmic ambassadors left me with a jones for more movement. Lucky for me, I have a few outlets with which to get my Carnival on. Let me share…

One workout DVD that I’ve had for a while now is Brazilian Dance Workout, by Vanessa Isaac. I absolutely love this DVD! It’s not so much a cardio DVD as it is a dance class, where you learn two routines that combine moves to Brazilian rhythms including samba, samba reggae, Afro-Brazilian styles, Axé and Frevo.  I do this workout and completely forget that it’s a workout. But don’t get it twisted; you will sweat. And move.

After the warmup, the fun and the fantastic drum music comes in, with the first set a bit slower than the second. If cardio DVDs stress you out when it comes time to pick up the moves, Isaac will put you at ease. She’s a good, patient instructor, giving you several opportunities to practice moves at a slow tempo before having to dive into the frenzy of the drums full-tilt. And above all, as she repeats several times during the video, doing this workout is about having fun as much as it’s about getting some cardio activity points. It’s easy to believe her, when you see how much fun her workout squad is having behind her, and you observe the passion with which they demonstrate moves when she calls some of them out individually. By the time you’re into the cool-down, you feel like you really accomplished something in the span of an hour–and maybe picked up some moves you could incorporate into your next night out.

Another DVD I picked up recently is Dance and Be Fit Brazilian Body, with Kimberly Miguel Mullen. I haven’t used this video yet, but I’ve viewed about half of it. This one is much more of a traditional cardio DVD, and the styles it covers are macuele, samba reggae and capoeira. I’ll be able to better judge when I actually do this workout, but it seems like there isn’t as much instruction or practice time built in to this one as with Brazilian Dance Workout. I think I’d have to do this one a few times before being able to feel confident that I’m imitating the moves properly. If you’re like me, this one may be too much of an obvious workout to keep you motivated. But I’ll report back for sure once I’ve completed a run-through.

Lastly, if you want to dance, your other option is, of course, just throwing on some music and doing your thing. A few Brazilian-flavored albums I recommend are the Far Out Rhythmix Roots and Far Out Baucadas compilations, and 4 Hero Presents…Brazilika. These albums include bare-bones drum-heavy songs, Latin electronica, and uptempo jazzy sounds–enough variety to keep you entertained as  you get moving. There are some slower moments, though, so you will likely need to make a mini playlist for workout purposes, rather than play these works from start to finish.

Writing this post makes me feel like I don’t have any excuse to be getting more exercise in. When I first started on my journey to lose weight, I was more likely to bust out an iPod playlist and bust a move. Guess that means it’s time for me to take off my shoes and clear some floor space for myself again!

I’ve gotten hooked on Brazilian music lately, but what’s your go-to genre for dancing? Or, what other activities do you find fun but physical enough to count as exercise? I’d love to hear from you.

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