By Andrea Brown Special to The Herald
Ron O’Leary is 5-foot-7 and built like a linebacker.
He wears long baggy shorts, a muscle T-shirt and white crew socks.
But when the Zumba music starts, he’s just another sweaty woman in Spandex.
He shakes his stuff. All 257 pounds of it.
He has lost 40 pounds doing Zumba at the Mukilteo YMCA since moving here a year ago.
Zumba is high-energy dance-fitness set to Latin music and pelvis-pulsating rhythms. Think aerobics on steroids. With provocative moves. In a YMCA gym instead of a strip club.
“People look at me and say, ‘You Zumba? You got to be kidding,’” says O’Leary, 53, a Boeing contract worker from Michigan.
“A lot of guys don’t think it’s cool. It’s like hockey versus figure skating. They just don’t get it. They should be in there.”
O’Leary used to grunt in the weight room. He can bench press his weight.
“I’m told if I worked at it I could be a gorilla,” he says. “I’m big enough, I don’t want to be bigger.”
Zumba helped his figure and his health.
“My cholesterol is down. I have come off one blood pressure medication. They’re talking about taking me off the diabetes and cholesterol stuff,” he says.
“My stamina has increased.”
What better timing: The father of four grown children recently married his Canadian sweetheart, Lori-Lynn.
“I had a goal for the wedding to get down to 220 pounds,” he says.
Oh, well. Lori-Lynn married him anyway.
“I like him the way he is,” she says. “He has firmed up a lot.”
“My skinny clothes fit,” he says.
He did Zumba moves at the wedding reception.
“He dances down supermarket aisles,” Lori-Lynn says.
In class, while others stay synchronized in a row, O’Leary spins around and dances with the person behind him.
He doesn’t hold back, throwing his body into every salsa step.
“He’s not just putting on. It’s the real thing,” says classmate Caroline George, who follows his lead.
Sometimes people pay more attention to O’Leary than instructor Gail McClary. “He’s fun to watch because he’s having so much fun,” she says, “and everyone around him is having such a good time.”
YMCA board member and fellow Zumba warrior Greg Abbey knows he can’t compete with O’Leary’s mojo. “He has a flair about him,” Abbey says. “Not just with the dance, his personality.”
O’Leary has never been held down by weight. He was a center forward in a Michigan adult soccer league. “I outweighed the others by 70 pounds,” he says.
He signed up for ballroom dancing lessons two years ago after taking a contract job in Ohio. It was a small town where there wasn’t much else to do.
“I really enjoyed the Latin dancing,” he says. “My parents were good dancers. People would stop and watch them dance. I have fond memories of watching my mom and dad dance.”
Ballroom dancing was the segue to Zumba.
“At first, it was uncomfortable. I wondered, ‘What are other people going to think? What are the women going to think?’”
Not to worry.
“There’s no one judging you here,” he says. “It’s a great workout. I’m soaked when I’m done.”
He uses a Zumba beach towel to dry off after class. True story.
O’Leary shows up late to his Wednesday poker night group.
“I go to Zumba first,” he says.
His poker cronies have nicknames such as “Slayer,” “Mr. Warmth” and other names that can’t be printed.
Want to see Ron O’Leary dance?
He’s at the Mukilteo YMCA most weeknights. For information: www.ymca-snoco.org/mukilteo
Top 10 Zumba songs
1. “G6,” Far East Movement
2. “Dynamite,” Taio Cruz
3. “We No Speak Americano,” Yolanda Be Cool
4. “On the Floor,” Jennifer Lopez &Pitbull
5. “Born This Way,” Lady Gaga
6. “F* You,” Cee-lo
7. “Grenade,” Bruno Mars
8. “S&M,” Rihanna
9. “DJ Got Us Falling in Love Again,” Usher
10. “I Like It,” Enrique Iglesias