Have you heard about this Zumba thing yet? If you haven't, you might want to check to see if you've been living under a rock lately, because Zumba seems to be EVERYWHERE these days!
This Latin-inspired dance fitness program actually was created over 10 years ago, but it wasn't until the last couple of years that it's become an international phenomenon and is now the world's most successful dance fitness program. Hearing that it burns about 700-1000 calories in one 1-hour class, needless to say, my curiosity was piqued. I needed to find out more than just what I was seeing on the infomercials. And knowing that I was going to soon need to lose the "after baby" weight, I was looking for something that could help me get back in shape without the torture of "standard" workouts.
I don't know about you, but I've always hated "normal" exercise. I love how I feel when I workout, but the repetitive and boring task of walking on a treadmill, lifting weights, aerobics - BLECH! I guess that's part of the reason why I had gravitated toward ballroom dancing. It's a fabulous workout that's fun and never actually feels like a "workout." Plus, it has the added benefit of learning to dance, enriching my mind (dance is a great tool in fighting Alzheimer's, among other things) and being out in a social atmosphere. But ballroom has 1 big problem - you need a partner. And once my regular partner moved away, I was not out dancing as much as I used to. So for the first time in several years, I needed to implement a fitness program for myself that would compliment my dancing and keep me in shape, despite not dancing as much as I used to.
Zumba looked like the answer. Combining aspects of many of the dances that I already loved and/or wanted to try (like various Latin styles, Tango, Swing, Bollywood, African, Belly Dance, HipHop) with cardio moves and exercise technique set to blood-pumping music, Zumba provides a full body workout that sheds pounds, tones muscles, strengthens the heart, releases stress, and lifts the soul. And the cool part? No partner, no experience, no grace required! I was in.
I went to my first class taught by local instructor, Carla Schlist, at the Ballroom on Sunset in Latham. I walked into the gorgeous ballroom and was greeted by about 80 other people (the class now easily goes over 100!) all lined up and ready to go. There were people of all ages and all fitness levels there. Despite the reputation for being such a high-energy workout, this Zumba really did seem to have universal appeal. But not really knowing what to expect, I snuck in the back row so I could be as unobtrusive as possible.
Then the music started. And the energy in the room instantly rose to an electrifying height that I had never felt in anything that even remotely resembled an exercise class before. I was hooked and I hadn't even stumbled through the first song yet. I quickly realized that the back was not the best place to be. There was no one in front of me to watch when the choreography required us to turn around. Not to mention, it was hard to see the instructor. So by class 2, I quickly moved up to the front of the pack and parked myself a couple of rows back. Much better.
As a dancer, my first inclination was to try to get each step perfect. And as a ballroom dancer that is usually in a frame hold and doesn't normally have to do a whole lot with her arms, I suddenly felt very uncoordinated and a little overwhelmed with the concept of all the arm movements in conjunction with the feet. But I quickly realized that it wasn't about knowing the choreography perfectly. It was about the movement (shake those hips, baby!). It was about letting your body move to its fullest potential without restriction. It's about letting go and in the process becoming a leaner, stronger, more confident, less stressed, better version of you that carries through long outside of the class.
Zumba is not just a fitness program. It has become a community. Internationally, it's a group of over 12 million people that are connected through the pulsating rhythms across over 125 countries. Locally, it's a supportive group that encourages, uplifts, and cheers each other on not only in class, but in life, during the work day, on Facebook, through our kids, and at the many local fundraisers that Zumba helps support through "Zumbathons." Schlist explains it very well. "Zumba is the world's most successful dance fitness program because it changes lives far beyond losing weight. The universal appeal of music and dance, combined with the party atmosphere nurtures a social aspect that empowers its participants and creates a bond that is constantly striving to do good for their respective communities. It's electrifying, addicting, contagious, and rewarding."
Zumba Fitness is constantly expanding, adding to its popularity. Besides exploding on the video game and DVD market (good for getting you through on a day you can't go to class, but doesn't even come close to a live class experience), Zumba also offers Zumba Gold (great for beginners, those with physical limitations that would require modification, and active seniors), Zumbatomic (for the kids), Zumba Toning (uses toning sticks for extra strength training), Aqua Zumba (in the pool), Zumba in the Circuit (at Curves locations as part of a strength training circuit), and recently Zumba Sentao (coming soon - an intense sculpting class using chairs).
I'm addicted, so I'm sure you'll be hearing more about Zumba from me.
Check out my tips on Surviving Your First Zumba Class.
Related article: Find Your Zumba