Spice up your fit life!
Zumba is taking the fitness world by storm – get in on the action!
There is a lot of buzz going around about Latin-influenced dance workouts. I first heard of such classes when I was a student at the University of Kansas. One of the classes was called Zumba.
The name Zumba is sassy and a bit mysterious. I didn’t really know what to expect; I was just hoping I would get my heart pumpin’ and burn it up.
What I actually got was so much more.
I walk into the group fitness room and see this beautiful Colombian gal named Victoria at the front of the class. I am thinking that this chick is going to judge me for sure – she is a hot commodity! However, I am quite wrong with my initial impression as she turns out to be the most down-to-earth person who truly has a passion for fitness.
Pretty soon the music is pounding through the speakers. I suddenly feel that perhaps I am at a party on the streets somewhere in South America. Victoria commands the room, moving her hips in a way I didn’t think was humanly possible. I am afraid they are going to become separated and fall off. Shakira has nothing on her!
I try to emulate her moves but my hips simply cannot keep up. Not to mention I probably look like one of those marionette puppets. To make matters worse, the guys from the basketball courts soon come to the window of the group fitness room and are peering in at the jam-packed room. However, we don’t let that phase us. This is our Zumba class and we only have one hour to get down and break a sweat.
That was my first time, and I soon after became a Zumba-addict. Although it wasn’t the most intense workout I’d ever done, it certainly got my heart rate up and worked the waistline the entire class.
I soon got to know the regulars in the class and the various other instructors. Another one of my favorite instructors was Vina. She was spunky and had a smile on her face the whole time. She could shake it and exuded such confidence when instructing. That is such an admirable aspect in an instructor. I love when their passion for fitness is displayed and they are rowdy and energetic; it definitely boosts my energy up several notches. Vina was inspired by Victoria, as I was, to take Zumba classes regularly. Six months later, she was hooked and decided to be certified as a Zumba instructor.
“The number one benefit [for taking a Zumba class] would be the increasing level of confidence,” Vina said. “Every time a participant masters a new move, he/she would feel really good about himself/herself. I can tell by the way they look at themselves in the mirror, giving themselves that ‘sexy look’.”
I don’t know if I ever conjured enough gumption up to give myself a sexy look in the mirror. But I definitely gained confidence with the moves as the classes continued over time. I was focused on the technical aspect of the movements. I wanted to make sure I was getting the full benefit of the moves, working that core area and waistline. Once I “mastered” the moves, I felt that I had better control of my hips and could really feel the burn in the muscles.
“It is funny how the first thing that participants say before they take this class for the first time is that they are not coordinated,” Vina said. “Guess what, my own mother thinks I’m uncoordinated. Zumba is one of those classes that proves the saying ‘practice makes perfect.’ As long as participants keep on practicing by coming to the classes, they would be amazing before they even realize it.”
So, have I piqued your interest in trying a Zumba class? You are probably wondering what the heck goes down during this hip-shaking good time.
A typical Zumba class consists of a track with a low-impact warm-up, just to ensure the body is revved up. There is also some foreshadowing of the signature moves that will occur throughout the class. There are six to seven songs with different types of medium to high impact Latin dance moves. Each song has its own choreography, so when you hear those familiar beats, you know which moves to bust out.
Some of the dance moves include Salsa, Merengue, Reggaeton, Belly Dancing (my personal favorite) and Samba. The Reggaeton is fabulous as well as it has more of an urban beat so you can really go to town. I have been known to get a little carried away when those jams are cued up on the stereo.
About halfway through the class, you will be granted a water break. After catching your breath and re-hydrating, you will be greeted with several more tracks of high energy music. To top off the class and bring the heart rate down safely and slowly, a relaxing song will finish off the night with some slow Salsa. The instructors might switch it up a bit and throw in some muscle toning at the end, just in case you didn’t work those muscles enough with all that dancing.
I loved taking the Zumba classes at night because you felt like you went out to a club but didn’t have to get all dolled up. Plus you got your workout in and worked up quite the sweat. You know how I love to get a little extra bang for my buck.
If you think you are not a dancer and don’t belong in this class, think again. The idea is to keep moving, have fun and exercise in an innovative, mind stimulating way. It sure beats the pounding it out on treadmill for an hour.
Now I don’t like to leave out the fellas. Guys, you may be thinking that you would not be caught dead in a Zumba class because it’s way too girly. However, I have taken Zumba classes with guys and man can they shake it! Some of them were moving with more rhythm and flare than I was.
“At first they [men] would feel awkward moving their hips, but they would soon catch up to the ladies,” Vina said. “Personally, I like to approach the male participants to make them feel more comfortable because I understand that the female to male ratio is normally about 25:1. It can be intimidating for those guys, but when I see them keep coming back weeks after, I know they are enjoying themselves too.”
Besides the benefit of working the heart, enjoying a workout and gaining confidence, Zumba has the capacity to transform your shape. As the abdominals are being held in the entire length of the class, they are working like crazy to keep you balanced and standing up.
“I know that as regular people, we always have body issues no matter how fit we seem to the public eye,” Vina said. “Zumba is one of the classes that will encourage us to get in touch with our own bodies and the way we are able to move them. For once, I believe that many people (including myself) start to appreciate the ways their bodies move instead of just complaining about the way they look.”
There you go – a thoughtful way to approach having a positive attitude and body image. Base your fitness success off how you feel and how your agility increases with the different fitness regimes you experiment with. Not only will your muscles become more toned, your endurance will increase. As your endurance increases, you will be on a quest for the next fitness challenge to kick the intensity up a notch.
After moving to Dallas, I was determined to find a similar class so I wouldn’t have to go through withdrawal. I found a class called Latin Impact and it’s fabulous as well. The music is wonderful, the dance moves are a blast and most importantly, I break a sweat.
Who’s going to go try a Zumba or a Latin-inspired workout now? Check out the fitness schedule at your local gym and see when you can pop in and take a class. Grab a friend and go experience a spicy new way to work it out!
About the Author
Kimberly Westphall is the author of Blogging Fitness and a regular contributor to Midwest Sports Fans. She is a recent graduate of the University of Kansas where she majored in Journalism. She participated in a podcast with Jerod, which will help you get to know her even better.
While at KU, she was an anchor and online web producer for Jayhawk Sports Talk. Kimberly made her MSF debut in 2009 discussing the fight between Kansas’ basketball and football teams and also had her column about the Dallas Stars Ice Girls featured at Dallas Sports Fans.
She has a passion for fitness and is on the lookout for emerging fitness trends and workouts. Her favorite group exercise format is kickboxing, which she discusses in her first Blogging Fitness post today.
When she’s not hitting up the aerobics studio both as a participant and instructor, Kimberly is training for the 2010 Washington D.C. Marathon with her best friend Jackie.