Welcome to another “Fitness Friday!” Each week I will be interviewing a new person about a new form of exercise. I’m talking to runners, crossfitters, bikers, yoga instructors, and more. Don’t think of this as a comprehensive guide to any one thing. Rather, this is an overview to get your excited about the possibilities and some information to get started.
Note: Please remember that fitness is personal. You should always check with your healthcare professional before starting a new exercise program, especially if you’ve been pretty sedentary before. The opinions expressed here are those of the people I interview… and they are just that: Opinions. Be smart with your health.
An Overview of Zumba
Today I’m happy to welcome Victoria! I was lucky to call Victoria my dance teacher once upon a time. Victoria still teaches dance at her own home studio and she’s a Zumba instructor, too! I’m thrilled she’s willing to share a little bit about her training experience.
Tell us a bit about yourself:
Let the party begin! My name is Victoria Varney and I’ve been a Zumba Fitness instructor for over 4 years, and a group fitness junkie for more than 20 years. I have made a career out of teaching ballet, jazz, modern, and creative dance to kids and have always been passionate about movement. I am also a mother of 3 wonderful children. It’s a constant battle to stay in shape and feel energetic, while keeping up with my own children and my students. I grew up taking dance classes, like many other little girls. And I have been hitting classes at the gym since college days. When I first heard about Zumba I thought it would be the perfect fit for me: Cardio dance, right? But you do not need to have a dance background to benefit from this exercise craze.
What is Zumba?
Zumba Fitness is more than a cardio dance class, it’s a fitness party! Each class will use a variety of world rhythms, and easy to follow steps that will give you a total body workout. The idea is that participants feel like they aren’t “working” out, but rather partying with their friends. It also offers a sense of belonging to the Zumba community as well, with options to purchase Zumba clothing, original music, magazines, video games, participate in interactive fitness concerts, charity fund raisers, and travel to Zumba conventions too.
Beto Perez, a native of Colombia, is the creator of Zumba Fitness. While working as an aerobics instructor, he one day arrived to teach his class and discovered that he had forgotten his aerobics music. All he had was the music he was listening to in his car; his favorite merengue and salsa music. He was forced to improvise, and so he popped his CD in and taught the first ever Zumba class. His participants loved it, so he continued developing this new fitness idea. He eventually moved to Miami in search of the American dream.
There are now Zumba classes in 185 countries, and it has become a global fitness craze. There are various styles of Zumba classes offered in addition to regular Zumba. There is Aqua Zumba, Zumba Kids, Zumba Gold (for seniors), Zumba Toning, Zumba Sentao, and Zumbini (for mom and baby). Information on these classes and where to find them is available at Zumba.com.
What are the benefits of Zumba Fitness?
1. Zumba can be modified to work for any fitness level.
The easy to follow moves can be modified to be low impact by taking out the jumps or arm movements if needed, or can be made more intense by adding jumps, lower squats, bigger arms etc. Just about any person at any fitness level can participate and feel successful. There is a bit of coordination required, but even participants who have never taken a dance class before can improve with each class and feel successful.
2. Zumba makes working out fun.
The music and the group moving together keep you energized. The time flies and before you know it you’ve done 60 minutes of cardio. My goal as an instructor is to see everyone walk out with a smile on their face-and they almost always do. Often participants have requests for songs they really enjoy, and honoring those requests is a great way to keep them coming back.
3. Potential to burn 500-1000+ calories in 1 hour.
I didn’t believe this claim when I first saw it on the Zumba website, but it is true. A few years ago I began wearing heart rate monitor and I regularly burn 650 calories, and my 6’5” husband burns 850-900! That is the power of working out in a group. We help each other by beginning and finishing each class together, and encouraging each other along the way.
Any cautions for beginners?
One of the wonderful things about Zumba is how big the network of instructors and participants is. But this can also be one of the downsides. It is very easy to become an instructor, and so there are many Zumba instructors to choose from. Each instructor will have a different style, different level of fitness and intensity, and it is impossible to know if they will be a good fit for you until you try them out. My advice is to try out a few different instructors until you find one you like.
Once you find an instructor and class time that works for you, give yourself a few weeks to learn the basics steps. Most instructors will repeat the same routines and songs often, so you will get the hang of it and maybe even begin to memorize their choreography. At first, you may feel like everyone else knows the songs already-this is just because they’ve been coming for a while. Once you have the basics down, you’ll find yourself singing along too.
Any reason someone should not try Zumba?
No, it really is welcoming to all. Any body type, fitness level, and any age can do it. Just listen to your body and pace yourself so you can keep dancing the whole hour.
Any tips for beginners?
Arrive a few minutes early and introduce yourself to the instructor. Let them know you are new and tell them your name. Hopefully they will make you feel welcome and help you know the best place to stand so you can see them clearly.
Don’t expect to be perfect. No one cares which foot you are on, or which way you turn. Just relax and have fun. Keep moving the whole time even if you have to take it down a notch, and remember success is measured in sweat and smiles.
Gear or products needed to start:
You won’t need any equipment for a regular Zumba class. You will want to wear supportive workout clothes (you will be jumping around), bring a towel and water bottle. If you decide to stick with Zumba, you will want to invest in some good shoes for indoor use. Outdoor running shoes are too sticky for Zumba moves and can cause torque on the knees. There are several different styles made just for Zumba. You can see some shoes I recommend here and here. Or you can find shoes on zumba.com as well.
What can someone expect to pay to do zumba?
The cost can vary depending on where you choose to go. Some instructors are even offering free classes at their local churches. This is one way many new instructors choose to practice and gain experience. I currently teach for 24 Hour Fitness, where group classes are included with your monthly membership. Some recreation centers charge $5-7 per class, and offer discounts with punch cards. Many dance studios are also offering Zumba classes with a minimal monthly charge or punch card option. Your choice of where to go will depend on convenience, class times, and maybe even your personal style.
I like working at a big gym because the stereo system is reliable, and I use the microphone to cue and motivate participants. At a church or dance studio, there will likely be no microphone, so you will not be able to hear the instructor as well, and there will likely be a smaller group of participants. Many people like the feel and energy of a big group, but there are advantages to working out with a smaller group too.
Are there any resources for anyone interested in finding a class?
Start at www.Zumba.com as a great resource. You can type in your zip code and find classes and instructor bios. Each licensed instructor will be listed there. To see my class times visit my Zumba website here.
Any final remarks on why you love Zumba?
I love it because it is all inclusive. The music is from all over the world, and the participants are from all walks of life. We all have different backgrounds, fitness levels, jobs, stresses, baggage, and yet somehow we leave it all at the door and begin moving in unison. It’s a beautiful thing!
Thanks, Victoria! Do we have any others who love Zumba? What would you add?