My major concern has always been that I will not be able to keep up with the instructor or the other class participants. If infomercials are an indication of the current trends in exercise then Zumba seems to be fairly popular. While scanning T. V. channels late at night I often come across an infomercial for this upbeat dance workout. Taking one of the Zumba classes my gym offers seemed like a good choice for my evaluation assignment. One reason for my decision was to force myself to focus on the cardio workout I would get rather than whether or not I was making a fool out of myself.
I also wanted to see if Zumba was as enjoyable as the infomercials made it look. I did a little research on Zumba before taking the class. I wanted to get an idea of what this new exercise craze was all about. It actually started back in the 1990’s, when a dance instructor, Alberto Perez, forgot the music he was supposed to use for an aerobics class. He ended up improvising his dance class, by using merengue and salsa music instead. After seeing the success it had in Colombia, Perez moved to the United States in 2001 in an attempt to get his new dance concept discovered. Zumba became a huge hit among the fitness world.
It includes slow and fast rhythm dances, and is essentially available to all ages because of the wide range of classes available. When it comes to the Zumba class offered at my gym, I assumed it would be designed for physically fit individuals between the ages of 16 and 55. Prior to taking part in an actual Zumba class I had a few preconceived ideas about what to expect. I thought the class would require wearing a special type of workout clothing. I believed the instructor would most likely be a professional dancer whose choreography would be paired with upbeat Spanish songs and consist of challenging moves.
The dance steps the class would require would probably be modern day salsa and cha-cha; neither of which I find that exciting. I attended my first Zumba class on Sunday, February 17th. By the end of the first song I had quickly ruled out all of my preconceived ideas. The Zumba class took place in an extremely spacious room which allowed everyone in the class to have their own personal bubble. Mirrors covered all four of the walls, making it a bit awkward and impossible not to watch myself dance. Before the class began, I was complaining about how cold the room seemed.
After the first routine I was thankful for the colder temperature. As far as I could tell the only “equipment” necessary for a successful Zumba class was music. As the room began filling up with participants it became apparent I was going to be the youngest. The group consisted of about fifteen women ranging in ages from the mid-twenties all the way to the late fifties. No one wore specialized Zumba clothing. In fact the majority of exercise attire worn was a plain tee-shirt, yoga pants and a good pair of tennis shoes.
On the Zumba commercials, the attendees were all wearing bright colored tanks tops with “ZUMBA” written across them, colored cargo pants, fun-beaded skirts and leggings. I was not surprised that my classmates had a different wardrobe from those on the commercial. The clothes were probably used as an advertising technique to get people interested in the exercise. Everyone attending the class seemed to be in decent shape implying that this class for the physically fit. Danica, our Zumba instructor, literally ran in the room at exactly 4:30 PM.
She had a welcoming smile and was quite observant. She noticed that a couple of us were not regulars to her Zumba sessions. Before we started dancing, Danica explained the basics of the class. She stated that it was not a dance competition and the main goal of Zumba is to be constantly moving in order to achieve a high calorie burn. She reviewed dance moves that she thought might be hard for new people to pick up right away. She reiterated that the most important thing is that we keep moving for the entire hour. After asking if everyone was ready to begin she turned on the music.
The first dance was Pitbull’s “Don’t Stop the Party”; I was not expecting the music to consist of popular songs that could be heard on the radio. Danica would shout out the direction we were going making all her moves very simple to follow. She had us jumping in every direction, sliding from right to left, punching the air, marching forward and backward; by the middle of the song, everyone was dancing in a synchronized pattern. I did find myself lost on a few moves, but I just repeated previous steps until I could get back into the swing of things.
Even though I consider myself to be in fairly good physical shape I was sweating and panting after the first song. Looking around the room, I could see as well as feel the entire class was pumped up and sending off positive energy. Danica was able to show a few moves to the next song before it started. I could tell it was going to be a bit more difficult than the first. It involved more jumping and slightly advanced foot work. But we were all laughing through our flaws and having a good time with the dance. Our instructor’s attitude and encouragement made my entire Zumba experience a great one.
She would complement the moves we mastered, and would not discourage the dances that proved more difficult. Even though this was my first class, I was dancing as well as all the other classmates by the end. By the end of the class, we had danced to total of eight songs. They included Shakira’s “Waka Waka, This Time for Africa”, and Psy’s “Gangnam Style”. The last song, Enrique Iglesias’s “Tired of Being Sorry”, was our cool down song. Each song had its own chorography, making them unique and different. The class was an hour long and it managed to work out my entire body.
Danica said that we burned about five hundred calories from all the moving around. Zumba did not require a lot of past acquired dance skills. I felt like a professional dancer, because I finally was able to follow moves that weren’t overly complicated. Flexibility was not a necessity but it is important to stretch out a few minutes before any exercise, especially one as involved as Zumba. I found one flaw which I could have avoided altogether. With the constant moving, I was extremely hot and sweaty; I would have to run to the drinking fountain.
This caused me to lose my place in the dances, and I had to wait until I could catch onto the moves. As long as I remember a water bottle, this problem can be avoided. By end of the class, I could already feel the tightening of my muscles. I walked to the locker room with my legs feeling like Jell-O. I could hardly reach my locker because I could barely lift my arms above my head. I worked out my arms, abs, and legs all at once in Zumba. I did not leave the gym feeling overly tired so I had enough motivation to go home and continue on with my daily routine.
The days of coming home and sleeping after an intense workout are now in the past. I came straight home and shared my fun-filled Zumba experience with my family. I would recommend Zumba to anyone looking for a new type of exercise. Riding the stationary bike or the elliptical every day starts to get boring, in my opinion. If you are looking to step out of your everyday workout routine, Zumba is the way to go. I do not however think it would be a positive experience for those who don’t enjoy exercising, or are in poorer shape. The nonstop moving could pose as a shock to bodies that are not used to cardio workouts.
It would be a smarter choice for them to slowly work their way up through beginner classes. After having such a wonderful experience at my first Zumba class, I have every intention of attending as many as I can. It was not anything that I had expected; I did not think it would ever be possible to actually enjoy working out. But with the right attitude, an experienced and perceptive instructor, and a room full of fun people; Zumba is all around fun. It is an energetic class that makes for an exciting experience and improves your health, body and mind.