Thursday, August 1, 2013

Friday Fitness - Zumba - Kathryn Knight

I’ve been teaching step aerobics for 22 years now, but Zumba has been the latest craze in cardio classes—and it has proved its staying power.  At the urging of some of my class members, I earned my Zumba certification about 5 years ago.  At first, I was a little frustrated.  I have no background whatsoever in Latin dance, and learning the salsa, cumbia, flamenco, and samba took me way outside my comfort zone.  Not only was I expected to do these dances, I had to be able to teach them to a class of people looking for an hour’s workout with little downtime between songs.

But I persevered, because once I start something, I rarely give up (see: writing two full-length novels, lol).  I practiced at home, forced my regular classes to try out a new dance with me, and attended other instructor’s classes. 

I didn’t love having to fill an hour with just Latin-inspired music, though…and soon I realized other instructors would just take ANY upbeat song they liked and create a dance for it.  Which just proves the age-old adage "everything old becomes new again": the format of specific dances choreographed to popular songs is EXACTLY how floor aerobics began in the first place.  I’d come full circle.

Creative dance moves not being my forte, I quickly discovered a treasure trove of examples: youtube is FULL of Zumba instructors willing to happily share their latest choreography.  I’ll pick a song I like, do a quick search, and instantly have dozens of routines to help inspire me.  Since I’m a perfectionist, I tend to watch every video and pick out the moves I like the best, then piece them together in a way that works for me.  And my packed classes tell me the members appreciate my efforts.

The benefits of Zumba are substantial.  One study showed the AVERAGE number of calories burned during an hour of Zumba is 817.  That is a great deal for an hour’s worth of exercise, and doing the moves with more intensity can propel that number even higher.  Zumba is a full body workout—while you are getting your heart rate up, you are also utilizing many different muscle groups throughout class.  Traditional fitness moves get thrown into the dances: squats, lunges, shuffles, jacks, etc.  But the other key is that Zumba is FUN!  The endorphins start flowing, and daily worries take a backseat as you dance your cares away.

So if you haven’t tried it, give it a shot.  You can find Zumba almost everywhere, and every instructor puts a different twist on their class.  You don’t have to be a great dancer—I get all levels of skill and fitness capabilities.  And although I mainly teach at a women’s gym, when I teach at our other location, I get plenty of men in class.

If you do decide to take the plunge, or if you’re already a fan of Zumba, leave a comment below with the name of the song you enjoy most during class!  I’m always looking for new routines to add to my class.

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