Looking for a high energy workout that burns tons of calories without being boring? Why not try Zumba Fitness, the biggest craze to hit the group fitness arena since Gin Miller brought her now-iconic step to an Atlanta gym.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, Zumba Fitness is a Latin-inspired dance workout. Invented by Beto Perez in the mid-90’s, Zumba blends together the high energy rhythms such as salsa, merengue, and reggaeton, with easy to learn dance steps for a cardio workout that is more like a dance party than an exercise session.
This workout has become so popular with all age groups that they’ve even adapted it for seniors (Zumba Gold), children (Zumbatomic), and the pool (Aqua Zumba). Various estimates claim you’ll burn 500 to 800 calories in one hour of class, depending on your movement intensity and fitness level.
I’ve attempted to do dance workouts in the past, with absolutely no success. Though I can easily teach a tough, fast paced cardio kickboxing workout, for some reason I have difficulty translating that rhythm to a dance movement. Throw some easy salsa steps and some hip movements at me, and I become a flailing idiot.
My friend, who hails from Ecuador, tried to school me on New Year’s Eve as my husband and I attempted to merengue. We were as stiff as a couple of plastic mannequins from the Zara store down the street as we tried to flow with the high energy music. “Bump your hips like this,” he tried to show me, to no avail. My hips just do not move that way – I swear he is double jointed. Let’s face it, this girl cannot dance.
And no wonder. My family get-togethers growing up consisted of everyone sitting around eating while Frank Sinatra crooned on the stereo. In contrast, dancing was an integral part of my friend’s family gatherings. Everyone, from grandma to the little ones, danced.
And I am certain that’s part of my problem – I feel very self-conscious when I dance. Of course, when we are out dancing with friends, give me a couple of caipirinhas and I’ll loosen up quickly. But it’s just not right to have a mojito or two before Zumba class.
So it was with some trepidation that I undertook my latest assignment – trying out Zumba fitness. Over the course of the last several weeks, I’ve taken different classes at a host of facilities.
Walking into my first class, I felt my body moving to the infectious rhythms. This could be fun – I felt like I was at a dance party at a local club!
During Zumba, movements are done to the flow of music. Instead of counting repetitions, you follow the instructor’s lead as you just move to the high energy music. They instruct you that it’s even okay to do your own thing if you want.
Unfortunately, the fun ended quickly for me. The steps looked easy enough to do, but when it came to performing them, I just could not get it. Even the very overweight woman next to me moved fluidly.
My confidence quickly eroded as I began to feel intimidated and certain that all the other participants were watching me make an uncoordinated fool of myself.
Did you ever see the Seinfeld episode where Elaine gets out on the dance floor during a work Christmas party? Surely you now have the picture.
But over several sessions, I did notice that I became slightly more adept at the workout. I decided to purchase the Zumba video so I could practice in isolation, which has helped quite a bit. Although you sacrifice the energy and inventiveness of an instructor-led class, it can help two-left-footed people like me prepare a bit more.
I think that’s the great thing about Zumba Fitness – any level can participate and have fun exercising. I saw a wide variety of people of all ages, shapes, and sizes doing this workout well and having fun. You don’t have to be thin to dance well. So it is a great way to burn calories and get in shape, especially if you hate running and exercise machines.
Places to try out Zumba Fitness
The Orland Park Sportsplex offers Zumba Fitness several times during the week. The class is free to members and only $5 for a non-member resident drop-in fee.
Zumba is offered on Monday evenings and Wednesday mornings at the Palos Fitness Center.
Lifetime Fitness offers several morning and evening classes on their group exercise schedule free to members; non-members pay a daily fee of $20.
The Zumba craze has even hit Curves – they’ve teamed up to offer Curves Circuit with Zumba Fitness. During their 30 minute circuit workout, each cardio station will feature a certified Zumba instructor who will lead participants through a modified Zumba workout.
Zumba Fitness is similar to any other fitness workout – you get what you put into it. If you are moving slowly and are at a loss of what to do during class, chances are you aren’t burning as many calories as the nimble chick next to you who’s bouncing and shimmying all over the place. But if it gets you to exercise regularly, then it has accomplished an important feat.
Zumba is unusual in that it js just like dancing – no rep counting, simply reacting to the music’s beat. It reminds me a lot of high impact aerobic dancing from the 80s, except dancier
As for me, these hips don’t lie. I’ll be in the back corner – you know, the one that looks like Elaine, spastically bumping her way through class.