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Fitness Tips Zumba Can Give Your Workouts New Life

Update 4/19: I'm now teaching Zumba classes four times a week!

Update: 2/12: I'm now an official Zumba Instructor, just completed training with master instructor Jani Roberts!

Update 1/17/11:  I've decided to go for Zumba Instructor Training in February!

Update 10/30/10:  Now doing Zumba(R) for 2 years, today I did my second Zumbathon(R) (nearly 2 hours of non-stop Zumba) to raise funds for breast cancer--boy was it fun and I ended up burning 3100 calories over the course of the day.  What a great way to do your body good and a cause good at the same time!

I'd secretly been watching people participating in the Zumba class at my local 24 Hour Fitness gym for the past couple of months, from a weight bench or treadmill and wondered if I was missing something.  Every time I peeked through the workout room glass, it looked like the people in the class were having a ball.

I read the poster about the Zumba class on the gym wall, and it explained Zumba to be a fitness class with choreographed moves and slower, rhythmic moves to target the lower body all to motivational international music.  It also promised to torch calories and be fun, so I decided to give it a week.  And the week after that, and the week after that.

Oh I was working out plenty, especially after the new kickboxing round with better music came out and I got back into it again, but I kept thinking Zumba would be complicated and I needed to wait until I had time to truly focus on it.  Besides one of my mentors was teaching a great webinar series that I didn't want to miss.

Then with the holidays approaching, I thought, enough is enough.  The webinar series was being recorded anyway, and I needed to take my activity up another notch.  So I took the plunge and joined my first Zumba class.

I sheepishly raised my hand when the Zumba instructor asked if anyone was new.  Whew, one other woman who looked like she couldn't dance at all also identified herself as a newbie.  I can't remember the last time I was new to a fitness class!

The Zumba instructor was welcoming, but I almost darted out of the room when she said that she didn't verbally cue the moves like they do in kickboxing, she signals them.  I looked around the room of about 30 people--29 women ranging in age from about 20 to 60, and one 50ish guy with purple iridescent tights and a purple bandanna on his head--and decided I didn't know anyone, so what did I have to lose?

The Zumba instructor said that I shouldn't expect my body to move like hers or the person next to me, everyone moves their own way.  And if I got lost, no worries, just keep moving.  I can do that, I thought!

The first number comes on, and we do some moderately paced moves that warm up the muscles, and of course everyone knows what to do but me and the other woman.  I am absolutely captivated by the Zumba instructor who has a dancer's body and knows how to use it.  I know I can never get there no matter how hard I exercise, it's not in my genes, but yet I am not jealous; I am inspired by her grace and ability to move to different tempos and styles.

The non-verbal cues are interesting as the Zumba teacher must have also taken acting and/or mime lessons, because she is miming with full ranges of emotion to signal moves to come.  She also goes around and dances right up to different students to engage them.  My only challenge is to keep the Zumba instructor in my view since I know nothing.

Protocol seems to be everyone stops and claps after each musical number as we cover everything from the Beastie Boys "You've Got To Fight For Your Right To Party", to the Elvis Presley classic "Hound Dog", to a variety of latin-inspired instrumental pieces that are, as the gym brochure promised, "high energy and motivating".

At some point it hit me that this is a very freeing and joyful, inner child-like experience--in addition to working my lower body, waist and abs, which never hurts.  The best measure of a fitness class is if you never check the time left on the clock in the room, and I was shocked that an hour had passed.  I didn't want it to end, and my Zumba teacher sought me out at the end, gave me a high five and told me "I rocked".  I don't know about that, but I did Zumba.  I'll be back!

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Melanie small version for web--Melanie R. Jordan, Author of Have Your Cheeseburger And Keep Your Health Too!  Available 24/7 at

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