This ain’t your mama’s aerobics class! That’s what kept crossing my mind as I danced and shimmied my way through my very first Zumba Fitness class. When the Zumba train took off from the station several years ago, I failed to get on board. But as I noticed more and more Facebook friends singing the praises of the then-new fitness craze, my curiosity was piqued. While I danced through much of my childhood, these days I’m more of a fitness traditionalist, skeptical of most “next big thing” trends that pop up every so often. I put my skepticism aside, though, and decided to give Zumba a fair shake. Literally.
Zumba Fitness is a dance-based aerobic workout originally based on traditional Latin rhythms like merengue and salsa. Since its inception in 2001, it has expanded to embrace music and dance styles from all over the world, from Bollywood to Caribbean beats. Instructors learn a variety of styles and choreography and use them to create endless combinations of one-hour cardio workouts. (Zumba Fitness now offers some variations on its traditional class—check them out here.)
My friend, Rachel, a Zumba-certified instructor, was serving up action-packed, sweat-inducing Zumba classes several times a week at her new studio, On the Floor Fitness, here in Nashville. So at her urging (and when I finally worked up the nerve!), I decided to find out what I was missing. Equal parts curious and anxious, I immediately saw what people love about Zumba. In short, it’s just fun!
For the next hour, with music blaring, we danced everything from hip-hop to Mambo and anything in between, set to a mix of familiar radio hits and dance tracks created specifically for Zumba Fitness. Rachel, a life-long dancer, was a natural as she led the class of about 15, a group of regulars who partake for both the fitness and friendship aspects. Unlike a traditional aerobics class, Rachel faced the mirror just like the rest of the class, so you could follow her moves exactly. This was helpful especially with all the directional changes the choreography required—we’d often repeat moves facing the front and then turn and do them towards the back, or repeat movements as we turned to face each of the four walls.
I didn’t get all the moves on the first try—Rachel said it sometimes takes a few classes to catch on—but I didn’t feel that it compromised my workout in any way. As long as I kept moving, I was still getting a workout. At least that’s what my dripping-wet T-shirt indicated! Also, once we got started, my nerves quickly waned as I realized that no one gave two flips how silly I looked.
Rachel led us all through roughly 10 routines—give or take. Frankly, I lost count after about the third or fourth. The first and last routines were less intense, but in between the intensity level and difficulty varied. Some sequences were more challenging than others in terms of coordination, and even though I completely missed some moves during the first class, I found them easier to pick up on my second visit. My revelation: There is a reason for Zumba’s rave reviews. It IS fun. Will it ever replace my traditional fitness favorites like weight machines and stationary biking? I’m not so sure about that—I did miss the strength-training aspect—but it’s a fun addition to what can sometimes seem like a mundane workout regimen. In short? Try it, if for no other reason than to find out what the hype is all about. And if you burn between 500-1,000 calories? That’s even better!
Zumba offers classes in more than 110,000 locations worldwide. To find one near you, visit Zumba.com and click on “Find a Class.”