Know before you go: Zumba class
Aficionados don’t think of Zumba as a workout; it’s more like going to a party where you happen to burn a load of calories while having a ton of fun.
“Zumba is like exercise in disguise,” says instructor Michele Bastos, the U.S. regional group fitness manager for Crunch Fitness. It’s also a worldwide phenomenon, with classes now offered in 180 countries and with more than 15 million participants dancing through the workout each year.
“For one hour you can just walk in and forget about everything else going on!” Bastos says. Here’s the scoop on this ever-popular dance workout.
Before class begins...
Find a spot where you can see the instructor. Most Zumba teachers are taught to use non-verbal cues, meaning there’s a lot of gesturing rather than someone telling you to “turn left” or “step right.” Laura Wagner, a Zumba instructor in New York City, says: “We want people to really feel the music rather than listening for instructions. You’ll be more engaged and have a lot more fun.”
Leave anxiety at the door
Don’t worry if you have two left feet. “If you can walk, you can dance!” Bastos says. “The beauty of the class is that the choreography is very easy to follow, so anyone can do it.” You don’t have to worry about memorising a ton of steps or sequences, either: most of the dances repeat the same basic movements each song, so you'll be an expert before you know it!
Lots of energy
Zumba routines feature aerobic/fitness interval training with a combination of fast and slow rhythms that tone and sculpt the body. “You’re going the whole time,” Wagner says. “The goal is to get your heart rate up but in a way that you can keep at it for a full hour.”
No dance pumps here: Zumba is still a workout, which means you need the appropriate footwear. Look for an athletic shoe that offers ankle support since you’ll be doing a lot of turning and pivoting. “There will be lots of shaking and shimmying as well as a combination of high and low-impact moves,” Bastos says. “The use of athletic shoes will help with absorbing impact and overall support.”
Something about the upbeat nature of the class makes students want to wear bright, happy hues, Wagner says. Just be sure whatever you’re wearing can help wick away the sweat that comes from moving your feet (and the rest of you!) to the beat.
A world beat
The classes feature a fusion of Latin and international music rhythms, and you’ll find moves from dance styles like salsa, samba and soca, plus belly dancing, African and Indian dance styles (such as bhangra), hip-hop dance, and more. “We bring music from all different parts of the world together under the same roof,” says Wagner.
A variety of options
The original Zumba class is still the most popular, but since its inception in 2001, there have been lots of Zumba spinoffs, including Zumba Step, using the step platform, Zumba Toning, with an emphasis on strength training, and Aqua Zumba, done in the pool, among others.
An energetic crowd
Classes are often packed with students of all shapes, sizes, and ages. Some like to sing out loud, while others find themselves wrapped up in the rhythm. Zumba students should give themselves enough space to move around safely, Bastos says. “If you can reach both arms out to the side without touching your neighbour, then you're good to go,” she says. “Go with an open mind and an open heart,” Bastos adds, “and you’re guaranteed to walk out of the room smiling.”