One of my favorite exercise physiologists, Covert Bailey (some of you may remember Fit or Fat from the ’80s) had a great answer to the question, “What is the best type of exercise you can do?” Answer: “The one that you will do!” Which brings me to the fitness craze that is Zumba.
Many people are flocking to Zumba because it encompasses almost everything people want in a workout: cardiovascular conditioning in the form of a good, sweaty, calorie burning workout with some strength training mixed in as well as a large dose of fun. I have taken many Zumba classes and each time I take one somewhere within the first 15 minutes I completely forget that I am taking a fitness class. The official Zumba motto is: “Ditch the workout. Join the party.”
Zumba (pronounced “zoom-ba”) is an hour-long fitness class where easy-to-follow fast dance moves are alternated with slower ones for an interval-training (high and low intensity) workout.
The story of Zumba in the United States matches the fun and exciting spirit of the class.
Alberto "Beto" Perez came from Colombia to the United States in 1999 with some dance music and ideas for a fitness class. He didn’t speak very much English, was having a hard time getting a job and went from fitness center to fitness center in South Florida trying to get someone to let him teach a class.
When he finally found someone who agreed to let him teach, Perez showed up (late) to teach the class and then realized he forgot his aerobics music. He raced to his car and returned with a cassette of Salsa and Meringue songs, and launched into a high-energy series of dance moves and exercises. He was an instant hit.
Perez named the exercise class after the Colombian slang word meaning to buzz like a bee or move fast. Just over a decade later, more than 30,000 certified instructors teach Zumba at more than 60,000 locations in 105 countries. It is a multi-million dollar industry. The official Zumba website provides links to all of the certified Zumba instructors and classes offered in whichever city you search.
Zumba classes are offered through several local clubs. In Seal Beach, offers it as part of a unique class with Zumba moves and strength training. Find it on their class schedule.
A short clip, from the website, briefly shows what a Zumba class looks like.
I find the workout is cleverly designed with the mix of high and low intensity songs and moves so you can really work hard and know you will get a bit of a break eventually. However, you are moving the entire 60 minutes of the class. There is no sitting down, lying down or other floor work in Zumba. Yet, there is a lot of conditioning. One of the best conditioning aspects of the class is that of using your core muscles (abdominals and back) in an upright position. You don’t have to be on your back to get an abdominal workout and the creators of Zumba figured that out. If you look at the moves of Salsa and Meringue (and better yet experience them) you will notice how much the core is isolated and moving in front, back and circular motions that are just not done in traditional American aerobics workouts.
All teachers of Zumba must be certified. I spoke with two Long Beach instructors about teaching Zumba.
Natalie Gonzalez currently teaches Zumba at the Belmont Athletic Club and is an athletic training major with a dance minor at CSULB. I asked Natalie why she started Zumba.
Natalie Gonzalez: I always danced and wanted to share my love of dance with others so getting certified as a Zumba instructor was the perfect way to do this.
Patch: You always have a smile on your face when you are teaching. Are you really having that much fun?
N.G.: I know from my experience that it (the smile) really helps me to get through and everyone else too. There are times when I come to class tired but once I am moving it always ends up being fun. I don’t know how you could not have fun dancing.
P: What would you like people to know about Zumba?
N.G.: Anyone can enjoy it. The most important thing is to go in and have fun and don’t judge yourself. Don’t try to look like everyone else and don’t worry if you miss a move. It is about feeling good about you. People need that release and working out is a wonderful way to get it.
Patti Morales teaches at The Long Beach Dance Centre located in The Belmont Shore Chalet at 5107 E. Ocean Blvd where participants can try the first class free and pay $8 per class or a package rate. The classes can be found at the Centre's website.
I asked Patti what she liked best about Zumba.
Patti Morales: I would say it is the amazing amount of combinations of all styles of music and dance. You learn a little bit of everything from Salsa, Cumbia, Bachata, Cha Cha, Reggaeton and the list goes on, all in one hour. It allows instructors free range to teach it all and it inspires students to continue to learn, lose weight and overall have a great time. It's not boring; I'll tell you that is because not all instructors teach in the same anticipated way so when you go to any Zumba class, while there is a formula that we follow, the dance is different and the level is different. I can dance all day any day, just give me the music and that's what Zumba has allowed me to do, just dance!
Although the Zumba classes I have taken at various locations are quite different from one another, the overall theme is always present. They really are designed for fun and the music and moves make you feel as if you have just been at a party rather than the gym.