Typically you can find me in one of three places: logging miles in Central Park with my fellow Nike Run Club members, in downward-facing dog at Yoga to The People—a donation-based yoga studio on Manhattans Lower East Side, or at Equinox swinging kettlebells around like a madwoman in my Iron Body: Cardio class. So, in an effort to diversify my workout portfolio, I laced up my New Balance 474s (I absolutely love these lightweight kicks and their soft flexible sole are perfect for dance classes) and decided to give Zumba a whirl.
Zumba (pronounced ZOOM-buh) is a Colombian slang word that means buzz like a bee or move fast. Celebrity trainer and Colombian native Albert “Beto” Perez created its group fitness counterpart—a mix of traditional aerobic movements and Latin dance steps— during the mid-90s. The craze spread like wildfire and now includes several formats (Aqua Zumba, Zumba Toning, and Zumba Gold) across six continents.
As the resident newbie, I stood in the back of the room behind a ceiling column so no one would see me flubbing the moves. I quickly realized everyone was too focused on their steps to even notice me. Relaxed by this, I fully embraced Zumbas motto: “Ditch the workout. Join the Party” and started having fun.
Over the next hour, I shimmied and I swayed. I salsaed and I sambaed. And although my movements werent always in sync with the music or the rest of the class (think Jennifer Grey at the beginning of Dirty Dancing), I still had a lot of fun and worked up an impressive sweat. And when Cuban music flooded the speakers, I even got to showcase my merengue, which I hadn't done since my high school days in Miami.
As I mentioned before, I do a lot of running. Ive run two marathons and am currently training for my third, so this class was the perfect reprieve from the daily pounding my body takes. But just because it's low impact doesnt mean you arent reaping tons of benefits.
“Zumba is a great workout that shocks your body,” says Tanya Beardsley, a Zumba education specialist and international fitness program presenter for Zumba Fitness, who also teaches the class at Equinox in New York. “The routines feature interval training sessions where fast and slow rhythms are combined with resistance training to tone and sculpt your body as you burn fat. So, yes, youre having a blast but you are also targeting every inch of your body, ramping up your heart rate, and torching tons of calories.”
The bottom line: If youre stuck in a rut and looking for a way to spice up your fitness regimen, Zumba may be just what you are looking for. Plus, its as much fun as going out with your friends to a club, minus the smoky-scented hair or a hangover!
To find a Zumba class near you, check out zumba.com.