Friday, October 05, 2007

"So...what IS Zumba, exactly?"

I get asked this question a lot.

Here's the boxed-up answer: "ZUMBA is a fusion of Latin and International music - dance themes that create a dynamic, exciting, effective fitness system!" But that doesn't really begin to explain it.

Zumba is...a PARTY! It's rockin music, thumpin rhythms, dancing, jumping, sweating, and totally forgetting you're getting exercise. Doing Zumba, you'll reshape your whole body without even realizing it!

I'm not just talking the talk here--I'm walking the walk, people. A year ago I was a total couch potato. At 5-foot-2 and 185 pounds, I was obese. And how that word scared me! I was tired all the time, depressed, and never had energy to play with my kids or get together with friends, or do anything else that wasn't sitting on the couch in front of the TV eating junk food. I would go to the gym for a couple of weeks here and there but it never stuck.

Then in the fall of 2006 my YMCA introduced a Zumba class once a week. My sister had raved about Zumba to me in the past, and I was friendly with the instructor teaching it, so I decided to go.

The morning of the class I was so nervous. I was scared of how I would look shakin my boo-tay in front of what I figured would be a class of mostly thin, fit, pretty girls. But my girls were taking gymnastics for the first time that week, and the way they just jumped into it, without worrying about if they fell or didn't know something, and how they just had fun, gave me the courage to go anyway, no matter what other people might think.

From the first class, I was hooked. I wasn't the only one! Our classes every week were so big, we had to move them to the gymnasium, and eventually the Y added a bunch more classes. I went to every class I could. I bought the DVDs so I could practice at home. I played the music in the car--and I've been a cardancer ever since! I just couldn't get enough.

I quickly took off 10 pounds, going from a size 18 to a 16. The next five pounds have been more stubborn, coming off only recently when I started avoiding the junk food I love so much. But even while the scale wouldn't budge, my size was still dwindling, and in about 10 months I got down to a size 14. That's before I made any lasting change to my diet!

At some point the thought of teaching Zumba myself occurred to me, but I was too hung up on my size. I thought, "No one will want to take classes from a fat girl. Heck, no one would hire a fat girl to teach, anyway." And when the classes moved from the gym back into the studio and I got to watch myself Zumba in front of the mirrors? Oh heck no. "That's what I look like?!"

Over time other Zumba students started telling me I was really good at it, and some people asked me if I taught it, or if I'd been taking dancing. The seed of maybe teaching grew. Finally I heard about a certification workshop in my area and said, "To heck with it. I'll just take the certification and maybe no one will hire me until I lose weight but at least I'll be certified already." So I went. And came home. And it got out at my Y that I went. Suddenly the fitness director wanted me to apply for a job!

So now here I am, Zumba instructor, when a year later the very thought would have made me laugh so hard I'd snort ice cream out of my nose and onto the couch cushions. And the TV remote!

I always say that if Zumba could get me off the couch, you have got to try it. Just give it three classes--enough time that you can get used to the idea of party-as-workout, and get the moves down a little.

You will not regret it!
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