Waking up the morning after a Zumba® class you KNOW you’ve had a great workout!!!! Nothing painful or uncomfortable, just that gentle, satisfying stiffness that lets you know you’ve worked hard and did something a little different or more intense than normal and that feels great as it releases when you get things moving again. Unlike some workouts, Zumba® seems to work every muscle from head to toe:
- roll the shoulders: yep – a little stiff from the shoulder shimmies and shakes
- bend at the knees: yep – can still feel the effects of squats and cha cha chas
- ooh – that little twinge lets me know my ‘booty’ saw some benefits
- big stretch with hands in the air; wow – even the abs joined the Zumba® Fitness party!!
You’ve never been to a Zumba® class???? But you have heard of it…right? But you’re not sure exactly what it is, and you are a little curious?? Then this post is for you!!! I’ve been to many Zumba® classes in 3 different countries. My schedule means I can’t attend a regular class but I always keep an eye on the local Zumba® scene and this week I finally managed to get to not one but TWO great Edinburgh classes – with Frances Bavin of Zumba Shack and Joanna Weintritt of Fitness Soul. Frances’ class was a new addition to her timetable, at a new venue – the beautiful newly opened dance studio at Heriot’s Centre for Sport & Exercise in the Grassmarket. The class had over 50% new students; some may have been a bit nervous to start with but Frances’ enthusiasm and energy made sure all inhibitions were washed away (probably by all that sweat) in the end. Joanna’s class was at City Night Club on Market Street. A club dance floor was the perfect setting for the high energy moves; there were lots of regulars who made it all look easy and were a great inspiration for what could be achieved with regular workouts. Suzy’s Top Tip: if you find yourself in a class with lots of regulars – don’t be intimidated!! Just stand behind one, follow along and you’ll pick up the moves twice as fast!!
What is it?
Well it’s kind of like a dance class but without ‘dance lessons’ – a workout without the boring, repetitive moves and a party without the booze, high heels and dodgy pick-up lines. I’ve only been to the original Zumba® Fitness classes but there are other types of classes to suit different fitness levels and styles; instructors can only offer the classes that they have been trained in:
- Zumba® Fitness: the original workout, good for people with at least a basic level of fitness as instructors can show you ways to decrease or increase the intensity
- Zumba® Toning: adds lightweight toning sticks to sculpt the body, especially arms, abs and thighs
- Zumba® Gold: feeling a bit past the ‘party’ stage, or maybe recovering from an injury? This class is slower paced and lower intensity but still keeps you moving
- Aqua Zumba®: get the workout while feeling the support of the water – the ultimate pool party
- Zumba® for Kids: get them started early with age appropriate music and moves
- Zumba® Sentao: uses a ‘chair’ to add variety in moves and intensity
- Zumba® Step: As if latin dancing on the floor wasn’t hard enough, you can up the intensity with a small platform – your glutes will never be the same again!
So what makes a Zumba® Fitness class unique?
The music and moves
Originating from South America you can instantly see and hear the Latin influence. If you’ve been watching ‘Strictly’ then you’ll have an idea when I say Samba, Salsa, Rumba, Cha Cha Cha and there’s also more I’ve never heard of Cumbia, Merengue, Reggaeton, Mambo, Flamenco, Calypso and Salsaton. Instructors are free to choose their songs and make up the routines but their class should have at least 70% international music and include a large proportion of the classic latin and Caribbean dances. Frances’ and Joanna’s official training means that they have a set of these classic dance moves to base their routines on – so if you try out different Zumba® instructors, you may not know the song or routines but many of the basic moves will be familiar whatever class you take. In both classes I tried the instructors used a lot of latin influenced songs – which I found really helped me get into the moves and the spirit of the classes; after all, who can’t swivel their hips to Shakira!! The choreography for both classes was fantastic, fun, sexy and taught me a few tricks for next time I hit the dance floor!! There was even some repetition of moves between songs (like the ‘grapevine’, hips swivels, Cha Cha Cha…. ) which made following along much easier and helped us ‘newbies’ feel more confident as class went along.
I think what surprises most people (myself included) at their first Zumba® class is that there is very little talking; the music starts and you just follow along – guided with the occasional point in the right direction and some hand gestures to indicate if a move is a ‘single’ or a ‘double’. Don’t worry if you’re not a ‘dancer’ or not very coordinated; this is not a dance lesson so perfection isn’t important. Right from the start of each class both Frances and Joanna reminded us to just relax, have fun, keep moving and keep smiling. They also encouraged us to work to our own level and when appropriate, showed high and low impact variations to help us dance safely. If there was a tricky move coming up, Frances paused between songs to give us a demo and break down the steps so that once the music started, so did the dancing. Joanna encouraged us to ‘Keep moving – even if you just make up your own steps’! The big message was that with Zumba®, technique and coordination really aren’t important, we were all just bouncing around having a laugh, sweating and burning lots of calories. You don’t have to be fit to try it – but you will get fit doing it!!
Compared to other ‘dance based’ fitness classes, the music is louder, the clothing is brighter and usually splattered with the Zumba® logo (if you have any neon left over from the ‘80s now’s the time to dig it out), the instructors are enthusiastic, smiley, motivating and it feels like they are partying with you. Frances greeted everyone with a big smile which seemed to grow even bigger throughout the class; her ability to have fun, laugh and whoop along with us quickly made the new students feel relaxed – reassuring them that perfection was not the goal – fun and fitness was. Joanna’s high energy was infectious, her choreography and music were fresh and fun and she had that big Zumba® smile (must be a pre-requisite to qualify as an instructor 🙂 ).
So you’re dancing, laughing and having a great time – but are you getting a workout?? OH YES – You will SWEAT!! My husband is a cyclist and Spinning® instructor so I go to a lot of indoor cycling classes which are high intensity cardio classes. He didn’t believe me when I told him I got just as sweaty at Zumba® – so I did an experiment. I wore my heart rate monitor to several of each classes and the results shocked him!! I burned just as many calories in a one hour Zumba® class as I did in a one hour indoor cycling class!! I think it’s because with Zumba®, you use your whole body – your head, shoulders, legs, and definitely the hips. Adding in the arm movements helps train your brain, improve coordination and your heart rate increases when you have your arms above your heart. The changes in tempo you get with the different dance styles allows the focus to switch between cardio workout and body toning and sculpting. In general Zumba® Fitness is a medium intensity, medium impact workout – but it’s very easy to use the recommended variations to work a bit gentler or as strong as you like making it perfect for newbies and regulars.
Tempted to try a class?
There are many more Zumba® classes in Edinburgh to choose from so you can easily find a class with a style, location and time that’s just right for you; here’s a link to the Edinbugh classes on the official Zumba® Website. See the little ‘R’ after Zumba®? It is a registered trademark – that means only Zumba® Fitness trained instructors can legally use the term ‘Zumba’ so you know you are getting the real deal!! (although I’m getting a bit tired of typing the ® over and over 🙂 )