I’ve been to a Zumba class twice now, in two different locations, and with two different teachers. The class last month was a class for all levels. The class I went to last night was specifically a Beginners’ Zumba class. Both were great, but I have to say, I felt more comfortable in the beginner class for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is that I’m a beginner.
But let’s start with what Zumba is, for those who haven’t taken a class yet:
Are you ready to party yourself into shape? That’s exactly what the Zumba® program is all about. It’s an exhilarating, effective, easy-to-follow, Latin-inspired, calorie-burning dance fitness-party™ that’s moving millions of people toward joy and health.
Years ago now, when I was attending a different gym that does not even exist anymore they had a sort of hip hop dance class. Man I loved that class and that teacher. In fact, when they stopped offering that class, I stopped going to that gym. In that particular class the teacher would pick a piece of popular dance music and each week we’d learn a part of the dance and add it to the part we learned the week before. Then we had a whole routine and we would do it for a few classes and then start a new one. I have always admired dancers and their work ethic, but as “the fat kid” I never felt like I could be a part of that world. (That’s a whole different post: Fat as a self-fulfilling prophecy.) This class made me feel like I was a little bit a part of it. It was great!
In neither of my experiences at Zumba did everyone in the class start out learning just a piece of the dance and put it together as the class progressed. The instructors seem to have special training to keep you moving while showing you the steps. Both of them had little ways to grab your attention to show you that you were going to be changing direction or adding something new. They had created the dance and you complete it from the beginning to end. Both instructors emphasized that you could do low-impact or high impact and showed both the moves. The teacher at my beginner class last night, however, emphasized over and over again that the point was to keep moving, it didn’t matter what you looked like or if you got the step wrong or went in the wrong direction. Having fun and moving around was what mattered most. There were short breaks in between songs/dances to give you a chance to sip some water and use your sweat towel, but other than that, it was an hour of non-stop dancing–with both a warm up and a cool down dance.
I have to admit that this format was a bit hard for me to accept at first. I want to do the dance well, like in line dancing. I like having things broken down into steps for me and I like knowing what’s coming next. That all will come in time with Zumba, especially if I keep attending classes with the same teacher. And I found that when I really made myself let go of perfectionism I started having a lot more fun.
And while I am comparing Zumba with line dancing…one thing about line dancing is that it is really focused on the movement of your legs and feet. Nobody tells you what you are supposed to be doing with your arms at any given time–unless you are supposed to be clapping. Now, some people are seemingly naturals at this. I watch certain people at line dancing and everything they do with their upper body seems so at ease. But for me, it’s hard to coordinate moving my arms and legs at the same time, and everything I do with my arms seems either awkward or forced. I’m working on it.
At Zumba, because it is geared toward fitness, you need to be willing to move your whole body. There are as many moves with your arms as there are with your legs. I could feel my arms getting a workout from working against their own weight, which was awesome. Now, I feel like the majority of the time I was just swinging my arms around like elephant trunks, but I didn’t hit anybody, so…PROGRESS! I wore a tank top and it took a bit of mental coaching for me to get over the shyness of having my arm flub waving around. But I kept telling myself that the more I waved it around, the faster it would go away.
Another thing that helped with that, and something I really liked about the Beginner class (besides its small size) was the fact that there were no mirrors in the room. Our instructor said the choice to have no mirrors was very much on purpose. People get too caught up in either watching themselves to see if they are doing things correctly or (me) watching themselves and getting really self-conscious. If I’m going to be honest, the other Zumba class I attended did not have mirrors either, but that was because it was in a fire hall and was not a purposeful decision.
If you are thinking you’d be too embarrassed to try dancing in front of an entire class of people, think again. I honestly cannot tell you what one other person in that class beside the instructor was doing for that entire hour. I was much too focused on the instructor, the beat of the music, and moving my body to be worried or even to notice what anyone else was doing. And I think it is highly likely that it is the same way for everyone. I left the class sweating and smiling, and I’d say that’s the highest praise you can give a workout, don’t you think?
All in all, regardless of what you think your level of coordination is, I recommend trying a Zumba class, and trying to find one that is for beginners. If fast-paced Latin (and sometimes popular dance) music isn’t up your alley, why not try country line dancing, or take a salsa or ballroom dancing class? Let me know if you give it a shot, I’d love to hear how it went for you.
Let me know if you have questions about Zumba that I didn’t answer here, I’ll do my best to tell you about what I experienced. If you’ve taken Zumba or other dance classes, what did you feel they add to your workout regime?