“Ditch the workout, join the party,” I read on the Zumba® website. All right. I decided to take a class. There are 250 of them within 25 miles of my house, and reportedly 7.5 million people take a Zumba class every week, so it must be fun.
Well, you can imagine my surprise when I showed up to class and there was no buffet table of veggie sticks with ranch dressing. No Pepsi or chili verde Doritos, and no cupcakes.
To postpone what would clearly be an actual workout, I pulled the instructor, Lolly Soulier, aside and asked if I could interview her. I wanted to get the dirt on this Zumba craze: Why is it being called everything from “the new tae bo” to the solution to the entire world’s obesity crisis? Jennifer Lopez even recommends it (read the Redbook article).
So what makes Zumba different from every other workout at the gym? And seriously, what makes it a party?
Lolly’s answers below.
In a nutshell, what is Zumba?
Lolly: It’s interval cardio, toning, a core workout — lots of core engagement. It’s a great way to get your heart pumping for an hour. The workout includes a warm-up and cool-down too.
There are five types of Zumba: Basic, aqua, gold (55 and older), kids (4-11) and toning. Zumba toning uses 1.5-lb weights for the duration of the workout.
Why isn’t Zumba a traditional “workout”?
Three things. One: The instructor faces students to see how everyone is doing and adjust the workout accordingly (but mirroring your instructor takes a little getting used to). Two: The music is more nightclub than aerobics class. Three: It combines all different kinds of dancing and music.
Is it different from other Latin dance workouts?
It’s a mix of tons of Latin and international dance moves. It’s 70% Latin — Salsa, Cumbia (from Colombia, where creator Beto is from), Reggaeton (Latin hip-hop) and Merengue — and 30% other international dances (African, Asian, etc.).
In Zumba format, every dance has a set of 12-15 dances which are made up of 3-5 “core” moves repeated, so you get the hang of it quickly. And Zumba is meant to have continuity that allows you to go to any class, anywhere in the world, and jump right in. That means even though instructors add their own flavor, you’ll always get the core Zumba moves.
What’s your fitness background?
Mostly aerobics and dance, and teaching dance. Instructors do their own choreography. But you don’t need to have any dance background to keep up in class. It’s targeting those who don’t love working out. Every class is exciting and new, and that makes it really fun.
Where do you teach and when?
I started teaching at church, which was good practice. Now I teach at The Summit in Canton, Michigan.
Why did you decide to become an instructor?
I’d been going to classes for two years and wanted to be able to share it with others. It’s the perfect hobby for me because I’ve always enjoyed choreography. It’s also a great part-time job for a stay-at-home mom, and I get to make a little money doing it instead of paying to go!
How I Fared in My First Zumba Class
Pff. It was easy. I was the best in the class. (And also the tallest. And oldest, by about 22 years). OK, I joined the kids class. I was scared — and I had good reason to be. By the end of the workout (more like mid-warm-up), I was sweating from head to toe. My wrists and ankles were sweating. My ears were sweating.
I mean all of this in a good way, of course. Between the shimmies and the machetes, it was a riot. And I’m proof that you don’t have to be coordinated or even understand what it means to “mirror” your instructor in order to get a good workout.
How is Zumba the answer to a nationwide loathing of exercise? Well, let’s see… PEOPLE CAN’T WAIT TO GET TO ZUMBA CLASS. Lolly says, “They’re fighting obesity by making fitness fun.” It really is the answer to our prayers: Gym time that isn’t boring, competitive or drab in the gear department. (I don’t know about you, but I’m finding the Kohl’s active wear section a bit of a yawn lately. Bring on the pink pants, belly dancing scarves and two-foot tassels!)
If you can only do one class at the gym each week, make it this one. It really is like going to a night club — minus the cover charge, tipsy perverts and uncomfortable pumps. It’s a blast, and the bodyweight resistance plus interval cardio make it an all-around killer workout.
Whether you go occasionally or religiously (um, it’ll be the latter), there’s no getting bored. Every Zumba class will keep you on your toes.
Props to Zumba instructor Lolly Soulier for the great info and a workout I still haven’t recovered from!