Zumba: How to get started

Touted as a fitness class that feels more like a party, Zumba provides all-over muscle toning and cardio exercise at an energetic pace’but one you can modify to your own fitness and skill levels. Here’s how to get started

Zumba: How to get started

Source: Web exclusive: June 2011

What is Zumba?

First created in Colombia in the mid-’90s, Zumba has been growing in popularity in Canada and the U.S. for about 10 years. A fusion of Latin rhythms and easy-to-pick-up dance choreography, each 60-minute Zumba workout includes calorie-burning intervals of cardio training and resistance exercise using your body weight to tone all major muscles. Some Zumba spin-off classes also offer more targeted toning workouts with weighted maraca-like sticks.

Benefits of Zumba

"Zumba is a great way to get toned, benefit the heart and burn calories all at the same time," says Julieta Tabares, a Zumba-certified instructor in Oakville, Ontario.

Plus, the social atmosphere and all-in-one workout deliver extra motivation. "The most common reasons people stop exercising are lack of time and boredom," says Tabares, whose website provides information about this popular workout in Canada. "Zumba addresses both of these problems by providing a fun total-body workout. The music is lively, and the mood is incredibly upbeat."

Who does Zumba?

While it’s common to see mostly women from their 20s to 50s in Zumba classes, anyone can benefit from a Zumba workout. "I have students whose ages run from 12 years old to 76," says Tabares.

The key to making this workout effective, no matter your age? "Modify and simplify each move as your body dictates," Tabares says.

There are also specialty classes for different age groups, such as Zumbatomics for kids and Zumba Gold for older adults. However, for most women, starting out with the flagship Zumba class is the best way to get familiar with its format and lively atmosphere.

What to expect from your first Zumba class

Zumba combines dance moves and aerobics to give you a total-body workout," says Tabares. "The class usually begins with a warm-up, then progresses to faster dance moves, interspersed with slower routines.” After a mix of dance paces, the class ends with a cool-down.

If you’re used to traditional fitness classes with lots of cueing and structured movements, expect dancey Zumba classes to have a slightly different feel.

"The Zumba instructor leads the class initially by giving simple instructions on what type of movements to expect in the routine and uses verbal and directional cues," explains Tabares. "It’s all about listening to the music. Your body will intuitively know how to move with the instructor’s guidance."

Plus, expect the class to be interactive. "During my class, I might choose some students to come on stage because I want them to feel like we are all one family enjoying a party together," says Tabares, who assures Zumba newbies that there’s no pressure to head up on the stage if they don’t want to. "I choose people who I personally know will be okay with that and those who I see are enjoying a particular song very much."

What to wear to Zumba class

Zumba has its own line of festively vibrant workout wear, but you can go dressed in your usual exercise outfits.

"You need clothes that move with you and are not restrictive," says Tabares. She suggests light, breathable fabric and emphasizes the importance of coming in sturdy fitness shoes.

As for the vibrant colours? They help maximize your total Zumba experience, she says.

Ready to live it up with Zumba? Classes are available across Canada’to find one near you, visit Zumba.com. Can’t find a class? Grab a DVD from the Zumba website.

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