Class spotlight: Zumba™

The folks doing laps on the Fitness Floor track often stop and peek warily into the Group Fitness Room when Zumba ™  class is in progress.

It might be the whoops and hollers coming from the dancers, or the jingle of the bejeweled skirts that catches their attention, or the chorus of loud voices singing along with the Bob Marley classic, “Don’t worry about a thing. Every little thing, gonna be alright.”

Zumba™ class is a lot more rambunctious than, say, a meditative yoga class, and that’s all part of the plan.  As a trademarked dance-fitness routine, Zumba™ uses the tagline, “Ditch the workout, join the party,” and is often referred to as “exercise in disguise.”

According to Wellness Center instructor Meredith Stephens, the class was added to the Wellness Center lineup back in January because of numerous requests from members.  She and Joan Ahern both lead Zumba™ classes. Meredith teaches every Tuesday at 4:30, while Joan leads classes on the occasional Friday afternoon designed to be a little slower-paced than the Tuesday edition.  The Friday class alternates every other month with StepTonicTM, taught by Lynn Heckathorn.

In order to teach Zumba™, Meredith completed two full-day trainings in the basic dance rhythms that are the foundation of Zumba™—samba, meringue, salsa, belly dance and reggae. She also learned how to format a class to get the best workout matching the dance rhythms.

The Zumba™ method is designed to use intervals—alternating fast-paced and more slow-paced movements—for an aerobic workout that will also tone muscles. The Zumba™ company says, “It’s an exhilarating, effective, easy-to-follow, Latin-inspired, calorie-burning dance fitness party.”

Meredith says she’s enjoying the new challenge of teaching Zumba™ and she’s learning new techniques every week through continuous training. She says Wellness Center members seem to enjoy it as well, shouting out, “I love this song!” or “That was great!” after a dance routine they particularly like.

Participants just starting out will learn the dance steps along the way, Meredith says, and she’ll usually start by demonstrating them in half-time.  She speeds up or adds more complex moves as people become accustomed to the steps.  The class is for all fitness levels, Meredith adds, but she wouldn’t recommend it for anyone trying to heal an injury, such as a strained back or ankle, or anyone with balance problems.

Class members would do well to have shoes that were a little less “grippy” than standard fitness shoes, Meredith says. Being able to move the foot more freely for the fast-paced dance moves helps protect knee and hip joints. She wears an old pair of sneakers that have worn out bottoms, but there are dance sneakers on the market designed to help dancers move their joints a little easier in this class.  You can also find slip-ons with a moderately slippery surface that can fit right over the sneaker toe to provide a little more “give”,  she said.

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