Zumba Changed My Life

I used to dance 5 nights a week.  It filled my soul and, without realizing it, kept me in shape.  When I married my husband 17 years ago I stopped dancing and my body changed.  I was deliriously happy and in love so I didn’t have a care in the world about my weight.

And then one day three years ago, in a split second over Eggs Benedict everything changed. Out of nowhere I  told my husband I wanted to go to Europe again and this time I wanted to go to all our “bucket list” cities Amsterdam, Barcelona and Venice.

While daydreaming about this future trip I remembered about how terribly uncomfortable the plane ride had been a decade earlier when we went to France.  Airline seats measure from 19″-22″ across!  Who the heck is only 19″ across their bum?

So, without giving it any thought I stated out loud, “I have to lose weight for this trip.” Then as I mused this thought over I knew I always failed at dieting.  So it hit me – I would need to exercise. Something else I hated to do.  But then I remembered the last time I was in great shape, and that was when I danced 5 nights a week.

Taking a sip of my sugar and cream laden coffee I thoughtfully said, “I’ve known for a long time Zumba would be the way I would lose weight one day.  It’s supposed to be just like dancing.” I took a bite of my Eggs Benedict, a meal I was not going to stop eating no matter how hard I tried and said, “I think they have a class at Tantrum fitness down the street.”

The love of my life, who can lose weight just by thinking about it, took my hand and said, “Shall we go see if they do have Zumba there?”  And with that much forethought, we drove to Tantrum Fitness.  The owner explained that there was a Zumba class almost daily, sometimes twice a day with a variety of teachers.  So I signed up for a year membership and hoped that somehow this time a membership to a gym would work.

img_3878That very night I went to my first Zumba class taught by a fabulous woman named Diane.  And my life changed forever.


One year later, just before our flight to Amsterdam, I had lost 60 pounds.  And my love and enthusiasm of Zumba has never ended.  My new goal is to lose another 60 pounds throughout this next year so I can be even MORE comfy on our next vacation flight.



And let me share this bit of wisdom from my success story – your motivation is critical to doing any kind of life changing work.  My motivation to “fit” on a plane for a 10 hour flight was tremendous motivation for me.  It was more motivation than any kind of thought to do it “for my health.”  Once we actually bought the airline tickets, my motivation became a passion.

Let me share a few insights about starting out in Zumba.img_4649

  1. All Zumba instructors are unique and add their own style to their music and dance/exercise steps.  Allow yourself the time to “try out” as many instructors as you can and then arrange your schedule to attend the classes of those you liked best. I’ve taken from someone who added Hip Hop music and it was a blast.  A sexy Latin man used mostly Salsa, Rumba, Cha Cha routines and we loved it (and him).  One young instructor used a lot of Country Western steps.  Still another added in some ballet moves.  All of them fun and creative.  All of them tremendous Cardio exercise.
  2. You don’t walk into a Zumba class and already “follow” the steps from day one. Those around you may have been going a few months or even years.  And each one will still be following as best they can.  So give yourself a break.  I often laugh out loud when I go the opposite direction of the rest of the class.
  3. Come early and go straight to the teacher to tell them you are new and excited.  Also, introduce yourself to someone standing around you.  They will give you encouragement and tell you to not be hard on yourself.  They know what it was like in the beginning.
  4. img_0109Remember everyone is there to exercise while having a blast.  Some classes are loud and people shout out for encouragement. Others are quiet with concentration.  Sometimes the music is strictly latin with mostly Latin dance steps (do you love to Salsa?) or the class can have a wide variety of music like Flashdance, Bruno Mars, etc. But each class has people very serious about having fun while exercising and they are not there to judge you or even to watch you.  It takes a great deal of concentration to follow the instructors steps and you have no time to look to see what everyone else is doing.  Believe me and go to classes to have fun!
  5. Bring bottled water.  You will need it.  And afterwards I always go home and drink a Poweraid to put back my electrolytes.
  6. Zumba is all about doing Cardio exercise.  This means you are burning calories at a great rate.  Studies put it at 500 calories in the one hour class.  (Wear a FitBit and prove it to yourself) So when the instructor  encourages you to do crazy arm movements with your steps do them.  It’s all about the Cardio.
  7. It does NOT matter what you wear.  Don’t go out and buy yourself a “get-up” to Zumba in.  Throw on a t-shirt, pants and tennis shoes and get your ass down to the class.  Eventually you may want some exercise pants.  But to this day I still wear an old bra and old t-shirt and my very old tennis shoes.  No one is looking at you!
  8. Feel free to do the steps to your ability.  In the beginning I could not do many of the strenuous steps.  So I figured out how to do my own steps sort of half-time.  If everyone was doing a hopping step (something I can’t do very well on an old ankle injury) I just stood on tip toe and did my own kind of hop.  If everyone was raising their knee to their chest I raised mine as high as I could – which wasn’t very high in the beginning. When they do four-time steps to the right and it’s too fast I just do it two-time or half as fast.  The key is to keep moving.  And follow to the best of your ability.  In only a month you will be astounded how much you have improved.
  9. Don’t be afraid to rest.  In the beginning I would get completely out of breath.  Remember I had not set foot in a club to dance or done any kind of exercising for a decade. Sometimes I still have to stand in the back a little longer between songs than the rest of the class.  But I tell you the music always draws me back in quickly.
  10. Don’t stop moving!  It’s critical even if you are taking a short break in the back of the room, to keep moving.  Your heart rate is up and you want to keep it there.  So keep moving around while you break.  You will notice everyone moving about during their water breaks or between songs.
  11. Don’t leave the class before the “cool down” at the end.  I think it’s just as important to cool yourself down and slowly bring your heart back to normal.  Besides, once you hit the cool down you can start celebrating in your head that you DID IT!!
  12. Do NOT keep aches and pains from stopping you from trying out Zumba.  I hear from so many people that their back hurts too much and they have a bad knee.  I have a bad back!  I have stiff knees that barely bend.  I have achy ankles from injuries.  I used to not be able to climb a staircase without getting out of breath. Just do the Zumba steps to the best of your abilities.  From my personal experience all my aches and pains got better over the months I danced.  You can always ask your doctor if it’s ok if you try Zumba just to be sure.
  13. Special Tip: Many Zumba steps are the same and once you know them you can pick up most of the choreography quickly.  Also, the best Zumba instructors lead you through an 8 or 16 count of steps and then another 8-count and eventually repeat the sequence.  So, if you are having a hard time “getting” a few steps just wait, they will come around again in the song and you can “get” them then. Also, don’t hesitate to ask the instructor after class to clarify a step. They love this.

zumbastoryI still go to Zumba classes 3-4 times a week.  I lost 60 pounds that first year.  And since then I’ve kept it off by doing Zumba.  I have a new goal to lose another 60 pounds.  So I’ll begin counting calories again.  Trying to keep around 2000 daily but not giving up all my favorite foods. My motivation this time is another airplane trip for another vacation. And that’s all the motivation I need to get up and DANCE!