You think you know these vital parts of your body fairly well. You take them to yoga class, you take them for walks, you talk pretty to them. But one Zumba class later and you realize something's been missing. A good wiggle here. A shake and a bump there.
Zumba is an aerobic fitness class with bumping beats and mostly Latin dance steps. Not only will you get a workout, but if you're dying to dance and there's no dance club around, this is the next best thing.
"Zumba is, for me, a feel-it-to-the-core best Latin dance party," said Dorie Wexler, owner of Springs Salsa and Dance Fitness Studios and amazingly fluid hips.
Wexler led the class I took recently at her and her husband Mark's studio in Old Colorado City, Colo. A dozen or so women, a couple of other Zumba teachers and I gathered in the wood-floored studio space. The age of the crowd varied, though tended toward the older side of the spectrum. That changes, of course, depending on time of day and the teacher, Wexler said.
We spread out, Wexler gave us a pep talk: "It's exercise in disguise!" And we were off.
Latin and international music pumped out of the speakers. We did a little salsa here, a little merengue there. We learned reggaeton, a modern day version of Spanish music that blends reggae and Latin hip-hop. We played with cumbia, a Columbian dance popular in Mexico that's a bit slower than salsa. We did the cha-cha and maneuvered ourselves around to a potent brew of bellydance and hip-hop.
We danced for an hour to about 13 or so songs, and Wexler taught us the short dance routines before each one. There were two warm-up tunes and one cool-down song and a much-appreciated short breather between each song. The class is more of an interval workout, with high and low intensity throughout. My heart rate definitely increased and my forehead beaded up with sweat. I didn't take it to the cardio extreme, though you certainly can. I was more focused the first time on getting the footwork.
We ended in a large circle and did our own free-form dance moves to cool down while the song "Brick House" by the Commodores played. Some of the regulars ventured into the middle of the circle to show off their moves. No judgment. No critiquing. Just moving the body and dancing.
There are several reasons Zumba appeals to people, Wexler said. It could be the festive music with beats that make your body naturally want to move. It could be the freedom to not have to do the exact pattern on the Reebok step. You can make it up as you go if your feet aren't doing exactly the same thing as the teacher's.
"I love to dance. And if I can find an aerobic way to exercise through dance, I do it," said student Jerianne Heimendinger, before taking her third class Friday.
Oh, and the key to moving those hips? Bend the knees.
- Wear comfortable clothing and sneakers.
- Expect to sweat at least a little. Zumba can be as cardio intensive as you need. Wexler gave lots of modifications and options to make it either high or low impact.
- Take water.