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I know this post is a bit left wing for a blog about mental happiness and success. But since being physically fit is helpful in claiming happiness, I figured a post about one of my latest fitness passions, Zumba, would be relevant. Unless, you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about what many call one of the most fun fitness crazes to hit the US since early 2000’s known as Zumba. And if you are a woman, you’ve probably been asked to take a class by at least one of your friends. I’m constantly inviting friends, relatives, entrepreneurs and colleagues to come join in on the Zumba fun.
Of course, lack of confidence, in-experience and fear of the unknown constantly keep people from joining my class and those of other instructors.
“I don’t have energy.”
“I can’t dance.”
“I’ve got two left feet.”
“I’m white so I have no rhythm”
These are just a few of the excuses I hear from people apprehensive about trying a Zumba class. Though I know it’s tough to shake the fear, Zumba class survival can be mastered by anyone. Just follow these tips and you’ll be a happy Zumba participant in no time.
1. Be social
The Zumba mantra is “Ditch the workout and join the party.” And what’s a party without some fun, laughter and friends? I know you may be nervous about surviving a Zumba class and making a fool out of yourself. But Zumba survival is much more fun once you lighten up and get to know the others in the class. Or think about bringing a friend along to enjoy it with you. Getting chummy with the others in class or bringing someone you already know helps foster a comfortable atmosphere for you. If you don’t know of any friends to bring, strike up a conversation with others in the class by asking what their favorite songs are, finding out the pace of the class or even showing each other your favorite moves. Once you get to know each other and socialize you’ll be much more likely to enjoy yourself during class.
2. Rock the moves you know
Forget having two left feet. If you love the salsa or kill the hip shaking but don’t know the other moves, make the most of it. It’s ok to muddle through the steps you aren’t too sure of. Just make sure you go big and accentuate the steps you do know. Going harder with your favorite steps will make the routine even more beneficial to your body. If swinging your arms in a salsa move is super easy to you make sure your really pump, lengthen and extend them to reap the maximum burn and benefit. Or if the instructor happens to move up and down a lot, make the most of those up and down movements even if it is as simple as a tiny lunge. Not only will rocking your favorite moves boost your confidence, but maximizing each step will help tone your glutes,lengthen your muscles and burn more calories.
3. Move at your own pace
Walk into any Zumba class and you’ll most likely find people bouncing continuously with amazing grace in-sync with the music. As someone new to a Zumba class, this can be understandably intimidating. However, the motto in my class is, “As long as you are moving, you are doing it right.” It’s best not to get too caught up mastering every intricate move. Instead, focus on mastering a few basic steps. In time, you’ll get the hang of it and start moving like a pro before you know it. Furthermore, if you are new to working out, it’s probably not the best idea to move at warp speed or jump as high as your 5’11 classmate. Instead, move at a comfortable pace, without pushing yourself too hard when you are new to the aerobic classes. Doing otherwise could lead to injury.
4. Avoid the last row
For some reason, there’s something really alluring about the back row to new and veteran Zumba-goers. I suppose something about being near the instructor is intimidating. Even those who have been coming to my classes for months and know the choreography like the back of their hands seem glued to the very last row.
I suppose I get it. There’s something very comforting and zen about hiding behind others; especially if the instructor can’t see back there. Besides, you figured it would be much easier to perfect the steps at your own pace all the way in the back corner, right? Wrong!
Consistently staying in the back row as a newbie Zumba participant is the worst thing you can do. First of all, depending on the size of the class, standing in the back row makes it more difficult to follow the steps of the instructor. If you are standing in the back for every class, you may never see the choreography clear enough to follow along. Secondly, the back row is notorious for having the least amount of room. That means it’s harder for you to move around freely and comfortably as you find your rhythm. If you really want to get better in Zumba, I suggest standing in the middle row. The middle row allows you to see the instructor better as well as the veteran Zumba enthusiasts who know the choreography well. Plus, you usually aren’t too cramped in the middle so you have enough space to move around without feeling constricted.
5. Practice at home
No you don’t need to run home and practice an entire routine until you get the moves memorized for class. But it can be beneficial to keep the workout going at home as well. Turn on the music and wiggle yours hips while washing the dishes to help get used to the hip movement in Zumba class. Or Bounce around during commercials to build stamina and endurance which are of great benefit to a high energy Zumba class. If you are really dedicated and ambitious, don’t be afraid to purchase a Zumba DVD like this one or watch some Zumba on TV and follow along. Moving and dancing in the comfort of your home will help make everything you do in Zumba feel much more natural. You can even try other workouts to help build up your strength and stamina. CosmoBody is great one that offers unlimited workout videos.
6. Look the part
I know when most of us plan on going to the gym to work out we roll out the bed and drag our feet out the house wearing the roomiest sweat pants and oldest tshirt we could find. Obviously, you’re not gonna wear your best clothes when all you’re gonna do is sweat in them and make them sweaty, right? Wrong! Like my mom always says, “When you look good, you feel good.” And that applies to the gym and Zumba class as well. There’s something about feeling more confident about your abilities in class when you are perfectly coordinated and look amongst the best in class. So why not, break out your freshest workout apparel. What’s even better is going all the way by showing up to class in official Zumba gear! (Visit Zumba.com and use my code 04222013 to score a sweet discount on Zumba wear). After all, who cares how uncoordinated you are in class when you are certified Zumba Fit in the best workout clothes around?
7. Treat It Like a Performance
Anyone who takes Zumba with me, knows that I don’t teach a Zumba class, I give a Zumba performance with the best backup dancers ever. I tell everyone that whenever they walk through the doors, the floor transforms into a stage and they are to channel Beyonce or Bruno Mars as they let loose and give the performance of a lifetime. People say that Beyonce and Bruno Mars can do no wrong, and if you bring that mentality into Zumba, neither can you.
8. Stop thinking
The phrase “Dance like nobody is watching,” is definitely true when it comes to Zumba survival. Too many people in my classes are more caught up in dissecting the step than they are doing it. I can’t tell you how many times people tell me they get so nervous because they keep thinking a step will never look the way I do it, but when I ask if they tried to let loose I get blank stares. Clear your mind of stresses from work, what’s for dinner, and shaking your hips at the same pace as the instructor. Once you stop thinking, cut loose and allow yourself to get caught up in the music, you’ll soon see that Zumba class survival and having fun are much easier than you once thought.
What intimidates you about Zumba? What things have helped you survive class?
TERRIfic Quip: Trust the music in your heart; it won’t steer you wrong.