I used to be a treadmill girl.
I lived for my three interval runs a week. All I needed was my iPod and my Nikes and I was in heaven. But when I switched jobs to a different part of town and didn't have the luxury of working out during lunch anymore, I got real lazy and stopped working out. And in a year, I was 25 pounds heavier and mad as hell at myself for gaining back all the weight that I had lost.
So earlier in the year, I knew that I had to get back in the game, take strength training classes 2-3 times a week and increase my cardio workouts to 3-4 times a week. But the thought of getting back on that treadmill was exhausting. I needed something new—something that was going to inspire me and keep me coming back.
And that's where Zumba came in.
My gym began offering Zumba classes, so I decided to give it a try. I'd seen the infomercials and had heard great things from my other friends. After one class, I was hooked. It was actually euphoric. The music was awesome; the energy was amazing and the workout was rigorous, but didn't drain me or seem like a chore. Perhaps that's the reason why over 12 million people around the world are hooked on Zumba.
But what exactly is it?
Zumba is a Latin-inspired dance fitness program created by dancer and choreographer Alberto "Beto" Perez in Colombia during the 1990s. Zumba's choreography incorporates hip hop, samba, salsa, merengue, mambo, martial arts and some Bollywood and belly dance moves. Depending on the teacher, squats, lunges, jumping jacks and other forms of traditional exercise moves are included too. Instead of it being a series of choreography you have to remember, the moves are repetitive, so even those who have little dance experience can keep up.
Zumba is recognized by the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, IDEA Health and Fitness Association, and the American Council on Exercise. In addition to strengthening your cardiovascular health, improving your coordination, conditioning your entire body and it just being fun, Zumba is an incredible fat and calorie burner. Depending on height, weight and fitness level, you can lose anywhere from 400-800 calories per hour from shaking your tail.
That's not too shabby.
—But, like every form of exercise, injury can happen. Recently, Walecia Konrad, a New York Times health reporter, warned that some common injuries are ankle sprains, hamstring injuries, muscle spasms and calf injuries. Konrad suggested the following tips to avoid injury:
—Talk to your doctor to make sure that Zumba is for you, especially if you are pregnant; have existing hip, ankle and joint injuries; and if you suffer from cardiovascular disease.
—Make sure to wear thinly-soled sneakers. Running shoes, which tend to have thick treads, are inappropriate, because they are designed for forward movement only. The treads get in the way when doing Zumba’s many side-to-side and pivot moves.
—Check the instructor's stats. Because getting certified for Zumba is not difficult, it's important to ask how long the teacher has been teaching, whether or not they have a dance background and other certifications they may have.
—Make sure you stretch. Depending on the class, there is very limited warm-up and stretching prior to class starting, so you make sure you stretch prior and after class.
To find a certified Zumba class in your area, click here.
(Photo: Tim Harrison)