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June 10, 2011

Zumba! Zumba! Everybody’s Doing It!

by Val Reynolds
Zumba! Zumba! Class in Welwyn Garden City, Gosling Sports Park

Zumba! Zumba! Class in Welwyn Garden City, Gosling Sports Park

Zumba, a fitness programme inspired by Latin dance, is the newest, hottest way to keep fit. You can attend zumba classes, buy zumba dvds, there’s even zumba on wii and of course there is a range of zumba clothing to choose from 

Janet Hamer writes about the Zumba class she attends in Hatfield to keep fit 

We baby-boomers never miss a trick to keep ahead of the game, always on the alert for something new to help maintain our ageless bodies. So, bored with the gym which had achieved little except provide me with something else to moan about, I turned up at the studio on Monday morning. Feeling quite nervous as well as excited, I must admit.

I should have taken my cue from the faces of the other women gradually filing in. Did they look excited? No, on the whole they looked more like people walking into the dentists’, resigned but tense. Then the instructor rushed in and we all sidled reluctantly into the centre of the room. After a cheery greeting, we were off – step, step, step, kick, step, step, step, kick. Wow! This looks simple, I thought, and relaxed a bit. The Latin-American rhythm started to work its way into my bones, and I began to dance for the first time for years. The routine seemed pretty simple, and the insistent beat lifted my mood. I became a bit more daring, actually waving my arms in the air, trying for a bit of “attitude” while my legs rushed this way and that. I even noticed some of the words of the song “And a cha cha cha, and a woo woo woo!”  I remember this – this is fun! I thought, and that was when I caught sight of my mother in the floor to ceiling mirror.

Face as red as an embarrassed tomato, her expression deeply worried, she was going through the motions of the dance, but the legs which had felt like Madonna’s bore more resemblance to the trunks of the trees outside, and while the arms were certainly waving enthusiastically to the beat, the bingo wings beneath were doing their own thing. Horrified by what I was seeing, my concentration went flying – and so did I, catching the sole of one trainer underneath the other, I tumbled less than gracefully onto the floor. I scrambled to my feet as fast as I could, desperate not only to avoid attracting attention, but also to reduce the chances of being trampled on by the sideways-moving hordes of women, all staring grimly ahead at the instructor for fear of losing their place in the routine.

With a fixed smile to show that I really didn’t care that I’d just made a fool of myself, I rejoined the class, at which point I became aware that something had happened to my legs, which were feeling as if someone had encased them in concrete. I glanced up at the clock, then stared incredulously as it surely couldn’t be right. Only 10 minutes into the class? Another 50 to go?

“Right, ladies, you’ve had your warm-up. Now we’re into the serious workout!” shouted the instructor. She turned on the next track, doubled the volume, and the serious stuff began. At this point genuine doubt set in as to whether I’d make it to the end of this class, or be carried out on a stretcher. Deceptively simple dance steps became a nightmare at four times a comfortable speed and I was reduced to walking through the motions, or even just shifting my weight from foot to foot. Occasionally we were told to shout out or sing, but all my breath was directed towards keeping me conscious, mouth opening and closing like a large cod singing the Hallelujah Chorus.

Just when I knew I couldn’t keep going any longer, it seemed we were into the home strait, ten minutes of slowing the heart-rate and stretching out our poor limbs. The relief of having actually survived was intense, and helped provide the momentum to get out of the building and to the car.

At home again, I checked my reflection for signs of imminent heart failure, unable to believe that exercise so extreme – by my standards – could have left me still intact. But by the evening I was still in the land of the living, and starting to feel just a little bit smug. And as I arranged my aching limbs in bed that night, a tune was replaying in my head, “And a cha cha cha, and a woo woo woo”….

Eight months later, and I’m a regular zumba-goer. Incredibly, I don’t seem to have lost any weight, but my glutes (that’s bottom muscles for those who aren’t au fait with these things) are firm and to the delight of my GP, my BP reading is down 20 points! If you feel like giving it a try, you won’t have to look far as zumba classes are starting up in gyms, healthclubs and school halls everywhere.

Just don’t look in the mirror.

Feature written by Janet Hamer, contributing author

What is zumba  

  • Zumba is a dance fitness program created by dancer and choreographer Alberto “Beto” Perez in Colombia in the 1990s
  • Zumba music is based on salsa, merengue, cumbia, reggaeton and other international music styles and forms

Where can I learn?

  • Zumba classes are offered through licensed instructors in more than 110,000 locations in over 125 countries
  • Dvds are available for learning at home.

Do I need special clothing?

  • No, just wear loose fitting, comfortable casual clothing
  • Zumba shoes might be a consideration if you get serious – note heel feature
Zumba shoes

Zumba shoes

Photography by Pintail Media taken at Gosling Sports Centre, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire

All images were taken at a Zumba class to illustrate this feature  It is not the class attended by the writer of this article

See video clips of the class:
and  on your mobile

or on You Tube

Contact Karen at or go to her website for details of classes

Zumba class at Gosling Sports Park, Hertfordshire

Zumba class, Gosling Sports Park, Welwyn Garden City

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