Zoom-what? Trying Zumba

15 Dec

By ALEX MATTHEWS — The Post-Star | Posted: Tuesday, December 15, 2009 12:30 am

When it comes to fitness classes, I’m generally open-minded about trying something new. Key word: generally.

I take spinning and pilates classes weekly, dabble in yoga and am considering signing up for competitive swim lessons.

But Zumba? Zoom-what? I had just as soon dismissed it before giving the Latin-flavored dance workout a chance.

Somehow I was reeled in. My cousin couldn’t believe I hadn’t tried it. A friend told me she’s now a certified Zumba – yes, it’s a trademark – instructor. I had to try the craze.

So I went to a recommended venue, the Lemon Tree Yoga & Healing Arts Studio on Cooper Street in Glens Falls. As I stepped out of the cold into the colder Shirt Factory building at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning, I wasn’t thrilled. My next move into a cozy, actually hot, dance studio with soft lights strung along the ceiling put me in the Zumba state of mind.

Owner Tobey Gifford kicked off the class with a huge smile and bright attitude. This was going to be fun. And it was, despite my inherent stiffness and troublesome coordination. The point was, that didn’t matter. Gifford told the 17 women in the small studio to dance around, to interact, to do our thing. “Make up your own moves!” she shouted over the salsa-merengue-pop mix.

For the next hour, we shimmied, shook, shouted and laughed. But most of all, I sweated – a lot. According to Lisa Camp, a Zumba instructor at the Glens Falls YMCA, the activity can burn over 500 calories an hour.

“The way the music is,” Gifford said, “the rhythms are different… so it becomes like an interval workout, so you can always make it harder depending on your fitness.”

While Gifford breaks down some moves, the enjoyment from her class comes from trying to dance like her. She’s the kind of person that would light up a night club and be the life of a wedding.

“I’ve always liked to dance,” she said. “I like the way Zumba doesn’t have a lot of rigidness. Yes, there’s steps, but there’s freedom to move and do what you want with it.”

The women in her class, of all shapes, sizes and abilities did just that. As we mingled and danced around one another, everyone was beaming.

“We just give ourselves permission to shake our hips and move our bodies and just be free,” Gifford said. “It helps with people’s self esteem and makes them feel beautiful, and what I think helps is having a group of people that supports that – that everybody is beautiful and everybody is sexy.”

But for everybody?

At the Glens Falls YMCA, Camp said she gets a few men in her Zumba classes. The one I went to at 9:15 a.m. on Monday had 16 women and not a single male, but she said that’s typical for morning sessions, which attract stay-at-home moms, women with part-time jobs or those who are retired.

Despite the age-range and her moments of pause to address individual needs (i.e. explaining the moves beforehand, giving alternatives for the injured or unable), the dance made me sore.

Camp incorporates lunges, arm-pumping and core exercises for a total body workout. Charity Salis, 35, of Hudson Falls used strap-on hand weights, which typically range from 3 to 5 pounds and wrap around the palm. She said she’s been taking Zumba at the YMCA for two months and recently added the weights.

“I don’t have to go lift weights after as much anymore,” said Salis, who ballroom dances five times a week in Saratoga. “If I can combine two things at once, then that’s great.”

She said the class helps with her dancing focus, while also allowing her to be free with her movements. And it’s alleviated her running pains.

“It’s a nice cardio workout, and I don’t have to run on the treadmill anymore,” she said. “Some people love to run – I don’t. It’s nice waking up in the morning and knowing that I’m doing this. It’s like, ‘Oh, yay!'”

Where to go?

Since returning to Lake George for her winter break, Kenzie Weber, 18, alternates between the Lemon Tree ($10 for one class) and the YMCA (free for members) for her Zumba workout.

“I like Tobey (Gifford) because she has a lot of energy, and she makes it fun, and she makes you comfortable,” she said, “but I like going to the YMCA because you can learn the steps before you do it, and you don’t have to feel uncomfortable. You can ask questions. It’s more instructional.”

The Adirondack Sports Complex, or “The Dome”, also offers Zumba classes ($5 for the first class, $9 for each one after). The Queensbury facility on Sherman Avenue has an advanced routine for those who want a faster pace.

Despite my initial disinterest, I’ll be back for more, hoping to shape myself into the limber, eccentric, dancing machine that Zumba inspires, regardless of what you actually look like.

For now, I’ll just look away from the mirrors.

Original link: http://poststar.com/sports/zoom-what-trying-zumba/article_530a9fa8-e93b-11de-9418-001cc4c03286.html#ixzz1RwWRkSz6

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