The first time I tried Zumba I bumbled around at the back with a stitch (think the discomfort endured by Ben Stiller’s character in Along Came Polly on his introduction to salsa clubs). Not the look I was going for. So I tried it again. Familiar with the moves this time, the hour of relentless dancing to pumping Latin music left me glowing, and not just with sweat.
Zumba boasts being one of the world’s fastest growing fitness crazes luring in hordes of all ages with the promise of ‘partying yourself into shape’.
A neon-lit gym studio isn’t your typical party venue but the salsa and merengue tunes are an instant mood lifter. After a short warm-up, the aerobic sequences come thick and fast, each based on variations of Latin dance moves. Despite being a general level class, only a few select steps are broken down, so there’s not much chance to catch your breath and that’s the idea.
The class is advertised as a heart workout but according to Becky, the instructor, it’s good ‘for everything’. I can believe it. The routines tend to be on the fast to really fast spectrum and involve copious amount of wiggling. No body part escapes as shimmies, ripples and hip rotations compete for attention.
Mesmerised by Becky’s authentic hip action, I try to mimic her precise moves, the image of Ben Stiller still haunting me. They look different on me. And when I wiggle, I wobble. Oh well. I’m having fun and I’m not the only one. As I glance around at my fellow movers and shakers, I notice it’s not just Becky with a perma-grin – everyone looks happy.
There’s a lot to take in and I struggle to hear Becky’s instructions but odd words penetrate the music. ‘Lower, ladies. Tighten your butt.’ I immediately drop an inch.
All the twisting and turning tones your midriff and with a few squats and lunges thrown in, I leave convinced of Zumba’s all-round effectiveness. What’s more, ‘the bigger you do the movements, the better they work,’ Becky tells me.
Once you’ve got the hang of the routines, the hype surrounding Zumba starts to ring true. It gets you fit with a smile on your face, burns squillions of calories and leaves you humming the tunes.
If you like dancing in your bedroom – and you might have to imagine yourself there during the little bits of ‘freestyle’ – Zumba is probably for you.
Classes are run across London by LA Fitness
Image by Cimm courtesy of Flickr