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Popularity of Zumba workout continues to grow

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GINA R. HEINE
February 21, 2011

It might be the high-energy Latin music.


Or the socializing.


But the biggest reason for the Zumba craze likely is the fun people have without feeling like they're working out, fans say.


Dance parties are happening all over the area from health clubs and senior centers to schools and—the newest location—a grocery store, as Zumba has become one of the hottest trends in exercise.


"I like that it's not routine," Kath Magee said after a recent class at the Janesville Athletic Club. "It feels like … you're dancing and having a good time rather than getting a workout."


"That's what I like about it," said her mother-in-law, Joanne Magee, who just started Zumba. "(It's) not like you're sitting there doing sit-ups. You're actually moving, and it's fun."


The Zumba Fitness brand started in 2001, and the Latin-inspired dance-fitness program took off. Zumba says it's the world's largest dance-fitness program with more than 10 million people taking weekly Zumba classes in more than 90,000 locations in more than 110 countries, according to its website.


Zumba philosophy


The philosophy behind Zumba is it shouldn't feel like a workout, said Judy Neary, a retired high school choir director who started Zumba a year ago at the Janesville Athletic Club. She enjoyed it so much she became a certified instructor in September.


"It does not feel like a workout, though it's a very, very good workout," she said.


Instructors recommend the class for those still seeking a way to meet a New Year's resolution.


Dancers can burn 400 to 800 calories in an hour.


Neary pointed out after a recent class she taught that she didn't stop to describe to dancers how to do the steps for each song.


"Because that implies workout," she said. "They really don't want you to wear a (microphone) and give constant direction. They want you to give visual cues."


Instead, Neary points in the direction she wants dancers to move.


"Their philosophy is to face your participants, and they mirror what you're doing so you can have good visual contact with your members and give cues with your face, with your hands and occasionally verbally," she said.


About 70 percent of the music in a class should be Latin, while the rest can be other choices, she said.


Popularity

The YMCA of Northern Rock County started Zumba classes four years ago and now has four types of classes, fitness director Jessie Cutsinger said.


"We keep having to add in classes because they fill up," she said.


The Y even increased the group exercise floor space at its Northeast Janesville location to accommodate larger Zumba classes, she said.


This month, the Y started Thursday morning Zumba classes at Basics Cooperative in Janesville.


"We just thought it would be a great fit for those coming into a health food-type store," Cutsinger said.


Heidi McLain of Janesville is the owner of FitPro, a team of 20 instructors that teaches classes in the area.


She's seen attendance at Zumba classes increase over the years to the point where FitPro now offers 30 weekly classes in Rock County.


"It's sticking. I think more so than some of (the other latest-craze programs) did," she said. "I think this has more sustainability."


Get started

"Get your foot in the door," was Cutsinger's advice for people interested in trying Zumba. "Most people, once they do it once, they're hooked."


Don't get overwhelmed, and don't be shy, Neary said.


And, "you really have to come to five to six times before you can decide really if you like it," she said.


The classes are designed for every age and fitness level. Zumba Gold, for example, is targeted to baby boomers. Aqua Zumba offers the additional benefit of working against the water's resistance.


YouTube.com is a great resource to see how Zumba works, said Neary, who uses the online videos to plan her classes.


"I just like coming with a bunch of ladies and hootin' and hollerin'," said Kath Magee, who started Zumba last month. For class, she sports a bright green Zumba skirt, which has jingly silver coins attached.


"It makes it more fun, and it makes you want to shake your hips more, which then burns more calories," she said.


Prior dance experience is not needed, Neary said.


The saying in her class: "When all else fails, just shake it!"



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