I never, never jump into the latest fitness trends. It took me years to get into both Step and indoor cycling.
But for some reason I tried Zumba a couple of weeks ago and have been twice now. Not sure how long Zumba has been around (wait--according to the website it came to the US in the early 2000s), but it just came to my gym. Zumba is--this my description--a dance aerobics class. The foundations of the movements are in Latin dance.
Here is what the Zumba website has to say about its product:
Zumba® fuses hypnotic latin rhythms and easy to follow moves to create a dynamic fitness program that will blow you away. Our goal is simple: We want you to want to work out, to love working out, to get hooked. Zumba® Fanatics achieve long term benefits while experiencing an absolute blast in one exhilarating hour of caloric-burning, body-energizing, awe-inspiring movements meant to engage and captivate for life!
(The rest of the description is here.)
I haven't decided exactly how I feel about it from a workout sense. It is indeed fun and the music is good. How intense the cardio is--for me--is still up in the air. [But I usually play tennis immediately after class so I'm not that worried about that for now. And yes, I am getting into the moves and not holding back.]
Not sure how true the "easy to follow moves" really are. But unlike Step and other aerobics classes, getting all the moves down and in the "right" order, etc. isn't all that important in Zumba, as far as I can tell. And my instructor certainly reinforces that idea. The other night someone asked a more technical question about how to switch feet and she said "well I go like this" and demonstrated "but you can do whatever you want to get there" and kind of did a little awkward shuffle thing. And she will say throughout the class "do whatever feels good" and offer different options for arms and other movements. But that may be an individual instructor thing. I certainly like my instructor for this reason and because, on day 1 she was extolling the virutes of Zumba and said something about how many calories you could burn in the hour but quickly added "not that that should matter to you."
Zumba has certainly created some chatter. There's a lot of chattering in class and there is a LOT of chatter in the locker room after class. And that's because people--99.5 percent women (there was one man in class the other night)--are a little self-conscious about how they move their bodies.
Because is undeniably erotic. Yep, I said it. It's sexual. It's based on Latin dance. Just because you put it in a suburban gym filled mostly with white, middle-class women does not mean the sexiness--well it actually does go away a little when you see some people doing it--more on that in a sec. The other night two women who were quite...well...stiff in class were "joking" about how they couldn't Zumba and how one was going to tell her husband she was doing erotic dance moves at the gym. These two women who are running and training buddies and in, by all accounts, great shape kept saying over and over "we don't Zumba." Really, over and over. Not sure why. They clearly felt some awkwardness over not being able to do this. Or rather not being able to execute the moves in a way that reflects a sort of flowing or natural movement. Because it's pretty easy to compensate for a lack of knowledge about the steps by just going with the flow. But so many women do not.
How out of touch with our bodies are we? My sister (who Zumbas at a different gym) and I both think that how well one Zumbas--in terms of getting into it and really moving, not knowing the steps--is likely a reflection on one's sexual life. Which is also sometimes a reflection of how in touch we are with our bodies.
Or maybe people just don't want to be sexual in the gym and so hold back. If so, why not? The gym's a pretty sexual place. Look around. Bodies, muscles, sweat, steaminess, skin, grunting, flexing, tensing. Maybe Zumba is just more overt in showing us what's already there. And maybe that's why some people just seem so awkward about it all.
The You Tube clip below is from a TODAY show segment from a little over a year ago. Poor Ann Curry always getting dragged into doing these things when she clearly does not want to.