Tuesday, April 27, 2010


The majority of the searches that I get on my page are about Zumba -- what is it? Why do my feet hurt when I do it? How many Weight Watchers points is it? and so on...

I would like to attempt to give an overview of what Zumba is, interjected with a few of my own opinions and experiences and anecdotes. Per the Zumba website, Zumba is a dance-type class that "fuses hypnotic Latin rhythms and easy-to-follow moves to create a one-of-a-kind fitness program that will blow you away." When I first started Zumba, I would not agree with the assessment that the moves were easy to follow. They weren't rocket science, but it wasn't something I picked up right away either. The good news is that -- although the songs in a class will change periodically -- there is usually some consistency from week to week, and the choreography for a song is always the same (often even from teacher to teacher). This allows you to improve over time, and to get the hang of what is actually going on. With time, new routines are easier to learn too (the basic steps or building blocks are the same, although they are combined in different ways in each song).

Here is a video of folks Zumba-ing. I like this one because it shows that there are people of all levels who Zumba. In the classes I've been to, this has definitely been the case. I started out like the person in the green who could barely keep up, but now I'm more like the one in the black who can do the moves, but doesn't exactly look natural doing them.

Depending on the teacher you have, there may be more or less of an emphasis on the Latin music. For example, I go to a class that has all Latin songs and moves and one that has a mix of Latin and more hip-hoppy songs. Find one that you like and works for you, and give it a shot.

A lot of the Google searches I get are about people's feet hurting. This happened to me and was initially enough to make me give up on Zumba. As I lost more weight, the pain dissipated and was less severe (I first Zumba-ed at probably around 270; now I am about 240 and have changed my body composition significantly so that I am now a lot of muscle). The key, though, I didn't discover until a few weeks ago.

I had very nice sneakers that were designed to be supportive. I got them specially fit at Fleet Feet to help with my overpronation and I have expensive arches to support my flat feet. However, I still had days wearing these sneakers when the work in Zumba made me want to keel over and die from the pain in my feet -- NO LONGER!!! Here is the secret (at least for me - and I was so skeptical): do Zumba barefoot.

The reason why is because your feet need to bend in the middle, similar to the way they would to point your toes. They can't do this when they are confined to a sneaker, and your arch will fight you and hurt like a mother to be able to do so. Have you ever seen dancing shoes? They basically have a sole only on the ball and heel of the foot, but in between (like on the arch) is leather so you can bend your feet. To Zumba I would suggest either getting a pair of dance shoes or just going barefoot.

Since I have gone barefoot (about 2 weeks ago), my feet do not hurt anymore during Zumba -- I think because they allow my feet to bend. The only problem with going shoe-less is that you lose a little support on songs where you have to jump -- but overall I highly recommend shoeless Zumba. Also, depending on the cleanliness of the gym or dance studio where you Zumba, your feet may get dirty. I don't consider it a big deal, but you might.

I have a BodyBugg that counts the number of calories I burn. As I said, I weigh 240ish so with that factored in I typically burn between 600 and 750 calories during an hour Zumba class. Not too shabby, eh? For Weight Watchers, I definitely consider this vigorous exercise and I factor it into the activity tracker accordingly.

Overall, my appraisal of Zumba is high. I first tried it last summer, and have been doing it on and off again since January. I really enjoy it, and I love that it is fun, goes quickly (more quickly for me than, say, working on a treadmill), and is helping me to move better. (I'm not ready for So You Think You Can Dance or anything, but I do feel more confident shakin' what my momma gave me now.) I recommend giving Zumba a shot. Please feel free to ask me any questions about Zumba in the comments -- I will answer them the best I can, or ask a friend who is a Zumba instructor.

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