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“Ditch the workout and join the party” with Zumba Fitness

Almost every afternoon and night of the week, 50 University of Massachusetts students dance, sweat and have fun to music such as Ke$ha’s “Tick Tock,” Pitbull’s “I Know You Want Me” and LMFAO’s “Shots.” These students, primarily female, are engaging in a complete hour of calorie and fat burning, working on muscle resistance, and overall energizing their bodies while still managing to have a good time. This is what Zumba Fitness is all about.

Zumba is a workout program that fuses Latin rhythms with easy-to-follow moves. The Zumba motto, “ditch the workout, join the party” promises to make working out fun and encourages people to return each week with enthusiasm and passion.

The Zumba fitness program is known for mixing traditional Latin dance steps that are seen in the salsa, cha cha and meringue with more contemporary hip-hop moves, and even belly dancing for some international zest. Unlike other dance-based fitness programs, Zumba classes do not mandate the participant to key in on counting steps, but rather to learn the moves and have fun. Zumba fitness is a full-body cardiovascular workout. The routines include big, fast arm movements, constant footwork, and of course, a surplus of hip shaking.

Zumba fitness programs have reached over 75 countries and are taught at over 40,000 locations with five million participants taking Zumba classes each week, according to a tally taken in July 2009 on Zumba.com. Zumba classes at the UMass Recreation Center are taught by either sophomore Emily McLaughlin or freshman Gaby Corbera, depending on which night or class attended. Both instructors use Latin music for many of the routines, but also include plenty of popular artists that a typical college student would be familiar with, such as Flo Rida, Daddy Yankee and Christina Aguilera.

“It’s a really good cardio workout. It’s really fun, I love that there are a lot of people in the class. It’s high energy with lots of different styles,” said senior Nicole Breivogel.

During a typical class, McLaughlin and Corbera briefly demonstrate the steps being taught to the group before the music begins, and everyone follows, generally catching on quickly.

“It’s such good music, you don’t need any experience. Literally, it’s a party,” said Corbera, who believes that people of any skill level can participate.

Some may stumble a bit in the beginning but will pick up and keep going, Corbera said. She begins class saying that her number one rule is “To not be shy because the more open you are, the more you get out of it.”

The high energy in the room is one of the aspects that keeps people coming back to the classes each week. Dia Majumdar, a freshman, started going to Zumba towards the beginning of the semester and now goes almost every day.

“It’s a lot of fun, high-energy, great music. The instructors are good about teaching the steps,” said Majumdar.

Jackson Hall a freshman who attended the Zumba class because he loves to dance and heard it was fun said, “I usually run on the treadmill but this is a more fun alternative.”

As a male, Hall is generally a minority in the class. However, both Corbera and McLaughlin are encouraging more men to join and hope that it soon becomes a 50:50 ratio.

Corbera said she became involved with Zumba fitness over a year ago and was trained as an instructor in New York City in November. Her interest in Zumba began when she saw a commercial advertising the program and enrolled in her town’s YMCA to take classes, despite her mother’s belief that the program was yet another health fad, Corbera explained.

Corbera has Spanish ancestry – she was born in Venezuela, and her parents are from Perú – and has found that getting involved with Zumba has helped her embrace her culture.

“Zumba gets you energetic about everything you do. It really changed my life, it’s given me so much confidence,” Corbera said.

McLaughlin and Corbera use different songs and incorporate different moves in their classes; however, the energy level is at a constant high with either instructor, and both teach routines that incorporate belly dancing and Latin dance basics. Corbera said that instructors are sent CDs and DVDs with new songs so that the class members and the instructors are never bored with the same music and routines.

Zumba class times are posted on the UMass Recreation Center website under Group Fitness Schedule. Zumba classes are offered every day of the week except Friday and Sunday and are offered in both the afternoon and evenings. Corbera and McLaughlin are in the process of planning a two-hour “Zumbathon” party that 100 people would be able to attend. They are anticipating holding the event the end of this month.

Lisa Linsley can be reached at llinsley@student.umass.edu.

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