Men that Zumba

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I am a student of fitness, and yes I am a 40 year old rookie! I really wish I started this fitness career as a young man. But hey, better late than never! Isn’t that what people say? So let’s talk about how a non-dancer, two left feet having, beast of a man like me got into Zumba! The men that Zumba!

I have been taking Zumba classes for a few years. I still remember when I first encountered a Zumba class. I watched the instructor shaking and jumping around and I really didn’t think too much of it. It was weird to me, so I walked away. Back then I was heavily into weightlifting and traditional group exercise. When I saw these people dancing and wiggling around I perceived it to be a rather silly waste of time. However fast-forward a few years and here I am, a licensed Zumba instructor myself.

Do I now believe that Zumba is the magical key to fitness? Absolutely not, just as with any form of group exercise, depending on the instructor, the class can be a complete waste of time. I’ve always thought of Zumba as a complimentary workout to my existing regiment. Beto looks pretty good, but I doubt that the only thing he does is Zumba. You still have to have a great diet, strength training, and of course the discipline to stick to it all.

Zumba is a great option to provide you another hour of training that is fun and doesn’t feel like a drag. Most of the times, whether I’m a participant, or leading a class, I’m smiling from cheek to cheek. Zumba is a lot of fun.

I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point I got the crazy idea that I should become a Zumba instructor. I am not the most graceful, elegant, or even remotely nice dancer. What I’m saying is that there is no place in this world where I am considered a good dancer. Let’s establish that right now, but I can memorize and create patterns; also I have a knack for fitness. So, I somehow make it work.

My instructor said that in Zumba there are good instructors and not so good instructors. I told her that I could not dance well, and that I was very stiff. The stiff part being often repeated to me! So yes, I get it you fockers, I’m stiff!!! She said that dancers are great, but in a Zumba class, you are not there to perform or show off how great a dancer YOU are, you are there to give your participants a fun and great workout. Facts!

That’s the only reason a brutish buffoon like me can pull this off as I am the furthest thing from a dancer you’ll ever meet. I’ve never cared to dance, and other than one or two classes, I’ve never taken any real dance training in my life. I am NOT, I repeat, I am NOT a dancer. But, I CAN learn and create basic dance patterns to a musical beat, and I sure as hell can make you break a nice sweat.

I spent the weekend studying instructors in classes and online. Observing and analyzing the different styles. I found that some are dancers just looking to perform for an audience and don’t seem to care about the class’ ability to follow along. They just keep going with their choreo providing no queuing and no guidance whatsoever. Instructors, facing the mirror and looking at yourself the whole time is not a good look! Creating high level, complicated choreo is not a good look! Sure, you are great to look at and you are an amazingly talented dancer, but if the class cannot follow along, then you need to be on Broadway and leave Zumba alone. Teaching this way is not teaching, and it makes you a “bad instructor.”

On the other hand, you have some people who are great instructors and can’t dance very well. That’s probably gonna include me. The ones who really care, work very hard at the craft, and do their best, despite having two left feet, stiff hips and zero dance talent. We learn and improve through grit and hard work. Also, we build and select our choreos according to our capabilities. Some of us have fitness backgrounds that we pull from in our teaching as well.

Then you have the ones who are amazing high energy fitness instructors, queue very well, and can also dance. The winning triple threat of a Zumba instructor. They will have you feeling like 1 hour is 5 minutes, that’s how damn amazing they are. They exist, I’ve encountered these unicorns myself. It’s rare to find that perfect zumba artist, but trust me, they exist.

I know all this sounds critical, but as a long time participant, I know this to be true. Keep it simple, otherwise, we/they cannot follow along. There are times when I go into a class, and if the instructor is extremely difficult to follow it’s just not any fun. We are in Zumba to have fun as well as workout. Especially the group that goes to Zumba classes.

I take Zumba and I break a nice sweat, but it’s also a fun goofy type of workout for me. It’s not the same as taking a high intensity interval training class, or a very intense kickboxing class, it’s not the same type of workout. But you have a nice time, you laugh and you get a decent sweat going. If you make it too complicated, then you remove the fun element out of it. People will not enjoy themselves, they will become discouraged and they won’t return to your class. I am not the most experienced Zumba instructor right now, but I have been a participant for a very long time, and if I can’t follow the choreography in your class, then it is just too complicated.


The opinions and views expressed are solely those of the author.

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Podcaster. Poet, Veteran, Fitness Professional. Former MMA & BJJ fighter. Feat on Men's Fitness, OnMogul, HuffPo, NY1, NPR, FOX, MTV, Natgeo, HLN, ZLiving, Hot97, Family Circle Mag & more!