Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What goes through a Zumba Fitness student's head during class...

  • I’m so glad I made it here. I have to take time for me!
  • Did I start the dryer? Shoot. I should probably go home.
  • Here comes the instructor. Ugh, crap, eye contact.  Will have to start the dryer when I get home.
  • She calls this a warm up? I’m already sweating. It’s more like a HOT up. Heh.
  • Oh, I love this song.  Bailaaando, bailaaando, tu cuerpo beedeedeebodeebeedeedeebee… Bailaaando…
  • Damn, how is she wiggling her hips like that?
  • Oooh, I see, she was moving her feet and her hips followed! Maybe I can… VICTORY!
  • This feels so good.  What a workout!
  • Single, single, double. Single, single, double.
  • Yes, a cumbia! I loved that movie, what was her name? Oh yeah, “anything for SELENASSS”! Ha.
  • Did it just get hotter in here?
  • It was so sad that Selena died. J-Lo was really good in that –
  • Ow, what the hell was that in my ankle?
  • Hey there, red shirt girl… we all see you. It’s not a contest, let’s tone it down a little.
  • Don’t forget to start the dryer. Don’t forget to start the dryer. Don’t forget to – damn, how did I end up in the wrong direction?
  • Ok really, the air conditioner must be broken.
  • Is it cute or annoying that all of the Zumba songs say “Zumba” in them? I mean, we know where we are…
  • Need to take a breather.  ::pretends to tie shoe::
  • Pitbull: such a strange name, but his songs are so catchy. Dale! (whatever that means…)
  • Nailed that salsa. I rule!
  • Yeah, that’s right, red shirt girl. In-yo-face!
  • I’m dying. I’m literally dying.
  • This song is kind of slow… ohmygosh, this is the cool down!
  • I MADE IT!
  • I feel like there was something I was supposed to do when I get home…

 What else?

Who got you into Zumba Fitness?

I've heard it a million times - most instructors have a special someone who encouraged them to transition from student to instructor. Many students also have a friend, cousin, or partner who encouraged them to try Zumba in the first place! I've actually heard the term "Zumba mama" more than once.

I don't think I would have considered it if one of my first instructors, Teresa, hadn't spotted me in class and pushed me to go to a B1 training. She would generously let me try teaching songs in her class (even in the beginning when my choreo was iffy and my cuing was so-so) and it really built my confidence and capacity to teach. When she left her teaching position at our gym, I was her successor (though I would have traded getting my own class to keep her there!).
The Z Beat wants to tell these stories. Please comment below or write to me on Facebook to share who inspired you to get started with Zumba. I will feature as many stories as I can, in tribute to those who we owe finding Zumba!

Monday, September 29, 2014

ZINspiration Monday: Karen Diaz

I "met" Karen through Twitter, immediately noticing two words in her bio: handicapable, and Zumba. With her awesome energy and outlook on life, she's a true inspiration to ZINs everywhere! In her words:

My name is Karen, I am 20 years old and I am in a wheelchair. The reason I'm in a wheelchair is because I was born with a rare disorder called "osteogenesis imperfecta" also known as "brittle bone disease." I have type 4. I break my bones easily with impact. For example, I was never allowed to do sports because if I were to get hit with a ball, or if someone accidentally pushed or hit me, I could break a bone. 

That was before Zumba came along. My mom started doing Zumba about two years ago. She invited me to just watch the class and I went. As the class began, I fell in love with it. The instructors are amazing! I was just loving every moment of it. The instructor's energy was motivating and inspiring for me, because I had been told "no" so many times. I found something that I was able to do. Sure, I was gonna do it slower and differently... but I LOVED IT. It was like I was able to do something with my life. I didn't start right away, because I first had to ask my doctor If it was okay. He said I could try it and I was just. so. excited.
Zumba is very important to me for 2 reasons. First, it helps me maintain my weight, as I'm 4 feet tall and supposed to weigh between 60-75 lbs... if I go over my weight, I will break bones more frequently. Secondly, it increases my self-esteem and makes me forget about everything. My favorite Zumba songs are "Damelo Todito" by Amarfis and "El Baile" by Oro Solido. 

While I'm doing Zumba I get a lot of attention because I guess people have never seen a girl dance in a wheelchair before. I feel a little pressure because of that, but my instructor always encourages me to forget people's stares and just do me. I am so lucky to be part of the Zumba fitness family because I get support, motivation, encouragement, laughter, and smiles. Zumba is honestly my life, and I am blessed.

Find Karen at @dreamfulcocoaa on Twitter!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Scientific take on the Benefits of Zumba Fitness

Have ya'll seen this video and article from the American Council on Exercise (ACE)? They did an experimental study to understand the health benefits of Zumba, and the results were impressive. From the article:

“It’s a total-body exercise—a good, high-energy aerobic workout,” explains Dr. Porcari. “Zumba fitness is also good for core strengthening and flexibility gains because there are lots of hip and midsection movements.”

With subjects burning an average of 369 calories per class, Zumba fitness is also a fine choice for those who are looking to drop a few pounds or maintain their current weight levels. In comparison with other exercises tested in the past by the University’s Department of Exercise and Sport Science, Zumba burns more calories than cardio kickboxing, step aerobics, hooping and power yoga.
The video explains the study and is chock full of good information to pass along to students.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Finding Confidence: An Emotional Story About Pants

Last night I had an awesome ah-ha moment. It went something like this.

In just over a week, I'm running my second half marathon. I'm one of those people who runs but has trouble thinking of myself as a "runner" - I mean, me? It's crazy. I didn't start running until my mid-20s and I always thought it was something done only by special people with special powers. I know a lot of people feel this way, and we need to get over it.

Anyway, back to the half marathon. I was going through my workout clothes and gear, thinking about what I would wear. I pulled out a pair of black running tights and a bluish/greenish sweat wicking top.

As I was holding the pants I couldn't help but think about what they meant. When I ran my first half marathon four years ago, I wore yoga capris. In fact, I wore loose, yoga-style pants to pretty much every 5K, obstacle course, walkathon, and other activity I had done up until this year. Once in a while someone would ask, "Aren't you hot?" or "Are you comfortable in those?" ...and I always said yes. I wasn't lying, I just didn't know anything different. I almost NEVER wear shorts and I didn't have anything spandex in my drawers. I just felt like my body type couldn't wear traditional workout clothes.

When I started teaching Zumba, I would wear my trusty yoga pants. And they were fine... except for when they weren't. I would soon start to worry that students couldn't see how I was moving my legs in certain routines, and a few times a class they would slip down and I would have to stop cuing to pull them up. It was time for a change.

I bought my first pair of spandex workout pants and it was freeing. It was also scary. I know my body wiggles and shakes in some unflattering ways, and my new pants weren't as forgiving as my old ones.

But, teaching Zumba classes has created a new kind of confidence in myself, one powerful enough to shake off negative thoughts. We're not there to judge each other, we support each other. We're not worried about what everyone else looks like, we're trying to get a great workout for ourselves. And I'm so grateful for this indirect outcome of teaching Zumba... I mean, people are staring at my backside for the better part of an hour and I'm totally mostly cool with it!

I know the half marathon isn't going to be easy, but I'm going into it confident - and comfortable. :)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Maximing Your Zumba Fitness Workout

Have you ever read this article from Shape magazine? It's a couple of years old now, but it offers advice on how to maximize fat burn in a Zumba class. I like the ideas, which include:
  1. Let loose
  2. Maximize arm movement
  3. Move up and down more (changing levels)
  4. Work your booty (whenever "shaking it", press your heals into the floor)
  5. Rock the moves you know

I highly recommend you read the article - it's good advice to share with students. It also reminded me of this post I wrote about the Energy Equation and techniques for instructors to help students get a better workout:
  1. Great music
  2. Make sure there's plenty of room and encourage them to use it
  3. Motivation without bullying
  4. Focus on a body part

I think we can really help students maximize fat burn with this last technique. Usually on the second time we do a move in a song, I point to a body part and ask the class to focus on it, either by making a ridiculous face or squeezing my fists to indicate "tighten these muscles!" or occasionally by just saying "squeeze those XYZs on this move!". Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. It kills me to see students come to class and barely move or lose out on the best parts of a workout when I know they can push harder.

Other ideas for helping students maximize calorie burn in class?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Z Beat wants your feedback!

I started The Z Beat just under two months ago to see if there was interest in a blog about all things Zumba and related fitness news and stories. And, surprise! Here we are with over 6,000 readers and a real sense of community. I love writing what I think (hope!) is a useful resource and it's been incredible e-meeting so many other instructors and fitness fans out there.

Since it seems like The Z Beat is here to stay, I'd like to do two things.
1. Announce a boring  but VERY important thing about Facebook: I will be switching my Facebook page over to a fan page where I will be posting my articles each day (just like I post them on my personal page now).

**I won't be posting articles from The Z Beat in other Zumba Facebook groups as frequently as I do now... Please please please friend or follow me if you rely on my posts in Facebook groups to know when new articles are up! This will help keep your great comments in one place so we can have better group conversations.

2. Ask for your feedback!: I would love to hear from you about why you read, what you like, and what should change.  Here is a short survey (take it below or follow this link) but I'd also love for you to elaborate on your feedback in the comments below. Thank you!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Oh, the faces we make!

When we want to switch directions. When the song changes. When we make eye contact.

...We. Make. Faces. In the spirit of owning the silly faces made by Zumba instructors everywhere, here are a few of my favorites:

The Giant Smile: Sometimes I smile. I mean, SMILE. It's usually when I'm feeling really tired and am trying to convince both myself and the class that we all feel great.

Duck Lips: I have never, ever taken a selfie using "duck lips," but I do sometimes slip up and flash this face during certain moves, like body rolls and destrozas. I can't really explain it.

The Oops: Yes, I know that participants will barely notice if you make a mistake and keep going. But, my face doesn't lie - I almost always make a crazy oops face when I miss a step. Usually it makes a few people laugh and we keep movin'. 

Pointing with your Eyes: It may be the most subtle version of cuing ever, but I do think it helps to point your eyes in the direction you're going next. Even if only one person notices, it feels worth it!

Pointing with your Lips: This may seem like a variation of duck lips, but don't be fooled - I'm telling you which way I'm heading! I'm certain this isn't helpful like pointing with your eyes, but it's more of an involuntary movement at this point.

I hope you can relate to these faces... and if not, I hope you'll tell me I'm alone in my face-making! Be honest with me, people. :)

Monday, September 22, 2014

ZINspiration Mondays: Ray Marrero

Ray is a San Diego guy living in Matsuyama City, Japan. As you’ll read, Zumba helped Ray change his life and just this past July, he got licensed to teach.


The Z Beat: Tell us about your health history.

Ray: I was so active in my younger days that my weight was not an issue. However, my weight started to creep up in my late 30s and really skyrocketed in my 40s. In 2010, I weighed 287 lbs and I started Zumba® Fitness. I have lost approximately100 lbs since then.

The other trick to my weight loss was changing my American lifestyle of high stress, high calories, and large portions that would have condemned me to being obese forever. I was doing Zumba® 6 days a week and trying to eat healthy, but the weight came off so slolwly. Most of my weight loss occurred when I moved to Japan in March 2013.

The Z Beat: How has Zumba® impacted your life?

Ray: Since Zumba® has never felt like exercise, I have always looked forward to attending every class. I still can't believe 4 years have gone by--it still feels very fresh. Zumba® has given me a second chance to redeem my health, physical abilities and sanity.

Zumba® has also brought me closer to my wife, Masae. We are different in every possible way. However, we connect to each other through our love of Zumba®. I have also met so many wonderful people through Zumba®. I have been dancing next to the same people for over a year now and they feel like family.

The Z Beat: What are your three favorite songs?

Ray: Crazy Love by Mara; Wicked by Veronica Vega; and Menea La Pera from ZIN 51

The Z Beat: What was the funniest thing that happened to you in a class?

Ray: Our studio always gets hot and humid. One day our studio was filled to capacity (80 people) when a member in the row behind me slipped and went flying into me. The two of us went down like bowling pins!  

The Z Beat: How do you inspire others to get involved with Zumba®?

Ray: That's easy! I just show them my old photos. I've have had several people claim that I was not the person in the photos. I agree. He was old Ray and I am so happy he is gone.

The Z Beat: What else should we know about you?

Ray: Here are a few other things about me:
  • My parents introduced me to Zumba® and they are still attending classes.
  • I take longer to choose my clothes for Zumba® class than my wife.
  • I know 10 different versions of Psy's Gangnam Style.
  • I was a lawyer in a previous life, but I currently work as an ESL Instructor at an International Children's School.
  • You can learn more about me here: www.zumbasamuri.com. I am also on Ameba, Facebook, Google +, Pinterest and Twitter: zumbasamuri.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Mega Mix 43 is in the House!

There is NOTHING like coming home from a long day at work to one of those square white envelopes in the mail. I admit it: I rip it open little kid style and run over to my stereo.
My immediate reaction? This month's collection is... classic! After the warm up, the first four songs are very traditional: merengue, salsa, reggaeton, cumbia. I can't remember where I read it, but somewhere on the world wide web someone commented that recent ZIN CDs have had too much electronic music and other unfamiliar rhythms. I wonder if that feedback made its way to the home office, because this music instantly felt familiar and perfectly ready for standard B1 moves.

I particularly liked the salsa and cumbia songs early on the CD, and Vamanos Pa La Calle (merengue urbano). If I'm being honest, I thought Translation was kind of awful... not only the so-so beat, but the lyrics were just too superficial (and maybe a little too raunchy) for me.

My favorite thing about Mega Mix 43 is that Rockin' Robin is out it - how fun?! I can totally see my class enjoying it and can't wait to choreograph it. I peeked on YouTube and already found this cute routine!

What did you think of Mega Mix 43?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Anatomy of a Playlist

I spend a LOT of time prepping my playlists. I create a new one for each class I teach to keep it fresh for my regular students. I know there's much debate about whether instructors should have a prepared playlist or switch around from song to song during a class, but I'm squarely in the prepare ahead of time camp.  Team Type A all the way!

There are a lot of things that I consider when putting a play list together, and I thought I would share them with you.
  • B1 advice: Ok, first things first. We've all been told to make sure we offer at least 70% Latin and international rhythms in our classes, and it's important. It really is what sets us apart from other dance fitness formats. So, when I'm putting together a playlist I always try to have a salsa, cumbia, merengue, and reggaeton to start and build from there. I usually end up with 9 or 10 Latin/international songs and 3 or 4 other types of songs.

  • On the other hand...: I do try to include 2 or 3 songs in English. Some of these songs are in the "Latin pop" category, but others might be hip hop or pop (a la Michael Jackson, 80s hits, etc.). I like to spread the English language songs out so people who like to sing along (en Ingles) can do so a few times during class.

  • New choreo? First 4 songs: I don't know about you all, but both my body and my brain get tired as class goes on. When I'm introducing new choreo, I almost always put it at the beginning of class when I'm still fresh and focused.

  • When the going gets tough...: Some songs are harder to execute than others, so I try to spread out the very demanding songs. This helps students to avoid getting frustrated, but also helps me offer intermittent training, where the really fast songs are separated by routines with a slower pace.

  • Warm up and cooldown: I always use a recognizable, upbeat warm up song (duh, right?). But, I also try to pick my cooldown songs from well known, feel-good hits that leave people with a good feeling. I avoid songs that I like but that are too obscure or overly sad. Lately I've been rotating between Killing Me Softly (Fugees), That's the Way Love Goes (Janet), Royals (Lorde), and D'yer Mak'er (Led Zepplin).

What other tips do you have?

P.S. Congrats to Alice O. for winning The Z Beat's Fall Giveaway!! :)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Homemade Zumba Choreography

One of my favorite things about our instructor community is that everyone is so willing to share lessons learned, favorite songs, and homemade choreography. It's not easy to create and execute good choreo, which makes it all the more valuable and appreciated when shared. 
Today I have a new collection of some great routines from Zumba friends on Facebook and Twitter (see some of my YouTube faves here). Want to see your stuff on The Z Beat? Please send it to me for a future post!
Shavonne submitted Love Never Felt So Good by Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake. This is a super cute, easy to follow routine. It would be a perfect pre-cooldown routine for very active students, and a great any-time-you-want-to-use-it routine for less advanced classes. Shavonne had me bobbing my head and following along by the end of the song!

Arijana has a ton of choreo on her YouTube page! Here are three great routines:
  • Adrenalina by Ricky Martin and J Lo: This is a song I hadn't heard prior to watching the video, and I really like it. In addition to the solid choreo, Arijana's cuing is fantastic - it's worth watching just to see how she directs traffic!
  • La Pregunta, MegaMix 41: This is a fun and easy to follow reggaeton routine. I keep listening to this song but I haven't figured out my own moves yet - so I'm looking forward to learning this one!
  • Salsaton, El Rubio Loco: Salsa is one of my favorite types of music in the whole world, but some of the salsa choreo out there can be kind of... boring. Arijana's choreo is interesting and I'm sure would be a lot of fun to do in class!

Emma submitted two clips of her and a friend - they are a fun duo and their moves are great. 
  • Fireball by Pitbull: It seems to be everyone's favorite song these days - but this routine is easy to pick up and really goes with the music.

  • Estres by Laritza Bacallao: This is a Latin pop song, and I especially like the moves because they're a little different from what I would come up with on my own - a big reason why I make time to watch other people's choreo!

You may remember Mariann Knudsen from this ZINspiration Monday post. Here is her routine to La Camisa Negra. She teaches Zumba Gold, and this is a good song choice and set of moods for our older, active adults! Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UFG_tdoOfE&feature=youtu.be


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

More on Travel Teaching - The Inside Scoop!

Now that you have the basics on travel teaching from Part 1 of this post, let me fill you in on some details I've learned from instructors who have participated in a travel teaching experience.

Do your resort research! Each one offers a slightly different deal. The resorts have different amenities, and some are adults-only (if you have kids, you should also note that some resorts allow you to bring more than one guest for a small fee). Some resorts have indoor spaces, and others expect you to teach by the pool. They're all different, and you should pick a place that will accommodate you/your family and where you'll be most comfortable teaching.

Feelin' hot hot hot. Speaking of teaching by the pool, be sure to think about your ability to teach outdoors in Caribbean weather. If you're concerned, you might look for a resort with an indoor gym or even consult a doctor before you go.

Do like the Girl Scouts and always be prepared. There are to big things here. First, most of the resorts require at least one class be taught in aqua fitness style. I actually took the Aqua Zumba training specifically for this trip, and I'm glad I did (the dynamics of movement are different under water and you should adjust your choreo for the pool). I'm also preparing my iPod, CDs, and various adapters as each resort has a different sound system and I would hate to be caught without the music that I know and love (and can dance to in my sleep).

Read the crowd! I've heard that, especially if you're teaching by the pool, most of your students are there for a good time and aren't too worried about getting a killer workout. As an instructor, you'll have to be comfortable teaching to a crowd that wants to burn calories and/or just dance around in between margaritas. 

You can learn more and sign up for a teaching vacation through Fit Pro Travel here.

Opinions are honest and my own. If you choose to book a trip after reading this post (by using this link), I will get a small commission from Fit Pro Travel.  Thanks for supporting The Z Beat!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Zumba Commercial Starts Airing Tomorrow - What's Your Take?

The home office is taking another step toward building grassroots excitement for Zumba Fitness with a new commercial set to start airing tomorrow.  You can check it out here.  These are a few of my early reactions... but I'm really curious about what you think!

  • I love the effort to create more buzz about Zumba. I think ZINs are super connected to the format and the brand, but many students don't seem to have that same connection. This is a great start, and I would love to see ways for students to further connect, like in a version of the online community forum for students. Come to think of it, one thing the commercial doesn't do is reflect the amazing Zumba community and how classes forge new friendships and incredible support systems - they're all dancing alone!

  • The campaign slogan - "Let it Move You" - is pretty perfect. I like the multiple meanings and it's simple yet deep. Alberto Perlman was quoted saying the slogan reflects "a feeling that moves you not only in the physical sense, but also emotionally - it's a powerful feeling that stays with you long after the Zumba class is over."

  • The commercial is pretty  darn funny, and I like the diversity of genders, races, ages, and body types portrayed.

  • I wonder if the way the actors are dancing will scare off some potential new students. They are mostly doing highly aggressive and/or sexual moves... and not all classes require that much, um, flava - as we know, many are more fitnessy than dancey. Moreover, students can always modify moves to work within their comfort zone.  I hope people will see the dancing in the commercial as hyperbole and try a class to experience it for themselves!

Your thoughts?

P.S. Don't forget you have until Friday to enter The Z Beat's Fall Giveaway!!

Monday, September 15, 2014

ZINspiration Mondays: Kristi Westberg

This week's ZINspiration comes from Kristi Westberg - a Texas girl currently living in Andover, MA. She just recently got her license to teach, attending her B1 training in June of this year. Becoming an instructor was part of a bigger health journey that Kristi committed to last year. Here's her story.

The Z Beat: Tell us a little bit about your health and fitness history.
Kristi: A little over a year ago I decided my life needed to change. I wanted to be healthier, have more energy, try new things and have fun. So I quit my gym (not the logical plan of action, I know), bought some workout DVDs and started making changes to my diet and adding in daily exercise. After three months I had managed to lose 20lbs and that gave me the confidence and desire to keep going. A year later I'm down almost 70lbs, have recently become a Zumba instructor and am happier than ever!

The Z Beat: What inspired you to become a Zumba instructor? How has Zumba impacted your life?
Kristi: I started going to Zumba in December of 2013 and really enjoyed going to class and shaking off the stress from my daily life. The more classes I took the more I loved Zumba. I started hearing Zumba songs in my head, choreographing songs on the radio and clearing my schedule to make sure I could be in class. In June I took the plunge and did B1 and have been having a ball ever since. For me the most amazing thing Zumba has done is introduce me to amazing people. Amazing students, amazing instructors and amazing friends.

The Z Beat: What advice do you have for new instructors?
Kristi: Go for it, but start slow. Ask your current Zumba instructor if you can lead a couple songs in his/her class. That way it's like starting with a group of friends that will cheer you on and help you. [Editor's note: Kristi also posted
this advice on her blog for new instructors!]

The Z Beat: What are your 3 favorite songs to teach these days?
Kristi: Wine It Up (Mega Mix 42), Love Runs Out (One Republic), and Mi Gente (Mega Mix 42)
The Z Beat: What else should we know about you?
Kristi: If you want to know more about me, be sure to hop over to my blog
Becoming Supersonic!

Don't forget to be in touch if you have a story to share for a future ZINspiration Monday post!