Monday, October 6, 2014

ZINspiration Mondays: Tony Santiago

This week’s ZINspiration is dedicated to the MEN who take Zumba! Tony Santiago is a cheerleader for fellow guys who enjoy this workout format despite being highly outnumbered and sometimes stereotyped.  Let's hear it for the boy(s)!

The Z Beat: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Prior to Zumba, I was a dance music activist and had an online radio show for years.  I started Zumba in 2012 at the New York Sports Club in Scarsdale, NY.  Elida was my first instructor.  I took Zumba because I had learned that I had type 2 diabetes and I needed something to do and Zumba looked like fun (based on seeing the infomercials).  Admittedly it was intimidating at first, especially since Elida was very high energy, and I was trying to keep up.  My stubbornness to get the moves right was the reason I’ve stayed with it, and eventually I fell in love with it.

I really kickstarted myself with Zumba this past February (as a way to combat personal problems).  I met a lot more instructors along the way and went to a master class for the first time. I started up the Z Factor groups on Facebook as a way to get out information.   Many students and eventually ZINS joined up and through that we’ve created a network.  The ZINS, specifically Julie D., convinced me to go on the path to teaching so I received my ZIN license in May.  I still have to get my full 60 minutes in, but it’s coming along.

The Z Beat: What is it like being a man in a female-dominated fitness movement?
I knew going into this that not many men were going to be in a Zumba class. But I didn’t expect the level of excitement by the female students over a man joining the group.  So even though I was dancing alongside the ladies, all eyes were really on me to see how I would handle it and stay the course because many men bail out (I’ve seen it!).  But I stuck around and after about a week I felt comfortable.  I eventually picked up the moves and made many friends.  I just had to think of it as having fun and just enjoying it all. 

The Z Beat: What seems to be the fear with men regarding Zumba?
The male ego.  The name “Zumba” may sound “corny” to them.  Guys also figure that it’s a “woman thing” (being that Zumba classes are dominated by women with some classes having no men at all) so they’re not going to embarrass themselves and look stupid, especially if they feel that they have two “left feet.”  Most new guys that try Zumba only stay in a class for ten minutes.  They’ll do the warm up song with no issues.  However, once the dancing really kicks in on the second song, guys might feel they can’t keep up with all of the ladies doing the routine with ease.  Once that song is over, the guys that are intimidated would leave, feeling that they no longer want to “look the fool.”  They don’t necessarily understand that people who have been taking Zumba classes for a while know the movements already since they’ve done it many times before. 

For men that do stay the entire class, they eventually see the fun, start to sweat, feel at ease with the encouragement they get from the female students, and realize at the end that they were getting a good workout in the process.  Those are the guys that come back.

The Z Beat: What should instructors know about teaching with men in the class?

During the instructor intro, work it into the speech somehow – there is no judgment and that you don’t need to have John Travolta’s moves to get a good workout.  Also, let guys know that it was a man who invented Zumba (Beto Perez, of course). Men also need to know by sticking the course and coming back to Zumba every week, they would be up to speed like the ladies in the class that have been taking Zumba for a while.

Also, and this happened to me in the beginning while taking another instructor, don’t make the guy a “target” or the butt of jokes if he’s not moving up to speed as the other students are.   It’s hard enough for a guy to go into a Zumba class in the first place, especially if he is the ONLY one in there.  He may take one or two jokes in stride but if he’s constantly getting picked on in front of the other women by the instructor, that will eventually turn him off and you could have lost someone that would really have wanted to be part of the Zumba experience. 

Just be encouraging and positive.  Somewhere in the second song, check on the man to see if he’s having fun and enjoying the class.  As long as an instructor is paying attention to the guy in a positive way, chances are that he may stick around past that ten minute mark. 

The Z Beat: Anything else to share?

I look forward to every Zumba class that I take and love the experience! I will NEVER give it up!  I even have a license plate that says “ZUMBRO”- lol! In cases where there are other guys taking a Zumba class with me, the bro-code kicks in, whereas we’re supporting one another for being the proud and the few. In general, I no longer think of myself as the only guy in a class, even when I am.  I just think of myself as part of the class and the ladies have accepted me as one of them.  It became a “family” in that sense. 


  1. I tried Zumba a while ago but never got into it for some reason but I think it takes the right instructor and atmosphere! Everyone I know always raves about it :)

  2. Annmarie, you are definitely right about having that right instructor and atmosphere. :)

    I can say this, and this is for anyone, don't just stick with ONE instructor. Bounce around to different classes. By doing that you will get a feel of different routines, different class vibes and see what works best for you. Every month I do what is called the "Zumba Scramble" where I will try different classes by instructors that I've never taken before. That has certainly been an educational experience for me!

    Maybe you have to try that Annmarie. Just bounce around. Maybe you'll find that one class that you can rave about as well :)

    Good luck :)

  3. Completely agree, Tony! I tell my students all the time to visit other instructors, and find the one that fits your style the best.

    I always tell my male students two other things: (1) the only way you'll see abs is to burn the fat that sits on top of it. Zumba is the best for that. And (2) you can modify the moves any way you want to fit your comfort level. You don't have to look "girly" to get an effective workout.

    Glad to see more men involved in Zumba and supporting one another!

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  6. Tony Santiago is an absolute gem! His dedication, passion, and unwavering commitment shine brightly in everything he does. Tony consistently goes above and beyond, demonstrating exceptional leadership and a remarkable ability to inspire those around him. His positive energy is contagious, creating a vibrant and uplifting atmosphere in any setting. Tony's attention to detail and innovative thinking set him apart, making him a true asset to any team or project. With a heart full of kindness and a mind brimming with creativity, Tony Santiago is a force for positive change. Working with him is not just a professional pleasure but also a delightful journey of collaboration and achievement. Cheers to Tony for being an outstanding individual and a beacon of positivity!

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