Zumba: Exercise made fun and sexy
By Ellen Tordesillas, VERA Files
Video by Mario Ignacio and Mario Espinosa
YOU will know it’s Zumba time at Fitness First Southmall every morning of Monday and Tuesday because women are in their stylish gym attires as if they are going to a party.
And, it’s not just any party. Usually it is a themed party.
Last week, it was Polynesian. Women in floral headdress were gyrating to the tune of Conga Remix. In the next Zumba class, they looked alluring in off-shoulder blouses. Earlier, their theme costume was a necktie — worn, of course, over gym outfits.
Hilda Oraya, a Zumba devotee, says the vivacious beat of Zumba shakes off one’s inhibitions. “Masaya (fun) and inspires you to dress up.”
In a party atmosphere, exercise becomes enjoyable. “Before you know it, one hour is over. You feel good having worked out your body,” she says.
Angie M. Miranda, one of the Zumba instructors at Fitness First Southmall, says, “Zumba is enjoyed by everyone because it’s easy to follow. You have fun while losing weight. You don’t feel you are working out while doing Zumba.”
Zumba provides total body workout “from head to shoulders to arms that work out the muscles of the upper body, to the movement of your legs that tones the muscles of your lower body,” according to Miranda.
Zumba is a fusion of aerobics, Latin dance, reggaeton, martial arts and belly dancing. It’s high-intensity dancing, but nothing complicated. There’s no such thing as making a mistake in Zumba.
After all, Zumba was born out of a mistake.
According to published accounts, in 1986 Colombian celebrity fitness trainer Alberto “Beto” Perez forgot his taped music for his aerobics class in his native city of Cali.
However, he had in his backpack tapes of his favorite traditional Latin salsa and merengue. Tapping his own creative genius, he improvised an on- the-spot aerobics exercise to the pulsating Latin beat. It was an instant hit.
In 1999, Perez brought his dance to the United States, where it immediately caught on. In 2001, he formed with entrepreneurs Alberto Perlman and Alberto Aghion a company to globally market the revolutionary exercise dance. They named it Zumba, a Colombian term for “moving fast.”
Zumba’s fame and fortune indeed moved exhilaratingly fast. Today, millions of people of all shapes, sizes, colors and ages fill up Zumba classes in more than 125 countries.
Fitness First Philippines launched Zumba in its Platinum Clubs in October 2011. One month after, Zumba classes started in all its branches. It has become the most well-attended group exercise.Miranda, who also conducts Zumba classes in Fitness First Alabang, says instructors have the option to introduce variations in their class “as long as we stick to the Zumba formula to maintain the essence of the program.”
Jonathan Gamil, another Zumba instructor at Fitness First Southmall and Alabang, says he “incorporates songs that are found in the latest charts and make Zumba steps that are easy to follow but also heart-thumping.”
“I want my students not only to just dance but to get the most out of their workout,” he says.
Each instructor puts his or her own personal stamp on their Zumba class. Miranda’s has a sultry touch while Gamil’s is more athletic.
Fitness First Zumba instructors are the cream of the crop, chosen from more than 40 who auditioned for the job in August last year.
Miranda, petite and pretty, is a registered nurse. She is also a Fitness First personal trainer. She had ballet training and was active in dance activities in school. Tanned and good-looking, Gamil was a member of the all-male dance group, “The Extreme Boys.”
They trained under Australian Michael Thomas, Zumba Instructor Network education specialist, who conducted a Master Class in Manila last year.
As instructors, they are not only good exercise dancers. They are also adept in the art of motivation -visually (as opposed to verbally) cueing participants to their routines and prodding them to up the tempo.
Gamil shares: “I do not just dance. I teach and inspire others who love, like, and want to dance.”
Bing Mascardo, a Fitness First client, is a Zumba enthusiast. She attends Zumba classes twice a week. She says: “It’s exciting. I feel sexy doing it.”
Alma Sibugan, also a Fitness First client, swears by the efficacy of Zumba as a weight-losing activity, saying, “Nakakapawis. Nakakapayat talaga (It makes you sweat. It really makes you lose weight.)
Miranda says one can burn 500-1000 calories in one hour of Zumba class depending on one’s weight, the efforts extended, and the intensity of the movements. “The higher you extend your arms up, the lower you bend your knees, the more calories you burn,” she says.
Sibugan says achieving your goal of losing weight and keeping fit gives you confidence. “I always look forward to Zumba classes. Preparing what to wear is part of the fun,” she adds.
For better flexibility in movement, Miranda recommends wearing training shoes and comfortable workout clothes.
She cajoles participants: “Hey, don’t be shy. Just dance like no one’s watching. Zumba is all about having fun. So, let go, just feel the music and let loose.”
(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)