Precisely the question I've been asking myself for the past couple of years or so.
And I always answered with a resounding, "You betcha'!" After all, I have a life-long love affair with exercise (good thing since I also have a life-long hate affair with my ability to gain weight), and since time immemorial, I have loved to dance.
If you're of the generation I hail from, you'll remember the cheesy dance numbers that accompanied singers on 1960's and 70's TV programs such as The Carol Burnett Show, The Lawrence Welk Show, and of course...American Bandstand. Ohhhhh, to swirl and turn and jump and glide like those pretty ladies in the beautiful dresses...or perfect my "Do the Hustle" like that girl in the silver polyester disco pantsuit!
Closest I ever got was making my cousin watch me dance (as I milked him for compliments), the yearly choreography creation for a high school choir show, community musical theatre roles, and later...Aerobics Plus. Yes, Jane Fonda leotards and all.
And then I found Zumba®...that "Ditch the workout, join the party!" craze started serendipitously by fitness instructor Beto Perez in Columbia about 13 years ago. Had Beta not forgotten his thump thump aerobic music for class one fateful day and substituted with the salsa and merengue tapes in his car, coupled with his own suave dance moves, we might still be pulling on striped leg warmers and jumping up and down for an hour. Score one for foggy brain syndrome!
Since its birth in 2001, Zumba® has literally danced its way into the hearts of over 12 million participants world-wide, with classes now available in over 180 countries. There's got to be something special about a "fad" that's so lovingly embraced and appears to only be growing in scope.
Ok. Besides the fact that Beto is a hunk...and a half.
I had decided over two years ago that I would love to share with others the exhilaration, fun, and results I'd found through Zumba®, not to mention that I have an intrinsic love of teaching. Layer that with the fact that I generally enjoy performing (which is NOT what being an instructor is about, but you get the gist of it), and I was ready! However, the labrial tear in my hip two weeks out from that first scheduled training put a little damper on plans.
Fast forward to November 2014, and finally...the day had arrived!
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit nervous as I prepared things the night before. Questions swirled in my head: How many others would be there? What ages/shapes/sizes/experience would they be/have?? Am I too old for this???
Fortunately, the heebie-jeebies only had a hold of me for short intervals and were quickly shown the door by my excited anticipation. Finally, finally - it was going to happen!
Last minute review of check-list, then time for some sleep:
Change of work out clothes? Check.
Lots of water? Check.
Snacks and more snacks? Check.
Sweat shirt to avoid chillin'? Check.
Enough glucose laden products to raise a small town's blood sugar? (important when one is a Type 1 diabetic!) Check.
I arrived a few minutes early at the assigned Gold's Gym in San Antonio, Texas, along with about 60 other people for what is known as B1 training, or Basic 1. This class is the ground floor for beginning the on-going journey of a Zumba® instructor. There are many other certifications available such as Zumba Gold®, Aqua Zumba®, Zumba Kids®, etc.; however, you can fuhgettaboudit without B1.
I honestly don't know if all trainings are so well attended, but I later realized that the incredible instructor we were blessed with, Kass Martin, is not only a genius at what she does, but also one of Zumba's leading ladies. Easy to understand -- her dance ability is something I could only ever dream of, but combine that with her enthusiasm, charisma, sense of humor, and excellent teaching ability, and well, kids...I was darn lucky to be a student this day.
Click here for your own little mini-lesson with Kass.
The morning began with signing in as a guest with Gold's, then settling into the spacious fitness studio. After verifying and signing our registration forms with the oversight of one of the really swell Zumba JAM® fellows that assisted Kass, we were left to our own accord, each participant finding a spot along the wall to claim as theirs for the day.
As I situated my two bags, took a deep breath or three, and began to survey my surroundings, I smiled at what met my eye. I was a part of a group of gals and a couple of guys of every size, shape, background, and, probably, level of fitness - yet we all shared the love of Zumba® and the desire to extend that joy to others.
I later heard some incredible stories from a few ladies when Kass asked who'd lost x-number of pounds and found fitness through Zumba®. Lots of success stories, but one in particular almost moved me to tears.
A woman who was probably in her late 30's or early 40's raised her hand when the call for weight loss over 90 or 100 pounds came up. At first glance, one might think this dear woman was "overweight". Shame on me/us for drawing conclusions too hastily. This amazing gal had already lost over 100 pounds, had gone from being almost bedridden and unable to walk more than 8 or 10 feet at a time, taking countless medications, depressed and ready to give up on living --- to her now self. An ever increasingly fit, enthusiastic, loving life woman full of joy... and all because she was convinced to try out a Zumba® class.
I can relate at least 2 or 3 other similar, but maybe not as dramatic, success stories of folks I know personally, all because they discovered fitness through Zumba®. There are no rules, no rigid expectations...it's fun, it's community, it's exhilarating, it's acceptance for who you are, where you are. Zumba® really does change lives, y'all.
So give me just a sec to step down off my Zumba® soapbox, and we'll continue on from here... ;)
Kass gave us a great little introduction to the day, reviewed the basic make-up of a Zumba® session, and electrified the start of our day together with a fantastic one hour session. Fun, fun, fun!
The remaining portions of our training held intermittent break-down sessions related to the basic moves of Salsa, Merenque, Cumbia, and Reggaeton, as well as tips, advice, and practicalities for presenting to a class, cueing students, designing your sessions, creating choreography, and many other aspects that come with being on the instructor side of the room.
Additionally, we were given a thorough explanation of Zumba's ZIN program -- the Zumba® Instructors' Network -- that is truly worth the monthly 34.95 fee involved. Simply put, a CD with music and choreography, ready to go, arrives every other month at your door step, while a music-only CD is sent on the in-between months. Zumba® prearranges all royalties for music, as well as offering selections and choreography that follow the formula that makes your class a Zumba® class versus a fitness class featuring Salsa moves, or Hip Hop, or whatever. There are many other benefits, as well, such as online access to numerous resources, the ability to market yourself via a personal webpage, connection to the Zumba® instructor community, and more. Basically, they try to make it easy for you to be successful with some effort on your part. Oh...and you get these really cool dogtags!
Addendum: As of late 2015, ZIN music and choreography are available digitally...yay!
*see more at the end of the post for particulars on B1 training
After about a 45 minute lunch break, we reconvened and covered the last two basic dance styles, Cumbia and Reggaeton, and were then introduced to what is known as the Zumbagram® -- a really neat visual method of breaking down a song into verse, chorus, bridge, etc.
Kass repeated more than once that knowing your music is key to being a good instructor: listen to it in the car, at home, at work, in the shower, while you sleep...listen to it until you are sick of it, but know it well enough to, ummm.....lead a class of Zumba® enthusiasts without having to stop and think "What comes next???"!
We listened to a Cumbia song, "Loco" -- twice -- then were put in groups and assigned a particular part of the song to choreograph. Our group had the chorus, and it was quite easy to agree on basic steps to go along with it. Not sure what others thought, but we agreed we rocked it!
(*Watch the video that I linked above if you have time... the music is just infectious, as is most all of the Zumba music, in my opinion, and it also gives you a good feel for what a class is like if you're not familiar with it. All ages, all fitness levels, all dancing and having a blast!)
The fun began, though, when we reconvened and put the whole thing together....whoot!
Our day concluded with a Q&A session, followed by the chance for a photo with Kass before she headed out to get ready for the Master Class (aka: One heckuva Zumba® dance party!) being held at a local club.
Yes - I definitely went to that, too! We partied like it was 1999, y'all.
People ask me "What now?", and excitedly so, I'm able to answer "Teach a class!" Another novice instructor and I (she's a Paula, too!) are in the planning stages of offering a class at a local church with high hopes of invigorating a whole new group of women to the joys of dance and fellowship that Zumba® brings.
But there is much work ahead, so onward and upward we charge!
If you're reading this blog and know the satisfaction Zumba® brings, and are thinking of becoming an instructor -- do it! You might not ever teach a class...or you may teach 10 a week; the bottom line is that you extended yourself and followed a dream.
Likewise, if you're reading this and have never experienced Zumba®, give it a shot. I hear folks say things like "I can't dance!" or "That's just not me." or "Seriously?? How would I move like that?" -- don't let those things get in your way. Move to the music in a way that's comfortable for you; if you can't do a step, just shimmy and shake - fake it til ya make it! - and realize that every other person in that class felt similar feelings at some point in time but did it anyway; gift yourself with a beautiful celebration of life found in moving to the beat with humankind, one step at a time!
Just "Ditch the workout, and join the party®!!!" YES!
More factoids on your Instructor Certification class:
* Register early! Prices jump up closer to the session. You can reschedule at no charge if you have
to postpone your session.
* visit http://www.zumba.com/en-US/trainings to find a training session near you
* You will get detailed info regarding your particular class via an email the week before. Don't be
alarmed when, after registration online, you feel "clueless" other than date and time. :)
* You will have the opportunity to become a ZIN member at Basic 1 - if you're serious about teaching,
it's worth it.
* You do NOT have to get up and demonstrate any skill, ability, etc. -- as long as you pay and show up,
you will become licensed to instruct. The real work (& fun) begins afterwards!
* If you are planning on teaching in various locations, it's worth looking in to getting a Group Exercise
Instructor certification through one of these organizations. Kass recommended ACE or AFAA. I'm
exploring AFAA due to the ability to complete a program online if you're set up with a live stream
camera for the practical portions of certification. Cool.
* Be ready to have a fun, action-packed day!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
But I am always willing and able to write about a product, place, or service in exchange for the chance to experience it!