Zumba is a platform for social freedom

Zumba instructor Leah Haak Beck leads a group in a choreographed workout Friday at Snap Fitness. There are three instructors who guide the dance program throughout the week.

JACOB MOORE, Former Evergreen sports editor

Zumba was quite the experience. I’ll admit, I knew almost nothing about the dance fitness program when I decided to attend a session at Snap Fitness. And when I told others I was going to Zumba for the first time, I received mixed reactions.

Mostly, I saw raised eyebrows and huge grins but a few people wrinkled their foreheads as if they were puzzled.

Snap Fitness Facility Director Megan Hewes said she’s surprised when men show up for Zumba.

“It takes a little bravery to go in there and try something new when it’s mostly women,” Hewes said. “But, I’ve seen quite a few guys hop in there, love it and just have so much fun whether they’re rhythmically inclined or not.”

I can barely slow dance, let alone speed dance so, I was far from being rhythmically inclined. Regardless, the supportive participants and enthusiastic instructor kept me engaged, even if there were more women than men.

Zumba enthusiast Yuki Tanaka danced next to me in class, consistently offering high fives and compliments. She said that she joined the program in the winter because she wanted to be more active. She found what she was looking for.

The dance moves are broken up and repeated based on popular songs. Once you understand a move, you can pick up other moves as you go along. It’s challenging at first, but with time comes comfortability.

KEISHA BROKAW | The Daily Evergreen
(Front to back) Aimee Tejeda Lunn, Molly David and Kelsee Boyd participate in Zumba on Friday at Snap Fitness.

Chelsea McQueen, a mom of three and consistent Zumba-goer, said it took her weeks before she started to pick up the intensity. Instead of getting intimidated, McQueen kept coming back.

“About February-ish, I was just really sick of how I was feeling. Very sluggish, no energy, couldn’t keep up with my four- and five-year-olds,” McQueen said. “I took Zumba. I absolutely fell in love with it.”

McQueen admitted that she now has to be careful when listening to her Zumba Spotify playlist. She said that she was running on a treadmill and almost fell off, trying to dance one time.

Zumba provides physical and mental health benefits, Hewes said. There’s a lot of strength exercises that improve your calves, thighs, glutes, core and back. Overall, recurring members notice more defined muscles. Zumba is a “welcoming, supportive, non-judgmental atmosphere,” Hewes said.

If you’re walking by Snap Fitness and happen to hear a loud shout, don’t be alarmed.

“One of the best ways to develop your cardiovascular endurance and your lung capacity is talking while you exercise,” Hewes said. “Zumba is a great one for that because they have you screaming, clapping, hootin’ and hollerin’ all the time.”

Self-conscious participants, like myself, typically need some getting used to the atmosphere before letting out a big scream. Zumba is the place to do it, though.

Sophie Trombetta, a Zumba instructor at Snap Fitness, consistently mentioned listening to the body. By this, she meant to refrain from what makes you uncomfortable. If you don’t want to raise your voice, then don’t do it.

Zumba’s a setting for social transcendentalism.

“Everyone’s going to look different,” Hewes said. “You’re not going to look like your neighbor and that’s a beautiful thing … it pulls you in and pulls you out of real life for a little bit because you get to smile, laugh, dance and connect with friends.”

About $45 per month ($40 for students) goes a long way at Snap Fitness. Members have 24-hour access to the gym and can join various programs offered. One of the most popular programs is, of course, Zumba.

Whether you’re a Zumba veteran, like Trombetta, or have just tried it once like myself, Hewes said that the end result is a fun workout.

“I just saw people light up,” Hewes said. “They come in tired or stressed and they leave with big smiles on their face and a big sweat spot on their back.”