Exercise has never been high on my agenda. In fact, it’s been forever since I did anything resembling a workout. I know that exercise is essential. Doctors the world over continue to underscore the importance of leading an active and healthy lifestyle. And with conditions such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes and cancer more prevalent now than ever before, it’s necessary to keep fit. So when my editor gave me this “fitness assignment” I took it as a sign that I needed to get moving—literally. Over the next few weeks, I will be undertaking various exercises (yes, I will actually be doing them) and sharing my experiences—good and bad. Sounds like fun? So far, it is. On May 3 I did my first Zumba class. The class gets two thumbs up for being fun and exciting, thanks to certified Zumba instructor Sharon Diaz. The latest fitness craze in town, it incorporates an invigorating and eclectic mix of musical genres and moves. One minute I was doing a samba, the next minute I was mimicking a belly dancer, and the next I was wining—that one I had down pat. The stretching and toning segment, hands down, was the most challenging. My perfectly styled mohawk didn’t stand a chance, thanks to being drenched in sweat halfway through the routine. You see, although Zumba is loads of fun, it’s not to be taken lightly. It’s a total body workout. I was proud of the fact that I was able to keep up for the entire hour and 15 minutes of “Zumba-ing.”
Before the class I was afraid of embarrassing myself in front of the scores of Zumba enthusiasts, who have been dancing with Diaz since she introduced the fitness phenomenon to Trinidad last year. Diaz assures that Zumba is the real deal. Not only is it reputed to help improve health and fitness levels, she says it’s also one of the sexiest and most addictive workout routines you can do. Diaz is telling the truth. Zumba is like dancing with friends. It’s exercising without actually feeling like you’re working too hard. Picture a room full of women, dancing, sweating and having fun with good music and good vibes—that’s what Zumba is all about. Diaz agrees. “It’s exercise in disguise,” she said in an interview shortly before the class began. “It’s 100 per cent core activity for a full hour. You don’t feel like it’s working out. When it’s over you want to do more. People look forward to coming to class. The music is so engaging, you go home singing it, you even go to bed singing it.” The brain child of Colombian fitness trainer Alberto Perez, Zumba is the world’s largest and most successful dance-fitness programme, with more than ten million people taking weekly classes in more than 110 countries. Diaz, who holds the honour of being the first certified Zumba instructor in Port-of-Spain, launched her first class on January 19 at MovieTowne, Fiesta Plaza, Port-of-Spain. Since then, almost everybody has heard about this calorie-burning craze and more and more Zumba instructors are popping up around the country. Looking much younger than her 42 years, the mother of one says she first fell in love with the dynamic programme two years ago when her mother bought her a Zumba DVD while they were living in the US. She’s been hooked ever since.
Diaz says while Zumba appeals more to female participants, it’s a great exercise for men wanting to shed some unwanted pounds—especially in the mid-section. “I have women from 18-86 in my classes. The other day the 84-year-old came to class. She put down her cane and touched her toes and came back up. That’s the beauty of Zumba; anybody can do it and they can do it on their own level. I want to also encourage more men to try Zumba. It will change their lives,” she said. How long will it take to see results? “It all depends on the person, how you do Zumba and how often. Some people just come to move, restructure and tone their bodies. Others come and push themselves to the limit,” she said.
“But the fact that your endorphin level is raised from just one hour of Zumba is amazing. Being healthy makes you feel good about yourself. We all have families, kids, husbands, wives who we have to live for but we have to live for ourselves too.” Diaz has lost 48 pounds since starting Zumba last year. She advises those who want to use Zumba to get in shape to attend at least three classes per week. For those who incorporate the exercise into their fitness programme, Diaz says they can do one or two classes. She also points out that having a pre- and post-meal plan is important. Before starting Zumba, Diaz says one should eat protein and carbohydrates to provide energy. This can be a banana and a spoonful of peanut butter or yogurt and a fruit. After working out, Diaz recommends a healthy meal such as a chicken salad, which, for best results, should be consumed about 30 minutes after exercising. At the time of writing this piece (the day after) I haven’t yet experienced the sore muscles and joints that usually accompany exercise...I’m bracing myself.
Want to Zumba?
Monday, Wednesday—6 pm to 7 pm.
Thursday (Zumba and toning) 6 pm – 7.15 pm.
Saturday—9 am – 10 am.
Long Circular Mall Gym
Tuesday— 6.15 pm to 7.15 pm.
Sunday—10 am to 11 am.
(Starting in June Diaz will also have morning Zumba classes at MovieTowne).
Fun: Ten out of ten.
Ease: Eight out of ten.
Expense: $50 per class. A five-class card for $225. A ten-class card for $400.
Skills needed: Some rhythm and flexibility.
Convenience: Afternoon and weekend classes accommodate just about anyone wanting to try Zumba.