By Joshua Price/Sports Editor
What is “Zumba”?
Zumba is a wild, exciting, intense rush of adrenaline. It is loud, fast-paced and, arguably, frantic. Most importantly, Zumba is a dance workout that will get any serious participant physically fit.
“Zumba” is one of the most popular exercise and workout programs in the nation – and is growing rapidly in Etowah County.
The “Z- Dance Crew,” based in Gadsden, is a group of instructors that travel across the county teaching Zumba classes. Comprised of eight members, the Z-Dance Crew teach a combined average of 50 classes per week in the various locations in the Gadsden area.
Brandi Martin and Megan Wilcox are licensed Zumba instructors. They teach nine classes per week at the YMCA in Gadsden and Absolute Fitness in Rainbow City. Both instructors insist Zumba is revolutionary.
“Zumba has changed the mindset of people willing to get more healthy and fit,” Martin said. “Traditionally, people feel they are ‘forced’ to workout. With Zumba, people exercise because they want to and it is so much fun! Zumba has brought a new mindset to getting healthy and fit.”
How successful is Zumba?
“One of our members has lost over 80 pounds doing Zumba,” Wilcox said, “and she will tell you how much Zumba has done for her and how much she loves it. We have people who have lost over 50 pounds.
Wilcox said she has lost over 35 pounds with Zumba.
“This works! It’s more than just dancing and working out, it’s a lifestyle. You get obsessed with it, but there is nothing wrong with being obsessed with working out and having fun with friends.”
Every Tuesday and Thursday morning the rumbling of loud music and the muffled yells fills Absolute Fitness. The closer one gets to the isolated, sound insulated “fitness room” in the back of the facility, the louder the sounds become. The mirrors which surround the room quickly fog-over as participants dance away the morning, and the pounds, with as many as 30 of their friends.
“Morning classes have about 15 to 20 people and evening classes yield as many as 50-60 people,” Martin said.
A unique attribute to Zumba is the clothing. Instructors dress in an array of pink, purple and yellow with backward caps and, in some cases, big hair.
The wild style is, jokingly, a “1980’s nightmare.”
“We love our zumba clothes!” Wilcox said. “We have more Zumba clothes than regular clothes! We get to be a different person in our workout clothes, sort of like an ‘alter-ego.’ The clothes gives you more energy to perform both as an instructor and as a participant. The fashion of Zumba goes directly with the workout – both are different, but fun!”
Martin said there was more to the clothes than meets the eye.
“If we are acting crazy in crazy clothing, people will get interested. It puts you in the right state of mind to have fun and get fit. Each class gets wild and the clothes really fit the personalities of the classes.”
Martin, a native of North Carolina, has been a Zumba instructor since 2007 and is accredited as the first person to teach classes in Etowah County.
“I first taught Zumba at the YMCA in October 2009,” Martin said. “It caught on really quickly. We had over 40 people, both men and women, who regularly attended the classes.”
Both instructors insist that Zumba is a way of life.
“I am a mom and I don’t get to go out and dance on the weekends, but Zumba allows me to do get out and have a good time. It’s a great outlet for me. I met all of my friends in Alabama through Zumba. I met Megan [Wilcox] through Zumba and she is my best friend.”
“Zumba has brought a lot of people to meet,” Wilcox added. “We have been able to reach out to the community and help with fundraisers, tornado relief, mission trips, breast cancer, Susan G. Komen, scholarships for YMCA summer programs and some just for fun!”
“We have Facebook pages for our Zumba group,” said Martin. “Everyone communicates with each other and we give each other support, tips and we brag on each other! We share lots of fitness advice online. We are like a community. People form friendships through Zumba.”
The Z-Dance Crew recently gained state-wide recognition.
“We were invited to Alabama Dance Festival this year and performed at the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center,” Martin said. “That is normally reserved for the top of the line, professional dancers across the state. The directors felt Zumba was worthy of the publicity. It was a great honor to perform there and to promote Zumba on such a large stage.”
Martin said the success of Zumba is simple.
“What’s most important is that people look forward to coming to Zumba classes because it’s not a chore, it’s fun!”