It was not quite five years ago when the scale tipped almost 200 pounds and
“When the music starts, Zumba takes over,” instructor
Ann-Marie Searle says about the fitness program, which
fuses hypnotic Latin rhythm and easy-to-follow moves.
Ann-Marie Searle’s size 18 pants were feeling tight.
“It was the heaviest I had ever been in my life,” she said. “I had developed a lot of bad habits – I was a couch potato, eating the wrong foods and told my self I was too busy to exercise.
“I knew I could not continue to be that heavy,” she said. “I had to do something – anything.”
Searle started eating a healthier diet and walking every day, and eventually getting up to five miles a day. Losing about two pounds a week, she got herself down to a size 12 to 14.
Eventually she hit a frustrating plateau. “I was stuck,” she said.
Then she read about a local Zumba class. “I thought, ‘what is this?’” she said.
So she did a little checking and discovered that Zumba is a fitness program that fuses easy-to-follow moves done to “get-you-going” Latin rhythms. Celebrity fitness trainer “Beto” Perez stumbled upon the concept of Latin-inspired dance-fitness in his native Cali, Columbia in the mid-1990s after forgetting his aerobics music. He grabbed the tapes he had in his backpack, which included traditional Latin salsa and meringue music. From there he developed what became “the Zumba Fitness-Party,” which became the most popular class at the fitness facility.
“I thought I’d check out the class because I hate exercise, but I love to dance,” Searle said. “I just have to move whenever I hear music.
“I had tried yoga, spinning and other fitness classes and they were OK, but they didn’t keep my interest,” she said. “But with Zumba, I was hooked.”
So hooked, in fact, that Searle became trained as a Zumba fitness instructor. She is currently leading classes that meet Monday evenings at the Lutheran Home of Toledo, as well as at other locations throughout the region.
“The class at the Lutheran Home is my best class – the most fun, because there’s a large diversity, age-wise,” she said. “We have people from 19, 20 and 21 up to 70 and older.
“That’s the great thing about Zumba – anyone can do it,” she said.
The class, which lasts about an hour, features routines based on interval training, where fast and slow rhythms and resistance training are combined to tone and sculpt the body while burning fat.
Participants move through about 15 songs, including warm-up and cool-down. “Zumba programs must incorporate 70 percent Latin or international and 30 percent ‘other’ - American, pop, whatever,” Searle said. “Every instructor is different and my music and moves change a bit from class to class.
“I incorporate a lot of ab and arm work done to salsa, cumbia, meringue, reggaeton, Bhangra Bollywood and others,” she said.
Can’t dance? Not to worry. Zumba is first and foremost a fitness program, not a dance class, Searle said.
“I’ve had people who have been with me for two years and they still really don’t know the steps,” she said. “They don’t care – they’re there to get fit and have fun, and I don’t care as long as they’re moving.
“In fact, if I see someone doing their own thing, I’ll go out there and encourage them,” she said. “It’s supposed to be exhilarating and fun ¬– that’s why they say ‘Ditch the routine and join the party.’”
For older active adults or those with physical limitations, Zumba Gold classes are available. “Anyone can take regular Zumba but those with limitations may need to modify the steps,” Searle said. “Zumba Gold, done to the same music without the twisting, is for those who don’t want to make those modifications themselves.”
Though any comfortable exercise clothes – sweats or yoga pants- are appropriate, Searle urges participants to wear shoes with the least amount of tread as possible for easy movement.
“Be prepared to sweat,” she said. “Because the minute the music starts, Zumba takes over.
“Participants find it very energizing,” Searle said. “Everybody’s having such a great time that often when I tell them it’s time to cool down, they say, ‘already?’
“And while I’ve lost weight ¬– you can burn 700, 800, 1,000 calories or more in a class – I notice that I have so much more stamina and energy since starting Zumba,” she said.
Though the Monday-evening session at Lutheran Homes began May 3, there’s still time to join, Searle said. A Wednesday-evening session will begin May 26. Call 419-381-2225 or e-mail a-m4zumba.att.net to learn more about these and other classes offered by Searle.
Instructor Wendy Rieff will offer a spring and summer program at Oregon Christ United Methodist Church. Call 419-345-4986 for more details.
To find a full list of Zumba classes throughout the area, visit www.zumba.com.