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Thursday, 23 October 2014

Are you ready to Zumba?

FOR a large proportion of women, the fight to keep fit and in shape is an ongoing battle. A trip to the gym might be seen as a necessary evil rather than an enjoyable past-time.

But there are women across the area scrambling to get a place in Zumba classes – the exercise craze which is sweeping Cumbria.

The tagline is “ditch the workout, join the party” and it seems everyone wants an invitation.

One of the latest places to start Zumba classes is Park Leisure Centre in Barrow, with sessions becoming fully-booked almost instantly.

The workout originated in Colombia in the nineties, when aerobics instructor Beto Perez forgot his music and instead improvised by teaching his class using the music he had in his car. His class went wild, and Zumba was born.

Zumba, which combines fitness and dance with Latin flair, has now expanded to a global brand being taught in more than 50,000 locations in 75 countries, with DVDs and a clothing line.

So, what is it about Zumba which makes it so popular?

Louise Williams teaches Zumba five times a week at different classes across Barrow. She started out as an aerobics instructor in 2006, teaching dance-based aerobics classes and Body Balance.

She also teaches a tap dance class.

It was while Louise was teaching tap dancing last year that a lady called Vera mentioned seeing an advert for a Zumba home workout DVD on a television shopping channel.

Intrigued, Louise had a look at one of the DVDs and has been hooked ever since.

She said: “I hadn’t heard of Zumba before seeing these DVDs but immediately after watching them, I knew it was something I really wanted to teach.

“I visited the Zumba website to see when the next available instructor course was in the UK and booked to attend the course in Edinburgh in January.”

Louise completed the intense day-long course to get her Zumba certificate and went on to set up classes in St Aidan’s Church hall, Yarlside Primary School, St Paul’s Junior School and St George’s School, all in Barrow.

She said: “Zumba is different to other exercise classes as it dance-based and incorporates Latin and international rhythms, such as merengue and salsa, as well as aerobic exercises to give a good cardio work out. It is great because no two classes are the same. I can change the order of the songs and even bring back favourite songs from previous releases, which I often do at the request of class participants.

“I love teaching Zumba because each song used in the class is from a different Latin and international rhythm so you don’t get bored doing the same thing. It is also the first class that I have ever attended or taught where the class participants smile at you while exercising, which shows that they are enjoying it.

“My class is made up of two warm-up and stretching tracks to make sure everyone is limbered up and ready for the workout. At the end we cool down and recently the cool down tracks have been ones that people like to sing to – so as well as a cool down, we have a bit of a sing-a-long.

“The majority of the class is made up of the Zumba rhythms which range from salsa to belly-dancing.

“I think classes are so popular because they are fun – if you enjoy something you are more likely to come back and it’s not very often that people say they had fun at an exercise class.

“In each class there are songs which have booty-shaking or shoulder-shimmying moves which always put a smile on people’s faces.

“In a Zumba class you don’t take anything too seriously, just have fun and follow the moves.”

Some classes in Millom Recreation Centre, led by company Zumba Cumbria, have seen more than 60 people attending at a time.

Debbie Dowker, of Millom Recreation Centre, said: “We started out in May, with a class on Sundays and added another on Wednesdays because it got so popular.

“The sessions seem to be getting more people each time. It just seems to have really taken off.”

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