Fitness enthusiasts in the city are dancing into shape with Zumba

It’s more like a dance party than a strict fitness regimen, really. Perhaps that’s why Zumba, a Latin American dance-inspired fitness programme, is increasingly becoming popular with those who want to have a bit of fun while burning those calories. Ever since it was introduced in the city by Talwalkars gym at Kuravankonam back in July, Zumba has quickly become the hottest routine for many a fitness enthusiast in the city.

“Zumba was created by celebrity fitness instructor Alberto ‘Beto’ Perez in Colombia during the 1990s. It’s a fitness routine that mixes high energy world music as varied as hip-hop, bhangra, reggae and even ‘Johnny Mone Johnny’ from the Malayalam movie ABCD, with easy to follow dance moves drawn from salsa, belly dance, samba, merengue, tango, soca, mambo, cumbia, flamenco, rumba, cha cha cha, quebradita, and so on,” says fitness trainer and dance enthusiast Arun Kumar. He is one of the three trainers at Talwalkars who have been certified by the Zumba Academy to teach the course; the other trainers are Arun V.R. and Divya Dileep. “The key is the specially-created music. The peppy beats inspire people to get moving,” says Arun.

It’s almost time for the evening’s Zumba class and a bunch of women, among them doctors, lawyers and home-makers, and a teenage boy too, all dressed in comfy exercise gear, troop into the dance floor with a spring in their steps and excitement on the faces – even though they know that they are in for a sweaty workout. The trainers switch on the music and groovy beats of a hip hop number belt out loud from the music system. With whistles and whoops of joy and a few claps too, the fitness enthusiasts skip into the routine, following the lead of the trainers. Together they start off with a bit of hip hop, then some cardio, followed by what appears to be a shimmy of the hips inspired from belly dance, a couple of shuffling moves from cumbia, a few stomps from reggaeton, a twist from tango...

“Zumba is actually a full body workout that strengthens tones, builds endurance and increases flexibility. Undulations of the hips and shoulders in belly dance, for example, work at toning and shrinking the waistline as well as abdominals as well as strengthening the pelvic muscles. Salsa is a good cardio workout while cumbia tones the thighs. Reggaeton, meanwhile, is great for the buttocks and the waist. A one-hour session burns between 900 to 1,200 calories,” explains Arun, over the din of the music.

Each one-hour training session features eight songs of four to five minutes each. The routine allows for a 15 to 20 second break between songs; the last song is usually for cooling down and stretching. So is it a high intensity workout? “Not really. The steps are simple and subtle enough and can be easily followed even for people with two left feet! It’s simply fun packaged as fitness. What you do is, lose all your inhibitions and just dance,” says Pavithra Dayakar, a doctor and one of the participants. Home-maker Nisha Samuel who says she lost over 27 lbs since she signed up for the class adds: “My jeans are too big now! Zumba instantly lifts your mood however down you are. It has made our bodies more athletic.”

Talwalkars offers various Zumba classes such as beginners levels one and two, Zumba for kids, exclusively for toning and ‘Zumba Gold’, especially tailored for senior citizens, to name a few. The trainers say that apart from people suffering from joint pain or arthritis, anyone can train in Zumba. Well, what are you waiting for? Go Zumba! Contact Talwalkars: 0471-2539696/ 2539494

Alternate route to fitness

Many women are looking for ways other than mindless physical workouts to keep themselves fit. Aswathy Nair of Lakshya Dance School at Kuravankonam says that for the past few years now, she’s been teaching Bharatanatyam to a bunch of women, aged between 30 and 55. “These women are very enthusiastic about learning dance and keeping fit. Despite their busy schedules at work or at home, twice a week they all make it a point to attend dance class. Unlike a purely physical workout, classical dance is a workout of the mind and the body together. For example, it improves coordination of the eye and the hand and footwork in tandem with various facial expressions, and the like,” says Aswathy, who has been teaching dance for over 12 years now.