Fitness Fridays: Emily Rack finds her inner Latina with Zumba!

Photo Credit: Senior U.S. Airman Kenny Holston, via Flickr

Emily Rack is a 21-year old journalism student, split cross-continentally between Canada (school) and England (family). She loves adventuring around the world, planning unconventional dates, going to music festivals, baking caramel sea salt brownies, and dancing the night away. She is joining forces with LTOttawa to bring you the very best weird and wonderful fitness classes throughout the city.

Photo Credit: Wolfgang_Redspot, via Flickr

My second adventure into the world of alternative fitness found me shaking and moving to a decidedly Latin beat. Zumba (pronounced ZOOMBA! exclamation point necessary) is essentially a fusion of dance and cardio-aerobics. It’s an incredibly fun (albeit extremely sweaty) way to get fit because it combines interval training with toning resistance training. In an hour of zumba, you’ll be put through a series of intense exercises and a number of short dance-style sequences. 

At first, I must admit I was a bit nervous to go.  I’m really not much of a dancer. Don’t get me wrong, I love dancing, but apart from a number of solo dance parties in front of my bedroom mirror, and a tap class when I was 8, I would pretty much categorize myself as “inexperienced.” Walking into the studio, faced by a roomful of fellow zumba-hopefuls, I began to get extremely self-conscious. What if I couldn’t keep the rhythm? What if I embarrassed myself? This self awareness continued through the warm up, but trust me, once you get into the class the last thing you’ll be thinking about is if the girl in front of you is moving to the rhythm or not.

High energy and heart pumping, there’s a lot of really intense movement in this class. Shaking, twisting, jiggling, 
thrusting, ‘snapping,’ squats (oh, squats like you would never believe) and a lot of moves Beyoncé seems to be so good at, but I have yet to master. In a way, it’s very brave to go to a class like this, where everyone is trying their very hardest to channel some glamazonian diva power, without much success. But it feels awesome. After going a few times, zumba started to make me feel more confident, more energetic, and– let’s just say it– sexy! And although at first you probably look anything but, it’s a huge confidence booster and really all about the attitude.

Photo Credit: Wolfgang_Redspot, via Flickr

The music, a variety of salsa, merengue, flamenco, hip hop and bhangra, really sets the pace for the whole class, encourages you to keep up, and manages to lead the workout to focus on every muscle group. After zumba-ing once, I was hooked and continued to sign up for another semester worth of classes.

Now, you should probably be warned . . . zumba is not really for the faint of heart. You will end up sweaty and tired and sore, but for the amount of fun and the health benefits, I can’t recommend it highly enough. My suggestions are as follows:
  1. Bring a friend or two! I went with a group of my girlfriends, and we made it into a weekly tradition, which quickly became out favourite. It’s a little less nerve-wracking to go in with other people, and then you can laugh about your struggles after class. It’s also easier to follow through with exercise if you make it into an appointment or a commitment to a friend.
  2. Always wear running shoes. A few people in my class (myself included) tried to zumba without shoes, and it ended up taking a toll on my ankles. So, lace up those sneakers. 
  3. Loosen up. You really won’t get the full benefits of any dance class unless you drop your inhibitions and just go for it. Maybe it’s a little embarrassing to be shaking your hips so furiously, but once you let go and just immerse yourself, you won’t care (and neither will anyone else!)
  4. Don’t forget your water bottle. This is pretty self-explanatory, but you’ll definitely need to keep hydrated.

Photo Credit: Wolfgang_Redspot, via Flickr

I know I have a long way to go in the world of spicy Latin dancing, considering the amount of time I spend watching the instructor with wide eyes. (How can anyone jiggle like that?) But I will keep dancing zumba, hoping that some day — some glorious day — I will be able to move like her too! In the meantime, I’ll continue to pretend I am living the dream of being in the background of an Enrique Iglesias music video, shaking it like it matters, shaking it for Enrique. Maybe you should join me?

Classes run at a lot of gyms and dance studios in Ottawa, I took mine at Carleton University (where you get a discount if you’re a student). Here are some places you can definitely sign up for classes:

Keep up the shaking and hip-swirling, Emily! Where do you like to bust a move, Ottawa? Let us know by leaving a comment below!