When fitness is fun

When fitness is fun

Counted among the most popular global dance fitness forms, Zumba has managed to bring more smiles at the workout sessions, finds out Jisha Krishnan, after a chat with Zumba instructors Loretta Bates & Namrata Verma

Loretta Bates with Namrata Verma

What brings a sea of people on a fine Saturday evening to a Zumba masterclass? The promise of a fun dance-party, peppered with the right cardio and body toning moves. Recently, Loretta Bates (LB), a celebrated international Zumba presenter, was in Bengaluru for a 90-minute dance-fitness session. And you had to see the energy levels to believe it.

Created by Colombian dancer and choreographer Alberto ‘Beto’ Perez more than two decades ago, Zumba’s ever-growing popularity can be attributed to its simplicity and effectiveness. “The Indian fitness landscape has also come a long way. The Zumba Instructor Network (ZIN) has strengthened over the years, with focus on markets like India,” says Namrata Verma (NV), a Bengaluru-based certified Zumba instructor, who was instrumental in getting Loretta from Miami (Florida) to India for the masterclass.

Excerpts from an interaction with the two Zumba enthusiasts on fitness, fun, food, and more:

Zumba is popularly considered to be a weight-loss plan for women. What’s your take?

LB: Zumba is for anyone who loves music, dance, and fun, regardless of age, race, gender or nationality. Making fitness fun allows it to become a part of your lifestyle. Not just something you do for a few weeks, but something you can continue for life.NV: Zumba is really a unique programme made for all ages, genders and fitness levels. Having said that, it is most popular among corporates and dance studios, with clients in the age group of 15 to 35 years. One of my clients, a home furnishing company, has introduced the programme to bring close collaboration and networking between departments, while the back office of a global bank organises Zumba for employee engagement. One of India’s largest retailer hosts Zumba sessions for its employees to deal with work stress, especially during the peak season.

What are the health benefits of Zumba?

LB: For me, personally, the greatest benefits have been: weight loss (I went from size 12 to size 4); increased cardio capacity and agility; lowered resting heart rate (my resting heart rate now is 50-53, which means my heart doesn’t have to work as hard); increased confidence; and a sense of community (to be part of a worldwide network of people who are just as passionate and excited as you are about fitness).
NV: It’s a great programme to bring flexibility to your body, and ensure weight loss. You will definitely burn more than 700 calories in a typical 60-minute Zumba class. Zumba is also known to be a great stress-buster. Many have left smoking and adopted a more health-conscious lifestyle after attending Zumba classes. Almost every marathon, walkathon and cyclathon in the city has embraced Zumba as a warm-up exercise. It’s an effective way to involve and engage with participants.

Does one need to be a good dancer to do Zumba?

LB: You know, I do not have a dance background. My first experience with dance was in a Zumba class. So if I can do it, anyone can! I attended my first Zumba class 12 years ago and haven’t looked back since.

How does one select the right Zumba class?

NV: It is important to ensure that your instructor is a certified and licensed ZIN. You can easily check this on Zumba.com by punching in the name of the instructor. That apart, the dance facility should be large enough to accommodate movement between students during a regular class. You should also consider taking feedback from other students of the Zumba class.

LB: I suggest trying different Zumba classes, until you find a class/instructor that you love. Every class is different, and there is one for everyone.

What is the most common Zumba mistake people make?

NV: People start judging themselves in their first class. My advice would be to allow yourself to attend a few more classes before you decide that Zumba is not for you. Zumba is actually a very simple and easy-to-follow routine. Also, it’s a bad idea to refrain from discussing injuries, if any, with the instructor, or skip cool down and stretching at the end of the class. You need to allow your body to rest after every workout.

How important is diet in making fitness plans work?

NV: Eating right is extremely important. Many people wrongly assume that it’s best to work out on an empty stomach. I recommend eating a handful of dry fruits or some bananas before going to class. For early morning Zumba, a small bowl of oats, half an hour before class, is ideal.

LB: Diet is vital in achieving lasting weight-loss results. I personally watch what I eat majority of the time, but also have days when I allow myself to indulge. I believe this is critical in maintaining a healthy lifestyle over the years.

What’s your fitness regime like? How do you maintain work-life balance?

LB: Besides Zumba for cardio, I also incorporate resistance training into my fitness regime. My Zumba career is a family affair. My husband helps me manage class bookings, while my son assists with the flyers and graphic design. And my daughter is an aspiring Zumba instructor. They all came down to India with me.

NV: Apart from taking Zumba classes, I also do functional strengthening and play quite a few sports. In terms of work-life balance, the biggest challenge is planning vacations, while ensuring that work doesn’t suffer.