Zumba funny business

Yes, it’s true: I teach Zumba and I went to my Zumba training at the now-notorious Pura Vida studio in Kennebunk. You know, the one in the news in connection with the alleged prostitution operation. And no, even though I was less-than-impressed with the certification process (you can read about my feelings here, when I wrote about it for the BDN more than a year ago), there was no sign of any funny business.

However, from a business perspective, I was wondering how they could pay the rent on such prime retail space (especially in a coastal town!) by only offering group exercise classes. Things that make you go hmmm ….

Anyway, feel free to get the snickers and/or the “funny” jokes out of your system. Chances are I’ve already heard them, and maybe more than once since this news first broke a few months ago. Heck, I’ve even made a few jokes about the situation myself, especially during my classes. Sigh.

At this point I’m kind of over the whole thing, and I’m also feeling a little defensive about Zumba, which has become my wild and crazy fitness friend.

I’ve always felt slightly apologetic for teaching Zumba because the impression among the “serious” fitness community seems to be that it’s not a “real” fitness class, that it’s too easy, soft, silly or not a true workout. The Kennebunk prostitution case hasn’t helped matters any.

And that’s too bad, because at the same time I feel a little awkward about being a Zumba teacher, I love it specifically because it’s not always serious. It’s a class (or DVD and video game) that people who are put off by the concept of exercise can be convinced to try — there’s no right or wrong in a Zumba class. As I wrote in the link above, I call Zumba my gym’s “gateway drug” group exercise class because it gets people in the door and lets them discover the joy of movement, and then, sometimes, they go on to try new fitness activities.

But that certainly doesn’t mean Zumba isn’t a workout. Every time I finish teaching a class, I am so sweaty I look as if I have just stepped out of the shower. During my classes I sneak in agility moves, high-intensity interval training, core training and more, as do most well-trained Zumba teachers.

I’ve even worn a heart rate monitor several times when teaching just to see how intense it is, and I’m always shocked at both my calorie burn and at how fast my heart beats during portions of the class, because I never feel like I’m working all that hard.

I take fitness seriously, maybe a little bit too much so. I do “real” workouts the serious fitness community would approve of — deadlifting, squatting, burpeeing, etc. I run sprints and do pullups and all kinds of different pushups. And I occasionally have my training clients do those “serious” exercises too, when those exercises are something that will help them meet their goals and they are fit enough to do them.

Zumba is a wonderful counterpoint to all that seriousness — not to mention the fact that from a practical standpoint, the hip-shaking we do in class has limbered me up a lot, and allowed me to get deeper into my deadlifts and squats (take that, elite fitness snobs!).

Class attendance has remained pretty steady since the news broke. I would love it, frankly, if this scandal would pique more people’s interest — especially those same people who like to make the jokes. I’m pretty sure that at the end of class, they’d feel invigorated, energized and have a whole new respect for my wild and crazy fitness friend.

Wendy Watkins

About Wendy Watkins

Wendy Watkins is a Brewer-based personal trainer and author of The Complete Idiots Guide to Losing 20 Pounds in 2 Months. Visit her website at wendyfitness.com.