Five Reasons Why I Will Always Love Zumba

I love to dance.

Back in the day I was a serious jazz hands kid (I know – shocker right)? I danced as a cat while someone sang Memory. I played Quasimodo, Orphan Annie and Old Martin from Royal Hunt of the Sun (I’m sorry I never spoke slowly enough Mr Sharpe. I’m still working on that). I took my Dance GCSE at 13, and the only A I got at A-Level was in Dance. At one point I was even seriously considering going to a theatre university until I realised I really wasn’t good enough for all that.

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Another Drama Queen

These days, I’ll dance when I’m feeding the cat. I’ll dance in the changing rooms at work when (I think) no one else is there. I’ll dance after any amount of Prosecco. And that is precisely why Zumba is part of my weekly workout regime. I just love it.

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Dancing after Prosecco

However, sometimes when I tell people in fitness that I regularly do Zumba as part of my weekly workout regime, you can see them desperately trying to stop their eyes from rolling back in their head. And I get it – dance based classes aren’t for everyone, and they sometimes struggle to see the benefits of it. But Zumba is the absolute bee’s knees for some people, including myself. And here are 5 reasons why:

It’s Accessible

Every Zumba class I’ve been to has been attended by people of all ages and all fitness levels. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been out of fitness for a while or if you run, swim, spin, lift weights and more in seven days. A good instructor (like my incredible instructor and friend Lucy) will make sure there are high and low impact versions of the various exercises so that it’s suitable for everyone. You work to your ability, not everyone else’s.

It’ll Improve Your Coordination

It may take a little while, especially if you’ve got two left feet, but the basic steps in Zumba tend to be repeated through the different routines so you’ll find you pick them up pretty quickly. Once you’ve got the merengue and the single, single, double nailed, there’ll be no stopping you.

It’s a Serious Calorie Burner

Have a quick search on Google and you’ll find no end of stories of people who have successfully lost a lot of weight and improved their fitness thanks to Zumba. Depending on your fitness level, you could burn anything from 400 to 1000 calories in a class.

It’s a Mood Enhancer

Research from the University of Derby has shown that a combination of exercise, social interaction and the concentration learning a new skill requires significantly boosted the mood of those suffering from depression. The uplifting atmosphere of a Zumba class coupled with upbeat music cannot fail to release those endorphins. And when your favourite routine comes on (Here to Stay (Electronic/Glitch Hop) or Feel This Moment for me) I defy you not to whoop and dance like you’re flipping Beyonce. This is the main reason I do Zumba. It never fails to put me in a brilliant mood.

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This is how I look doing Zumba

It’s a Social Hub

There are now so many people I can call friends thanks to Zumba. Off the top of my head there’s Lucy, Elaine, Niaz, Tamsin, Clare, Olga, Angela, Hannah, Julie, Sally, Kirsty, Viv, Nella, Iryna and probably loads of others (don’t be offended if you’re not here – it’s 11:30 at night. I still love you). It’s such a sociable class and I usually spend the whole hour laughing my head off, and not just because of some of Lucy’s descriptions of the moves – pumpy pumpy anyone?

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Zumba FRIENDS

There are loads of other reasons why dance based classes are a fun and valid fitness option, but these are the ones that came to mind first. And surely ANYTHING that gets people moving can only be a good thing.

This also seems the right blog post to do a shout out to Sweaty Betty’s recent Rave Dance class which I attended with TheeMiddleSis. I wish so much that this was something they could do every couple of months rather than an annual(ish) event, but basically it’s exactly as it sounds – a dance aerobics class with flipping GLOW STICKS for crying out loud! The free class was led by the ball of energy that is Jo Hopkins, and I vote that they make it a semi-regular thing! Just brilliant, brilliant fun.

Right – now who fancies a dance?

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Endorphin producing awesomeness

Body by Simone at Sweaty Betty Cambridge – My Review

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m a HUGE fan of any movement that allows people to experience exercise for free, whether it’s the awesome parkrun and Parktennis events taking over green space all over the country (and beyond) or whether it’s Sweaty Betty, continuing to expand their #GetFit4Free campaign with new and innovative workouts.

I’ve been to a few of Sweaty Betty’s free classes over the last year or so. Most recently I’ve enjoyed Flow and Glow with Rachael and Fly, Flex, Flow with Jo, and I loved both, so when I saw that they were bringing in “Body by Simone” for a four week period I knew I’d have to skip a Tuesday Ely Runners session (sorry guys!) to give the class a go.

Simone in this context is Simone De La Rue, an LA based fitness guru with abs of actual steel if her photos are anything to go by. According to the SB website, the “Body by Simone” workout will make your heart rate soar, tone and strengthen your body and leave you feeling fabulously happy. Ultimately, it’s a dance cardio workout tailored to work the bum, legs, arms and abs with the aim to give you a body like a dancer.

Now I know it’s going to take more than a 50 minute workout to give me a dancer’s physique. I’d have to lay off the visits to Cherry Hill Chocolates in Ely for a start and we all know that’s not going to happen. But I can say that after one class, if you were to do this regularly enough, your body would reap the rewards.

The class itself took place at the Hidden Rooms in Cambridge, somewhere I’ve not been before and which were a bit too well hidden for me as I walked past the door a few times before someone gently pointed me in the right direction with a bemused smile on their face. Inside there are low ceilings (which may have caused some of the taller attendees some problems but which obviously didn’t impact on me in the slightest) and a very cool, only vaguely hipster-ish vibe to the whole place. Previous classes I’ve been too have been held outside or in the Sweaty Betty store, but because there were some large, dynamic movements in this class such as lateral lunges and star jumps, the store wouldn’t have worked, and as music is a key element to the class we needed somewhere inside to make sure we didn’t cause a public nuisance. So being just around the corner from the shop, The Hidden Rooms were ideal.

Around 15 of us had gathered for the class, and after a quick intro by our instructor Katie (who I recognised from the Cambridge store and from the many times I’ve spotted her power walking to the train station) we were led into a very dynamic warm up, which set the pace for the whole class. And I have to give out a shout out to the AMAZING music she was using. When did you last hear Ghetto Supastar by Pras for crying out loud?! Just. Awesome.

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The only kit required – a mat and some hand weights

Now I’ve never been the biggest fan of aerobics as I find it can be too “single-paced” for me. I like variety between high impact cardio, body weight movements and weights work, which meant that this class was a great fit for me. After a cardio song that involved pretending we had a ball in our hands (stick with me here, it makes perfect sense in the moment) we then went into weights work for the arms. Now I would normally scoff at 1.5kg weights (I do rows with 14kg dumbells at the moment), but after an entire song’s worth of tricep dips, flies, curls and more, it felt like I wouldn’t have been able to hold much more without sacrificing the quality of the movement. After another cardio track that involved a lot of squats and lunges, followed by another that involved lots of jumping, star jumps and deep squats to hit your palm on the floor (my personal favourite), we then did an abs section, which I think is the one I’m most likely to repeat regularly at home. I already have an ab workout that I do most evening (always to Naughty Boy’s La La La which my husband could not be more sick of) but this plank-focussed workout was a great alternative, incorporating mountain climbers and holding the plank position on our palms and then on our elbows. We then ended the class by combining three of the different cardio routines into one, so having a little bit of natural rhythm and the ability to follow dance-based moves will help, but isn’t essential.

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Myself and Katie, two very Sweaty Betties after the workout

All through the class our instructor Katie – who clearly had a dancer’s background as evidenced by her ridiculously elegant arm movements – was fun and full of energy, which is clearly standard protocol for SB staff and ambassadors. It’s not easy to teach to a class of mostly strangers (I suspect she’s not able to build up quite the same rapport in these situations as she can with people who attend the classes she teaches regularly outside of the #GetFit4Free movement) but she was relaxed which helped to put the class at ease. Plus she asked at the start if anyone had any injuries, which is always a massive plus sign for me.

I left the class feeling like I’d had a great workout, and most importantly that I had some elements that I could take home with me and do again in my own time. If you’re keen to try it yourself you can either access the workout online, or the last class with the Cambridge store will be happening next Tuesday and you should be able to book a spot here from Monday morning. I mean why wouldn’t you? It is free after all.

Unless of course you count the shorts that I bought in the sale. Those wily SB minxes. They know exactly what they’re doing.

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Wearing my new shorts that have all the colours