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Zumba Fitness takes over Pittsburgh: Latin workout makes cardio training fun

By Yas Hatcher

Point Park News Service

Nicole Turner

Nicole Turner was seeking something to not only get in better shape, but to have fun when she came across Zumba, the latest physical fitness craze.

She immediately fell for the workout regimen that combines electronic and dance music to create a frenetic pace that was formerly reserved for club scene dance floors.

“I have both lost 20 pounds shortly after staring Zumba and I have gained so much more confidence,” said Turner.

Zumba has not only invaded 140,000 locations in 150 countries over the past decade, but has had an increasing presence in Western Pennsylvania’s aerobics and workout centers, with virtually most of them offering the fast-paced dance workout.

“When you get into Zumba class, it’s a whole new world,” said Turner, who has been enjoying Zumba for four years and is now an instructor. “The music is so inspiring, fun and energetic.”

In the mid-1990’s, Beto Perez, fitness instructor, created Zumba Fitness in his home town of Cali, Colombia when he turned an aerobics class into a dance fitness session featuring a mix of salsa, merengue and other types of Latin music he found in his back pack.

The word “Zumba” comes from a Colombian word “Zum Zum”, that means to move fast and have fun according to the Zumba website ( Zumba’s website claims to mix cardio intervals with resistance training, which maximizes caloric output, fat burning, and total body toning.

 “Zumba is honestly like a party,” said Turner, now a  Zumba instructor for  New Life Lady Fitness on Noble Street in Swissvale.

Most Zumba sessions are planned to last about an hour and incorporate several dance styles.

“I make sure I stick to the formula, which is like Merengue, Salsa, Reggaeton and Bellydancing,” said Turner. The Latin music includes both fast and slow rhythms, which is meant to allow for an effective cardio workout and body sculpting exercises that also allow folks to catch their breath. “I’ve been dancing all of my life. I love crazy, funky things like Zumba that keeps you going.”

Participants are encouraged to keep their heart rates up and never stop moving. Students are encouraged to continue moving their feet even if they don’t feel up to dancing for a few moments. The dance fitness program has people popping and swaying their hips to the beat and rhythm of the upbeat Latin music mix. The main different between Zumba dancing and the typical aerobics movement is that there are not a specific number of steps for each movement. Movements are also more jerky and powerful in a hip hop style, similar to ones you would see in Hispanic hip hop music videos.

“I started to go to classes and thought ‘hey I could do this. I could teach’,” said Turner. She explained how Zumba helps build bonds. She went on to admit that the women she dances with have become her Zumba family.

“At first it was hard to teach and took months to get into the rhythm, like anything else but eventually you get it and it helped build my confidence.

Local Zumba classes in the Pittsburgh area range from $5-$12 to participate. A Zumba class at New Life Lady Fitness with one of their three instructors cost only $5. The Stephen Foster Community Center in Lawrenceville offers eight classes for $30. Latin RhythmZ, Pittsburgh’s first Zumba dance studio located in McKees Rocks, offers single classes for $7.  In addition to this Point Park University offers free Zumba class to its students, as does the University of Pittsburgh through their Intramurals and Recreation Healthy U Fitness Class program and other local schools.

Turner loves Zumba so much that she has even taught through injuries, like the one that occurred during her first class when she sprained her ankle. “I was in so much pain but taught for the rest of class until I went home and took my shoe off, which was a mistake, and my foot was completely purple,” she explained. She decided to heal as much as possible but never stop dancing. “I continued to teach, even the next day.”

Turner is able to have fun and be herself during her Zumba classes. “I enjoy the ‘whoo-hooing’, the moving around and the smiling- getting people into it.” She explained that excitement and moving at your own pace is the key. “No one is looking at you if you can’t do a move or mess up.” Turner, with a bright smile continues, “Even when I mess up, I start laughing and yell ‘Okay, I guess I have a solo’.”

It’s the fun party feeling that brings Turner into her energetic fitness every Saturday. “Everyone is just having a good time and enjoying the party,” said Turner.

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