Z is for Zumba
Z is for Zumba

I wrote a series of blog posts for each letter of the alphabet during July. It pushed my creative envelope and made me remember some really funny stories thanks to help from my sister. I dedicated the letter Z to my Zumba Fitness classes.

The Letter Z: Zumba!

This is me and my ZABs (Zumba Addicted Badasses) in class.

I fell in love with Zumba when I moved to Tampa in 2009. I hadn’t ever heard of it, but it’s been around since 2001. It was born in Miami when the creator forgot his music for his aerobics class and used Latin music instead. He’s like a bajillionaire now and I finally LOVE working out. I did Step and the elliptical machine. I used free weights, but I didn’t really get into any of it. I’m in the best shape of my life because of Zumba.

I looked at myself years and years ago when I was still living in Ohio and realized that gravity was catching up with my thighs. My thighs are my problem area. Feet to knees, fine. Waist to top of my head, eh that’s OK. Knees to waist, not my favorite part of my body even slightly. I was sad when I saw what was happening after a baby and too many carbs, but I love carbs and I hated working out. I resigned myself to forever wearing jeans to hide the parts of me I disliked the most. Jeans in summer. That’s swampasstastic.

When I moved to Tampa with Weez four years ago we joined the YMCA. I checked the Group X schedule one day because I still hated the treadmill and elliptical. I attempted to train for a 5K because running seems so awesome. My attention span is too short for running. As physical as running is, I found it is very much mental. Lots of focus and determination. The constant pounding on my right knee, that has bothered me since high school, was not feeling good for doing something I wasn’t really enjoying. I wanted to join a Group X class in order to make friends as well. I was working from home and Weez was only in Pre-K so there wasn’t a whole lot of social interaction going on. I did move down with a few friends in place already so that worked to my benefit, but we needed some local friends too. I saw Zumba and thought, “What in the world is that? Latin music mixed with fitness? Sign me up!”

Weez was in gymnastics at the time and I made friends with one of the moms. She also belonged to the same Y and I asked her to go to class with me. I was scared to go by myself. I’d have no idea what I was doing and would feel better being clueless with someone. Our first class was all “What in the Hell is this?” I love dancing and I love Latin music. My inner Latina was missing in action. Well, she totally ditched me. My inner Latina was not with me that night. My hips didn’t move. My feet had no idea where to go. The instructor had a different style as far as how I knew a salsa looked, but I have since learned all instructors have their own style. I was freaking clueless, but thankfully so was my friend.

I was determined to get this. We went back to that class again and still it was a lot of concentration, but I was hooked. Eventually I found another class and that instructor was more in tune with what I was looking for out of class. My friend eventually stopped going, but by then I was confident enough to go by myself. I was in the second row; I wasn’t brave enough for the front row yet. The girls up there owned every song. It was pretty intimidating. I made friends with a few of the ladies in class and eventually it was a few times a week habit to hit the classes at the Y and get our groove on. I was taking classes about six months before my former person suggested I earn my certification and teach my own class.

What the what? Me teach? That’s just crazy talk…

Or was it?

It would be cool to have my Zumba certification. Maybe I wouldn’t ever teach, but to earn it and to have that on my life list of things I did. Me, the woman who hates working out would be a certificated Zumba instructor. So, I looked up when the next training would be and scheduled myself to earn my B1: Zumba Basic 1. Me? A Zumba Fitness instructor?

This would be interesting.

The training takes all day and you are exhausted at the end of it. It starts off with a killer Master Class. One hour of off the hook Zumba taught by a Zumba Education Specialist (ZES). You need zero experience in dance and/or coordination to take the training, by the way. Regardless of the commercials, Zumba instructors are male and female and come in all shapes, sizes, ages and fitness levels. Once the Master Class is complete we spent the rest of the day learning basic steps. The ZES had us choreograph a part of song and as a class, we all performed that song. It was kind of hilarious and I wasn’t the only one who was a little lost. There were many that obviously had way more experience then I did and I was kind of intimidated, but I was there to learn and I knew I’d eventually get to where they already were. The day ended with yet another Master Class and every ounce of energy I had was depleted, but I had earned my certification!

Now what?

That was September of 2010. I procrastinated putting a song list together. My Zumba instructor at the Y let me lead a song here and there, but I didn’t have any classes on the horizon so I sat on that task for a while.

Fate enters here. Another instructor friend of mine sent me a message that a class was open at a local gym and did I want it. Oh shit. A what?

The instructor who packed them in 70-80 strong had given up the class and the gym needed a regular instructor. Um, oh shit. OK. Shit!

I scrambled to put together a playlist. When you’re new, it’s common to borrow everyone else’s stuff until you get into your own groove so I did just that. I auditioned for the Fitness Manager and they hired me. I was warned that the class I was taking over expected a high energy instructor and that scared the shit out of me. I was new and wasn’t exactly high energy, but I cobbled together 15 or 16 songs and practiced. I did have a few chances to sub classes in the area before I took over the regular class. I took every single class I could fit into my schedule in order to get more experience before I faced who would become my ZABs.

It took me about six months to really get into my groove and ween myself off of songs other instructors were doing. I spent a lot of time on YouTube. As much as I love to dance, I am not a choreographer. I can take a routine already in place and modify it, but to create a dance from scratch is not my strong point. Each month, however, the Zumba home office sends instructors music and choreography so there’s a wealth of routines out there from which to choose. My classes seem to like more funkier stuff I find on YouTube.

What started off as one class turned into two and then three and at one point I had four classes per week. Couple this with a kid in single digits, a full time gig and a boyfriend and I was a busy lady. Since I started teaching in 2010, I’ve rotated classes, picked two more gyms, traveled across the Tampa area to sub classes and participated in Zumba Bashes (2 hours of dancing non-stop) time and time again. It has been an amazing experience and it happens quickly once you earn your B1 and pick up a class.

I’m almost 3 years into teaching and I can feel it. My right knee that has bothered me since high school bothers me a lot now, but I love my classes and the ladies and the music so I keep going. Supplements and knee braces help ease the discomfort. The pain is worth it. My doctor assures me it’s just arthritis; no need for surgery. The friendships I’ve developed because of my classes are priceless. The success stories I see happening before my eyes are amazing. It truly is a party and not a workout and you can do it all at your own pace.

I love teaching my ZABs. I turned around once and there were 70 women ready to party. I was in awe. I must be doing something right. The ladies thank me a lot for classes and their success, but it’s them. I just lead. I learn the routines and I stand in front. Their workouts are theirs. They hold themselves responsible for attending classes and giving as much as they can. I provide the moves and the music. That’s all I do. They do the hard part. I make them laugh, too. The back row can’t hear my jokes (and cussing) or see my facial expressions, but I see them working just as hard as the front row.

I do love being in charge of class. Getting paid to workout doesn’t suck either. I think when my Zumba days are over and this knee can’t give me another mambo, I’ll look into yoga. That cracks up my friends. Me? A Yogi? Peace and harmony? Bwahahahahaa! OK, so maybe we’ll have a few laughs as we cat and cow.

Thank you, ZABs, for all you’ve given me. What I had at first thought to be something cool to earn has rewarded me with so much more than I could have ever expected. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and the soul in my cha-cha. I single-single-double adore all of you.


AliciaAlicia Wozniak was born and raised in Cleveland. “Woz” now lives in Tampa, with the rest of Ohio. This 40 year old can be found teaching Zumba, all over Facebook, figuring out Twitterblogging, and working her full time gig in a marketing division of a textbook publisher. She wonders how many jobs she really needs. If she isn’t moving, she’s unconscious. Life, which includes a Weez, is good and as long as the beer is cold and it isn’t snowing, she’ll keep moving forward – Xanax close at hand.

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