2010 was my first year of Zumba. Funnily enough my gym tried to introduce it in January 2009. Nobody came. So I’m glad they decided to give it another go in 2010.
I don’t know why I went, because I hate organised classes - but I do love to dance and I was soooo bored with my normal workout.
My first class I remember well - I was awful. I could barely keep up, just trying to move the same arm and leg as the teacher - let alone get the move right. I was absolutely exhausted at the end, but it was the best workout I’d had in ages and it was fun! (Although slightly embarrassing.)
Although there was only one class on the timetable I got hooked and became an addict! Then they added another class, and another and soon I was doing 3 classes a week. I dropped my gym workout and a lot of weight too.
I’ll admit that every time I went I still felt nervous - but I always ended up having a great time and feeling so glad I’d gone. After a few months, as we were getting to the end of a class, I started to feel sad, and I realised that this Zumba ® fitness class was the high point of my week. It was one of the reasons I decided to quit my job, because I realised how unhappy I was.
One of the reasons I started trying to get fit was that I had a holiday to China planned, and this included a walk up the famous Yellow Mountain. Often the thought going through my head as I went crazy in class was about the mountain - well it all came in handy because when I got lost and had to run up and down stone steps for about 4 hours to get back to the cable car I had the oomph I needed - and I made it - with 3 minutes to spare!
When I got back to London it took me a while to
recover from my trip. I had to keep explaining to my teachers that I was still only at half speed, but a couple of weeks later I was back to normal.
Then came the next big decision - to train as an instructor. I don’t know where the idea came from exactly, but we started chatting about it after class - me, the instructors and some of the other keen students. Once I left my job I started doing the daytime classes, and they added another weekend class, so I was doing classes six days a week - my life was all about Zumba ® fitness classes anyway.
So I started looking into it, unfortunately it’s become so popular that the instructor training classes are sold out almost the minute they’re announced. At one point I was looking to travel up to Liverpool to train as an instructor - but by the time I decided to do it those classes were sold out too!
Finally I checked the website and found a new class in Lee-on-the-Solent - I booked it straight away ...and then started to worry. What was I going to wear, was I fit enough? I mean, much as I love my teachers, they are all very young, very slim and brilliant, brilliant dancers. So it was a huge surprise and relief to turn up to the training and find that I was in a room of people of all ages, all sizes, and that time and time again the teacher said that the most important thing about Zumba ® fitness classes is that they’re fun.
It was a great day and a really inspirational teacher, Loretta Bates, but a lot to absorb in one day - so it’s great that I came away with stacks of music and DVDs so I can watch Beto, the master in action and pick up some more Latin moves - in addition to everything I’ve learnt in the classes I’ve taken.
One of the most important things I learned on the course was that “you’re not a teacher yet”. And it’s not enough just to learn the choreography, it’s everything, from how to introduce and start a class to making the class work for different abilities without dumbing down. It’s balancing the sudden opportunities to teach a few more classes with your own energy levels, time to eat and get your kit washed. And most importantly it’s teaching in a way that gives my students what I always wanted to get out of a class - the fun, the excitement, the joy, the acceptance of just who you are right now, whatever shape you’re in. Now I think of my classes as my practice, because it’s constantly moving, constantly changing, I’m learning so much all the time and the most important things I’ve learned are just to love my students and perhaps, even more importantly, learn to love and accept myself just the way I am too.
In 2012 I was privileged to be a part of so many great events, from the first Zumba Conference outside the US, to performing TWICE in Trafalgar Square as part of West End Live and the Big Dance 2012. I also put together my very first Zumbathon, embracing the charity and community spirit, and was in awe of the response from students and instructors and so, so proud of everyone involved.
From being someone who would never dream of becoming a fitness instructor I’ve worked with the NHS, Merton Priory Homes, the Ethnic Minority Centre, Virgin Active, Fitness First, Nuffield Health, YMCA, David Lloyd, Esporta, Wandle Leisure Centre and private clubs; Harbour Club, Park Club, River Club, as well as teaching in and for schools, libraries, hotels, private companies, bars and clubs, charity events, birthday parties and community events. (It's getting harder and harder to say what I haven't done!)
Every new course I take, class I teach and Zumba event I attend gives me better understanding and more tools to improve my classes, and make them more appropriate for different groups, but most importantly they take me back to remembering what it is all about - that we are all one big family helping each other to feel joyous every day.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
© Pearl Howie 2014. All rights reserved.