Everywhere you look these days on the North Fork, you can’t seem to escape an invitation to a Zumba fitness party — schools and libraries, gyms and fitness centers, before local road races and at home fitness gatherings.
That’s because for many, Zumba — a dance fitness program incorporating everything from hip-hop dance to martial arts moves — isn’t a workout, it’s a party. And during this time of year when high-calorie holiday parties are also inescapable, Zumba is more important than ever for some.
“It’s good cardio and a lot of fun,” said Cutchogue resident Susan Fisher Tyler, a busy mom who had just finished a Zumba workout Thursday morning at JABS on Pike Street in Mattituck. “I was intimidated at first by all the moves but now I love being around other people — there’s all shapes and sizes, ages, and levels of dance.”
At JABS Thursday morning, about 40 women packed into the small studio to Zumba for about an hour with instructor and JABS founder Jill Schroeder. Zumba hit the home workout market via DVDs around 2001 but only recently made its way into the class instructional format at fitness centers. Now, about 14 million people take Zumba classes around the world, and during the past year or so, it has exploded in popularity on the North Fork, Schroeder said.
“It’s a fitness regime that works for anybody,” she said. “We’ll have people who are 13 to people in their 80s in the same room, doing the same routine, men and women. Anyone can make it as intense as they want or less intense. It’s very individualized.”
Schroeder became interested in Zumba about five years ago, when the only classes offered were in western Suffolk County, she said. She was working as a fitness instructor at Fitness Advantage in Southold at the time but began teaching Zumba classes at local schools. And by the time she opened JABS in the spring of 2011, she already had a following.
“It’s something I wanted to spread to the East End,” she said. “I’ve found that working out in a group setting is much more motivational than sitting on a treadmill or following a DVD at home by yourself. When you have people meet up together at certain times, they are held accountable and they work harder.”
Though the original music of Zumba was very Latin-based, Schroeder said she likes to throw in popular hip-hop, dance and rock music as well depending on the audience. She also uses non-verbal cues at the head of Zumba sessions — she does not bark orders out over a headset microphone.
“You don’t need me yelling at you — that cuts out the party element,” Schroeder said. “You just show up, watch me and do it, even if you don’t know what you’re doing.”
That’s exactly what Laurel resident Dawn Duerwald experienced about three months ago during her first Zumba initiation at JABS — “You just kinda throw your arms around and try to keep up,” she said. Now, the 38-year-old professional horse trainer is in some of the best shape of her life.
“We love Jill — the energy is great in here,” she said.
In Greenport, fitness instructor Jennifer Wood also experienced a boom in Zumba classes over the summer at Five Branches Wellness and now teaches Zumba there four times a week. She also recently launched a Zumba program tailored for kids.
“I never taught any fitness classes in my life before this, but I’ve always loved to dance,” said the East Marion native, mother and real estate agent. “And Zumba is an easy way to get the workout in without repetitive push-ups or sit-ups — you really don’t realize how many calories you burn during a Zumba session.”
Wood said that depending how hard you work, you can burn 500 to 1,000 calories doing an hour of Zumba. Both Wood and Schroeder recommend during this tempting time of year that even if you are actively participating in Zumba or other workout programs that you also remember that for every calorie you take in, the harder you have to work to take out.
“Balance is everything — if you have that extra snack or cocktail at the company party, do two classes next time instead of one,” Schroeder said. “You have to live your life, but you should also find that happy middle ground.”
At 73, Mattituck resident Marie McDonald was the oldest participant in this week’s Thursday morning Zumba session at JABS and said she’s living her life to the fullest — in part because of Zumba.
“I started jogging at 48, now I take spin classes, and I love Zumba,” she said. “My cholesterol has never been better, and I’ve met so many new friends here.”
Zumba classes are available at JABS in Mattituck, Five Branches Wellness in Greenport, NOFO Wellness in Cutchogue, and at local libraries and schools. Sessions at JABS and Five Branches run about an hour and cost $10 per class with package rates available.
Schroeder will lead a Zumba warm-up before the “Stuff the Sleigh 5K” charity race at the Cutchogue Fire Department Sunday at 9:40 a.m. (race starts at 10 a.m.).
Do you Zumba? Tell us about it in the comments.
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