In 2007 Cornwall Today featured me teaching Zumba. A huge 4-page spread feature on this fitness phenomenon. It was such an exciting time, my classes were packed out and we watched women in particular become liberated. Gone was the fear for being judged whilst exercising. Suddenly we were rocking moves like Beyoncé (sometimes badly) but no one cared. We were having fun. 3 years later Zumba became a huge success and it got people moving, lapping those on the sofas.
Since then trends and fads have come and gone all seeking to be the next Zumba.
Although Zumba is still popular, we recognize that the Zumba fans have instructors at every corner teaching or they have moved on wanting more and have diversified into other fitness programs. The point is the nation is getting moving and it is reaching into a wider demographic.
Recently I found myself invited to run a ZumbaGold (for the older client) demonstration at The Women’s Institute. It was such a wonderful experience. On arriving they stood and sang Jerusalem in full voice and dutifully went through their meeting whilst I sat in the back of the room and observed. I knew they were anxious, they always are! I am a notorious high-energy fitness instructor and they are a group of elderly and colourful ladies.
The meeting ended and the crowd turn their chairs to face me, peeling away their cardies and scarves but still cautiously eyeing me up. I ask, “Is there anything I should know before we start?” Now we have an outpouring of bad knees, backs, recent surgeries and a plethora of aging illnesses and reasons why they can't do anything. This is the get out jail (exercise) card that is frequently flashed at me. My response? “Great ladies, I understand all your health issues and I still want you moving…” The horror is now firmly in their eyes! There is no way out. They do not trust what is about to happen.
I leap up and press play on the music and an old classic Mambo fires out. From a seated position I start to elegantly move my arms and they follow. I talk through the music and reassure them that moving the body is good and we are warming their bodies up and lubricating joints. They smile. Phew, track one done. I haven’t quite won them over, I know they are thinking, this is fun but what is going to happen next? The next track is a belly dance. Oh my word. A room full of ladies of a certain age and we are belly dancing whilst sat down. The girls are mine, laughing, relaxing and letting go.
I call it Fitness Liberation. It is that moment when the clients loses their inhibitions and just enjoys themselves in the moment. Let me tell you the older population is brilliant at this.
We are now on fire, a waltz starts and we are describing our chiffon dresses as we waft and step out to Moon River. By now we are cooing and singing along, Joan is clearly the naughty one and being extremely cheeky which works so well as we stomp out a tango and a flamenco.
The average age 72!
In 2007 when I launched Zumba I never knew the impact it would have on my life. I still teach Zumba, GROOVE (and ZumbaStep) and love the joy of losing the plot when I teach, I feed off the fun and laughter of my classes. Today my heart bursts when I reach to the older populations. ZumbaGold is the new Zumba, less impact, often in a chair and even more fun. I have learnt that no matter what your health or age is, everyone benefits from exercise and it is fun. Our dementia friends remember music from “the old days” they may not remember me next time, but they do remember I made them feel lovely for an hour. Our older populations have wonderful stories to tell and are not forgotten. Everyone can move, everyone can have fun and laugh as the music leads the way and motivates us.
Laughter is good for the soul. Laughing is and will always be the best form of therapy. Dance like no one is watching.