Losing weight and toning muscle isn't easy for most people.  If you're anything like me, the gym can be intimidating.  Workout DVDs are too easy to skip out on. Living on a giant hill can be difficult to attempt a good run.  I know, I tried them all.  But then I found Zumba.  Well, I guess it found me.

My Zumba journey started when a friend Dawn told me she'd been going to Zumba classes.  We were on a 108 Days of Summer Kick Off Cruise on the Vista last year, and she was dancing the entire cruise.  The energy she had was amazing!  I was a little jealous.  Of her energy, stamina, and of course the dance moves.

Not long after that cruise, Dawn convinced me to try a class when she opened up her own Zumba studio.  My first class was February 18th, and I've been hooked ever since.  And I have NO rhythm.  I quit dance class when I was 8.  I have two left feet.  You get my point.  I thought I'd be laughed out of the first class.  But that wasn't the case.  The high energy atmosphere I found at Zumba class was addictive.  Now I've been trying to get all my friends and co-workers to join me in a class.  Every one asks, "What is Zumba?"  I am no Zumba expert, so I turned to Zumba instructor and co-owner of Zstudio in Duluth and had her answer a few of my questions.

L:  What is Zumba?

D:  Zumba Fitness is a Latin inspired dance fitness program designed to party people into shape. It is "an exhilarating, effective, easy-to-follow fitness party that's moving millions of people toward joy and health."

L.  How did you get started?

D.  A co-worker of mine and my uncle told me about a Zumba in the Club at Stargate in January 2011 and I was interested in trying it. I had been doing step aerobics and strength training and was not seeing the results I desired and wanted to do something that was more fun, Zumba seemed to fit this desire.

L:  What inspired you to open your own studio?

D:  I had been going to many classes in the area and most were in bright rooms with weak sound systems. I had a dream of being able to do Zumba in a party type atmosphere with a sound and lighting system of a dance club. I expressed this idea to my partner, and my favorite instructor, Jill and she said she had the same dream. Together we made it happen!

L:  How has Zumba changed your life?

D:  Prior to finding Zumba I was doing mundane workouts at the gym. I was bored with it and unmotivated. I spent many hours in front of the television and ate constantly out of boredom, until I found Zumba. After the first class that I took in January 2011 I was hooked. I then went to almost every single class offering with as many different instructors as I could fit into my schedule. I was doing Zumba 6 days per week. After 2 steady months I decided I would like to be an instructor because there were no class offerings on Sundays and the only one offered on Friday at the time was way out of town. I became a licensed instructor in May 2011 and started teaching a Sunday class. From there I just kept going to where I am today teaching 5 days per week. I no longer watch any television (I like this fact, why waste my life watching someone else's life when i can live my own, right?) and I am an overall healthier and happier person. Exercise increases the good chemicals in your brain that make you happy in addition to loving to dance this has improved my mood as well as allowed me to shed over 50lbs in a years time. I am able to do more as my body is more fit and has more stamina and I am less tires, in fact I have more energy than ever before. I absolutely LOVE Zumba!

L:  What is your favorite Zumba dance style?

D:  My favorite dance style used within Zumba is Reggaeton, I love the music and dance style. It is energetic and high cardio which makes me sweat and I love it. However, I love all dance styles and choreography. Zumba provides instructors that are part of the Zumba Instructor Network with different choreography from different dance styles and music selections from across the world every other month. I love learning new ethnic dance styles and the music and being able to share something of another culture with my participants.

L:  What kind of dance experience should you have to take a Zumba class?

D:  There is no dance experience required to participate in any Zumba class. A person doesn't even need to have any rhythm, they can have two left feet. All they need to do is move their bodies and have a blast. The choreography is that similar to synchronized dancing that you will see in the clubs such as the "Cupid Shuffle" or "Electric Slide" in that it repeats itself enough to be catchy and easy to follow. The more classes the participant attends the better they become and the harder they can work their bodies.

L:  What are some common misconceptions about Zumba?

D:  Mostly that you have to be able to dance and have rhythm which as stated above is not true at all. Zumba can often help people become better dancers and gain understanding of music rhythm. Another is that it is only for women, many men participate in Zumba Fitness. In fact, it was invented by a man, Beto Perez. We have 2 regular male participants that come to our studio and encourage more to join. People also worry that other people in the class will look at them funny or laugh at them if they cannot get the moves correct at first. This is not true. Most people are too concerned with getting the moves right themselves so they are looking at themselves or the instructor. Also, ALL of us have been the "new guy" in class and have had that uncomfortable feeling so we can relate and hold no judgement. It is all about having a great time and being healthy!

Take a look at Dawn in action at a Zumba class!