Focus On: Zumba

Zumba is a giant party. I fell in love with it about 4 years ago and since then, there’s been no turning back.

zumba Source
In class, you spend the entire time dancing and it’s easy to forget that you’re actually working out, burning a crazy amount of calories and blasting fat.


What is Zumba?

Zumba is an aerobics fitness program that was created primarily by Beto Perez. Zumba originated in Colombia in the 1990s, when Beto forgot a CD for his aerobics class. He used one of his personal CDs (traditional Latin music) and taught a dance-style aerobics class on the spot. Zumba was born! Since then, it has become a crazy booty-shaking world phenomenon, with over 6 million participants taking classes each week. Zumba got its namesake from the buzzing of bees… Zuuuuuumba–it’s Colombian slang for “fast.”

  • Zumba is a Latin-style dance class (including salsa, merengue, cha-cha, cumbia, soca and samba), combined with hip hop and reggaeton, as well as international styles of dance like bellydancing, flamenco, Bollywood and African. Most classes should be about 70% Latin dances with 30% for the rest of the other fun stuff.
  • Many classes will utilize an interval style of training–combining slower dances with faster upbeat songs and songs dedicated to toning movements (arms, abs, legs).
  • The instructor will usually dance in front of the class, while the students follow along. Each song will repeat the same movements (for example the chorus of a song will usually include the same sequence), so that it’s easier to pick up. 

    What to expect:

  • To have no idea what you’re doing at first. I danced for my entire life and was LOST for the first class. The best thing you can do is pick up the steps where you can, laugh, shake and have fun. It’s one of those things that the more often you go, the easier it gets. Remember, no one is there to judge you. Everyone is at the gym for a common goal and is usually too worried about what they’re doing to think about anyone else. Just have fun!
  • Some instructors will go over the movements before each song. Other instructors (like me) will just dance the entire time and yell stuff out to the class. Be ready for either type of teach.
  • To burn a LOT of calories. I typically burn 500-700, while some of my students with heart rate monitors have burned upwards of 1,000.
  • If you like dance cardio, get ready to become HOOKED!


    What to wear:

    -Comfy athletic clothing and shoes. If you’d like, you can also purchase Zumba gear at Some of it is super funky and a lot of it is fun and cute 😉 Make sure to bring a water bottle (not optional) and a small towel (optional).


    -Fantastic cardio. It’s seriously one of the most intense, fun, calorie-scorching workouts I’ve tried, which is why I’m so in love with it.

    -The music! Sometimes the instructors will use songs from the radio with Latin flair (think the J. Lo/Pitbull song, or Shakira) or gems you’ve never heard before. The purpose of the music is to pump you up, and if you like Latin and international music, you’ll be a fan 🙂


    -As with any class, the instructor, their choreography and music choices make ALL the difference in the world. Anyone can get Zumba certified and you may find a teacher whose style you don’t like. Just like with other classes, try a few instructors until you find a class you love.

    Want to see what Zumba is really like?
    Here are a couple of videos:

    Have you tried Zumba before? What did you think?

    If you need help finding a class close to you, check out 🙂


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    1. Cait's Plate on June 29, 2011 at 10:11 am

      I’ve always been so intimidated by Zumba because I am NOT a dancer but your pictures really do make it just look like a big fun party! I may need to get over my fear and try it out – is it better to go solo or to bring lots of friends?

      • Courtney on June 29, 2011 at 11:05 am

        Definitely bring lots of friends! The more the merrier, plus you can all laugh at each other 🙂 I was TERRIFIED of Zumba at first (hellooo white girl!) but once I started, I was hooked! I even go to classes now with my cutesie Brazilian friends who can shake it like no other LOL! Def give it a try, you will love it!

    2. Hillary on June 29, 2011 at 10:12 am

      One of my best friends is a Zumba instructor, but I STILL haven’t tried it! Considering I danced for 14 years, I think I’d love it, and I know I have to give it a try. Do you recommend the videos at all?

    3. Jackie @ Baking Charms on June 29, 2011 at 10:12 am

      I need to just sign up for this class already! As someone who danced their entire life I think Zumba may fill that hole 🙂

    4. TanyaS on June 29, 2011 at 10:13 am

      Love love love Zumba. Took a break from it over summer to hit the weights harder, but I will be back to it in the fall. I’ve had a hip-hop style instructor and a more classic instructor and preferred the hip hop style.

    5. Morgan @ Operation Hot Mama on June 29, 2011 at 10:13 am

      I would LOVE to try Zumba!! Searching for classes as we speak 🙂

    6. steff (steffsays) on June 29, 2011 at 10:16 am

      i’ve been wanting to try zumba for ages, but my gym makes people pay extra for zumba classes and i just don’t know if i’ll like it enough for that to be worth it. i wish there was a way i could just try it out once or twice to see!

    7. Jessica @ Stylish Stealthy & Healthy on June 29, 2011 at 10:17 am

      I am a total Zumba lover. I just love to dance and I go every Friday on my lunch hour and am totally addicted. It seriously flies by and I am dripping with sweat when I’m done. Although I totally agree that the instructor makes or breaks it as I’ve walked out of really bad classes before… (well bad in my standards.)

    8. Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat on June 29, 2011 at 10:17 am

      I always feel like such a moron when I try to do Zumba classes (although I know a lot of people feel this way when they try something new) but you look like a pro in your photos!! I’m willing to give it another chance though because it does sound like fun. This summer I’ve got the annual Can Fit Pro conference to attend (met Beto there 2 years ago!) so I might pick up some Zumba pants for inspiration! 😛

    9. Morgan @ Becoming Rooks on June 29, 2011 at 10:18 am

      Those videos look fun!! I always stayed away from Zumba because I had heard they were much more freeform. Show up and shake your booty type deal; no real moves. I prefer more choreography/being told what steps to do when. The videos look like something I would enjoy.

    10. Michelle @ Turning Over a New Leaf on June 29, 2011 at 10:21 am

      Omigosh, I LOVE Zumba! I’ve been doing it for two years now, and I’m finally getting my Zumba Instructor Certification this September! Yay!!

    11. The Teenage Taste on June 29, 2011 at 10:23 am

      I’m actually going to a Zumba class tonight. What a coincidence!
      I love Zumba and have been doing it for a little over 2 months. Last week I went to a different class with a different instructor and I hated it! The instructor definitely makes a difference!

    12. Natalie @ southern fit foodie on June 29, 2011 at 10:26 am

      I am absolutely in LOVE with Zumba! I’ve been teaching for it about 14 months, and it is hands down my favorite cardio workout. My class tends to have more reggaeton and hip hop music/moves, but that is what my class participants love. I teach Zumba five times a week and also have a hip hop cardio dance class once a week. The best part of both classes is that it just feels like you are out dancing on a Saturday night – then at the end of class everyone is drenched in sweat and has burned a plethora of calories!

      Great description of and information about Zumba!

    13. Jessica @ Dairy Free Betty on June 29, 2011 at 10:27 am

      I LOVE ZUMBA! There is a new studio opening here that’s going to have Zumba, Zumba Toning and some Turbo Fire stuff – I CANNOT wait. Major + I might be working there too!! 🙂

    14. Michelle on June 29, 2011 at 10:28 am

      I have my first Zumba instructor audition tomorrow! Eeeek! 🙂

    15. Ashley O. @ The Vegetable Life on June 29, 2011 at 10:28 am

      I LOOOOOOVE Zumba and I go to class twice a week. I actually considering attempting classes to become a certified instructor I love it so much! I’m a bit nervous though………….

    16. Jillian on June 29, 2011 at 10:33 am

      I LOVE zumba! it’s a great workout and so much fun but i agree 100% choreo and music can make or break the class! I don’t know if your looking for any other ‘focus on’ workouts but i recently started taking barre method classes which are absolutely fabulous!

    17. Nicole on June 29, 2011 at 10:33 am

      LOVE Zumba! BUT….it def depends on the instructor. I went to a class with a different instructor and she was using show tunes…..SHOW TUNES!?! I wanted to walk out but I felt bad. Def won’t be going to her ever again!

    18. Mandy on June 29, 2011 at 10:33 am

      I love that Que te Pica video! I’ve seen several times on You Tube and they look like they are having so much fun! I’m a Zumba instructor and you nailed everything down in this post! Thanks! I’ll be sharing with friends who are afraid of the class! They’re missing out!

    19. Mandy on June 29, 2011 at 10:36 am

      I LOVE, LOVE our Zumba class! My hubby goes with me and is actually teaching some himself 🙂 Ours is more of a hip hop/zumba class…!!! This is a recent video of our class… I LOVE sharing it 🙂

    20. Donna @ Love, Run & Travel on June 29, 2011 at 10:37 am

      I’m soooo in love with Zumba – i’m so grateful to the amazing teachers at my gym and i have convinced about 7 friends to sign up and every week they thank me for forcing them to try it!
      My fav song to zumba to right now is Party Rock Anthem 🙂
      Great post!!!!

    21. Gina @ Running to the kitchen on June 29, 2011 at 10:38 am

      I’ve never tried Zumba and I have to admit it scares the heck out of me! I’ve never had natural dance talent so I’m pretty sure I’d be the awkward uncoordinated one in the corner 😉

    22. Brandi on June 29, 2011 at 10:39 am

      I havent tried Zumba but the videos make it look really fun! The guy in the second vid cracked me up! I’m still not sure I’d go because I am HORRIBLY uncoordinated…I can barely manage the electric slide without getting turned around and running into people. Maybe I’d do a dvd at home first to test out the waters 🙂 Even my boyfriend’s mother raves about how much she likes Zumba!

    23. Carrie on June 29, 2011 at 10:40 am

      I tried it once, and while it was fun, I felt like I needed to workout afterward–it was a nice, little warm-up.

    24. Heather (heathers dish) on June 29, 2011 at 10:50 am

      I would love try zumba but haven’t been able to join a gym that has it…my sister raves about it all the time though. And I’d be lying if I said I don’t do some of the dances when the Zumba infomercials come on 😉

    25. Alicia F. on June 29, 2011 at 10:51 am

      love ZUMBA! 🙂

    26. Diana (Soap & Chocolate) on June 29, 2011 at 10:55 am

      A-men girl-fren. Truth, all of it. I almost don’t remember what I did before Zumba; I pretty much live and breathe it now. I believe it is the cure to what ails the concept of “working out.” And I love what you’ve written about what to expect–I always preach a similar version prior to starting each class. People get so hung up on doing everything perfectly, but it’s so not worth the stress! As I always say, “This is YOUR music video. If your backup dancers aren’t shakin’ it your way, that’s their problem. ” 🙂

    27. Cait @ Beyond Bananas on June 29, 2011 at 10:58 am

      I’ve never done zumba .. or any type of dance cardio for that matter. I have NO rhythym. I’ve tried some at home videos.. and feel so out of sync!

    28. Cassie @ Back to Her Roots on June 29, 2011 at 11:01 am

      You are totally right about finding the right instructor! I took my first few Zumba classes and the instructor was a former competitive salsa dancer. She would critique all of our movements and tried to perfect them. I hated it! I felt like I was being judged the whole time. I decided to try Zumba again with a different instructor and she was AWESOME. She just wanted us to have fun and move, regardless of how we were doing the steps.

    29. Camille on June 29, 2011 at 11:03 am

      Yes and I love it!!! My twin sis and I go every week together!! She’s thinking about getting certified too. Love love love it. Great post as always 🙂

    30. Holly @ Pink Runner on June 29, 2011 at 11:07 am

      Seriously, thank you for posting this… I might try it now! I’ve never been interested in giving it a try at my gym because I didn’t realize how many calories you could burn! I should go with my heart rate monitor and see how many calories I burn while trying not to look uncoordinated!

    31. Megan on June 29, 2011 at 11:09 am

      ok perfect day for this post! there is a zumba class 2 blocks from my house.. Ive been meaning to check it out.. but like most people.. i’m nervous about all the moves! Just emailed the instructor! thanks Gina!

    32. Paige @ Running Around Normal on June 29, 2011 at 11:25 am

      One of my friends is obsessed with Zumba! I knew it burned some calories, but didn’t know it could burn up to 1,000?! That must be one mega zumba par-tay! I’ve only taken Zumba a couple times. I think after mynext half marathon I’ll try it out again 🙂

    33. Leanne (Bride to Mrs.) on June 29, 2011 at 11:26 am

      I did the dvd’s once at my house but felt so overwhelmed with how quick the movements were! I’d like to try an actual class though 🙂

    34. Courtney @ Sweet Tooth, Sweet Life on June 29, 2011 at 11:31 am

      I couldn’t agree more that the instructor makes a HUGE difference! I’ve actually only tried Zumba once, and that’s because the instructor was AWFUL. I didn’t break a sweat during the entire class, and no joke, she kept going up to the other girls in the class and basically grinding up on them. Is that normal?? Yikes!

      That being said, I’d definitely give it another go if I had another instructor to take it with 🙂

    35. jackie on June 29, 2011 at 11:33 am

      I absolutely love zumba. It definitely depends on the teacher at times. I had one teacher I barely broke a sweat with and never took another class with them. I had another where I was drenched at the end. And I’ve had ones somewhere in between. I enjoy not feeling like I’m bored. I get bored easily with cardio. And I can understand how it’s intimidating but you get over it quickly.

    36. Brendali on June 29, 2011 at 11:34 am

      Um, seriously? The last video, “Que Te Pica” is my! That looked like so much fun!!! I am so sad I am stuck at work when I could be doing that!!!

    37. Crystal on June 29, 2011 at 11:36 am

      Before I tried Zumba, I thought for sure that I’d hate it, but I LOVE it. It’s my favorite cardio, hands down!

    38. Allison @ Food For Healing on June 29, 2011 at 11:38 am

      i have taken zumba before, i’ve gone to a 3 hour workshop, it was insane. I haven’t been in a long time, i may need to start once i am done Insanity. I am also thinking of getting certified next year once i’m done school! Its so much fun!

    39. UnRunner on June 29, 2011 at 11:46 am

      I would feel so silly! So so silly! I wish I could do that, but alas, I can barely put one foot in front of the other for a run. 🙂

    40. Yolie @ Practising Wellness on June 29, 2011 at 11:55 am

      My Mum raves to me about Zumba and I have said over and over again that I MUST find somewhere local to take a class, it really does look like soo much fun! I think I would feel like a clutz initially, but once you learn the routines it must be amazing to literally lose yourself in the music! 😀 Thanks for all the info! xyx

    41. Kirby on June 29, 2011 at 12:03 pm

      Hey Gina, this post reminded me of a reader’s request I’ve been meaning to ask you about for awhile – what is your process for choreographing your classes? Do Zumba, Dance Trance, etc. come with pre-choreographed dances that you memorize and then teach, or do you choreograph them yourself? I’m a yoga instructor and am constantly changing my routine based on things I learn in other classes, read in magazines, etc. and it’s a very hodgepodge process, so I was curious about how other instructors go about it. Thanks!

      • Fitnessista on June 29, 2011 at 11:37 pm

        ohh that would be a fun one!

    42. Miranda on June 29, 2011 at 12:05 pm

      I have not tried the group class at my gym. They just started having classes there. I do have the Zumba video game for the XBox (the company my husband works for made the game!). I have tried that a few times and even that is tough! I’m not a natural at dancing, but now I’m inspired to try it again. I suppose if I just keep practicing I’ll get the moves down!

    43. Angela @ MyPinkyToes on June 29, 2011 at 12:07 pm

      I want to zumba so bad! I dont know anywhere to go where I live?!

    44. Katie on June 29, 2011 at 12:10 pm

      I have been wanting to do Zumba but not classes. Any video suggestions? I’m not sure I will like it (like others, I have no coordination and feel dumb doing videos that I can’t keep up with), but I want to try! I’ve had other dance videos (latin, etc) but don’t do them often. I just don’t enjoy it enough to keep on it. I want a more high energy and fun workout.

    45. Anna @ Newlywed, Newly Veg on June 29, 2011 at 12:17 pm

      I bought Zumba for our kinect, and honestly wasn’t crazy about it, but I know it’s just one of those things that I’d probably love in an actual CLASS!

    46. Kris | on June 29, 2011 at 12:26 pm

      I have NEVER tried Zumba…my dancing stinks, but it looks like so much fun!!!

      I hear you just fall in love with it…..sigh


    47. Lindsey @ Happy or Hungry on June 29, 2011 at 12:35 pm

      I LOVE Zumba! I went to my first class in January, and totally fell in love. I definitely had no idea what I was doing the first time (and still don’t), but the great thing is nobody else does either! It is so much fun. Now I want to hit up a Zumba class. I need to do it more often!

    48. Katie on June 29, 2011 at 12:37 pm

      I love Zumba so much! Pretty sure I originally tried it because I saw it on your blog and it looked so fun 🙂

      I was so nervous to take it because I don’t consider myself to be very coordinated. I wanted to go w/ a bunch of friends but no one would ever go so I finally sucked it up and went by myself, so glad that I did!

      I totally agree that the instructor makes the class. I loveeee the guy who teaches it at my gym but went to another class last week and hated it because the instructors sucked. Wish I could take one of your classes!

    49. Erin on June 29, 2011 at 12:38 pm

      I LOVE Zumba, but it’s always amazing to me how different instructors can be. I just moved to a different state and they keep almost all the lights off in the room at my new gym during Zumba. It’s definitely taking some adjusting for me. I suppose it’s good to mix things up anyways 🙂

    50. Emily @ Glitz Glam Granola on June 29, 2011 at 1:04 pm

      Thanks for the great post on Zumba!! I LOVE Zumba- it is so fun and such an amazing way to burn calories without even noticing it! I used to go a lot but now I don’t know where it’s offered in my area… I need to look into it though! I wish I could take one of your Zumba classes- I’m sure you are a fabulous teacher!!

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