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Here are answers to some Frequently Asked Questions:

What is a Zumba® class like?
We start class with a simple warmup. Then we do some basic calisthenics to fun music to strengthen the muscles that support your knees. Then we just have a good time with rhythms from all over the world. Zumba® classes are at least 70% Latin and international music (salsa, merengue, cumbia, bhangra, samba, belly dance, flamenco, just to name a few!) and 30% "other." We mix in a few songs you might recognize from the radio, or even from a few decades ago! I love it all! See below: Why dance to music in a foreign language?

At the end of class, we always have a routine that focuses on a good abdominal workout and then we stretch to give back your full range of motion in your muscles and joints.

I mix up the songs every class, but generally at least half of them get repeated from one class to the next so you do have a chance to learn the steps and really have fun. The first time, everything is new. After that, you'll begin to remember the steps and won't feel lost. I always say, give it three chances. You'll be surprised how much better you get after just a few classes! And don't worry, I frequently hear from my class members, "you're so easy to follow!" I try.

I asked my class members to post comments about what their first Zumba class was like. You might like to read them here: http://zumbaspot.blogspot.com/2012/03/zumbaversary.html

Do I need to have a dance background?
Not at all. There are millions of people enjoying Zumba® classes all over the world. Most have no formal experience with dance. They just love the music and learning new ways to move. We simplify steps from all kinds of dances so it is easy to follow. It is so fun, you hardly notice you are working!

Why Dance to Music in a Foreign Language?
When I first came to Zumba classes, I found I enjoyed relying on the feel of the music rather than the lyrics. When you don’t have the lyrics in your head to express yourself, you rely on your body to bring out that energy. That means you are working your muscles more and enjoying it at the same time. The time flies!

If you already speak Spanish and know the lyrics, there is good news for you, too! Zumba highlights music from all over the world. In addition to Latin rhythms like salsa, cumbia, merengue, samba, flamenco, axe, and tango, we get to enjoy rhythms like polka, bhangra, soca, and African dance. AND, we still enjoy a sprinkling of familiar English songs that bring a smile to your face and really get you moving! There is something for everyone!

Am I healthy enough to do this or should I ease into it?
Check here for a basic assessment to see if you have any healthy issues that should be cleared with a doctor. The great thing about Zumba® fitness is that you can adapt it to whatever level you are able to handle. Most people start with conquering where the feet should go. They quickly get the feel of it and as they start to have fun, they naturally add more energy and movement. You'll find your workouts increase in intensity over time, at whatever rate of progress you are comfortable with. The only thing you need to worry about is having a good time. The rest will take care of itself.

What is Zumba Gold®?
Zumba Gold® is a program originally designed for senior citizens, but has come to be a wonderful alternative for anyone needing adaptations for a variety of health reasons: age, joint issues, size, balance problems, pregnancy, or rehabilitation after injury. It is low-impact, has an easier pace and a more forgiving environment. If you are coming from a rather sedentary lifestyle, you might like to give this format a try before jumping into Zumba® classes. Find out about my Zumba Gold® classes here.

What should I wear?
Wear good supportive athletic shoes. Some people prefer lots of cushioning, some prefer soles that allow for easy pivoting, some prefer more traction. In my classes, I don't do lots of pivoting because I'm cautious about your knees.

You should wear whatever clothing will allow you to move freely. Don't wear a sweatshirt or anything heavy. We'll heat things up and it is not good for your body to overheat.

I suggest bringing a water bottle and taking at least two 1/2 cup drinks during class. Afterward, you'll want at least 2 cups of water to rehydrate.

What are the benefits of exercise and Zumba®?
There is quite a long list of health benefits. 
It is generally a cardio workout that will help you burn calories (between 500-1000 depending on your age, weight and how hard you work). You'll also tone muscles on your arms, legs, and especially your core muscles on your abdomen and back. Zumba also improves your game mentally: you'll improve your coordination, you'll feel happier, you'll have some social support for coming to class each day and will have more energy for all the other things you do in your life. Humming the upbeat tunes in your head at other times of day will just draw a positive energy into your day!

How much exercise do I need? 
You should exercise 3-5 times per week. It does not need to be the same form of exercise, in fact, it is a good idea to train with different formats. See here for more information from the American College of Sports Medicine®.

What is the best exercise to do?
The one you like. You're much more likely to stick with it. If you only like one kind, that's fine. Stick with it. You may find yourself more willing or ready to try other formats in the future. 

Why do you always say the most important thing is to have fun?
Exercise is only going to have a positive effect on your health if you do it on a regular basis. If you have an exercise that is fun, you're much more likely to come back again and again. You won't feel like you are having to drag yourself to the gym, you'll actually look forward to doing something invigorating and enjoyable. If you don't have fun, you are less likely to stick with the plan, which means after a short time you'll find excuses not to come back, and find yourself back where you started (with nothing but good intentions), only perhaps even more frustrated. I don't care if you hardly move at all during the first few classes. If you have a good time, you'll come again and gradually find yourself giving the workout more and more energy. Before you know it, you'll be getting an intense workout--on a regular basis. Which is what you really want, right?

What if I don't like the class? What if I just don't "get it"?
If you came to try it once, I think that means you're interested in this format. I always encourage people to give it at least three tries because each class is slightly different with different songs. And, who knows, maybe you came on a day where I was the one feeling off. But if after three tries my style doesn't fit you, please give another instructor a try. Everyone is different. There is an instructor out there somewhere just right for you. 

Do I have to scream and holler and be crazy?
Not if that isn't your style. Some people find a party atmosphere really invigorates them and helps them have more energy to put into the dances. Some people prefer to "party" on the inside. Sometimes if you are feeling tired, a little whoop can get you through. Either way is fine, but I prefer to at least see you with a smile on your face.

How should I eat to lose weight?
Professionally, I can't give you much specific counsel because I'm not a registered dietician or a personal trainer. But I can tell you that you can't out exercise a bad diet. Weight loss happens when you spend more calories than you take in. Exercise can increase the rate they are spent and improve your overall metabolism, but what you eat is still the biggest factor. Check my recipes page for ideas. I'm happy to talk with you after class if you have more questions. 

Do you have any nutrition advice for me?
I asked a registered dietician to answer some common questions for you. Read her article here.

Here is also a trusted site at the Harvard School of Public Health. 

How can I lose weight on my thighs/stomach/hips/earlobes/etc.?
You can't choose where weight comes off. If you have some troubles areas, I recommend continuing your workouts and evaluate your eating habits. You may also benefit from cross-training (keep your body guessing!). Strength training is also something everyone should do to maintain muscle tone and bone strength. Check here for some basic information to get started on a strength-training program. Here is another beginning workout with dumbbells. It only takes a few extra minutes after class, twice a week, to make a difference.

Why do my knees hurt? How can I make that stop?
Anytime you start a new exercise regimen, your body may respond with new feelings, good or bad. Read here for my response to this common question.