Zumba brings the party to exercise

Group exercise trainers Christie Brawley and Jennifer Ludvigson get down with the music while getting in shape with Zumba at Feather River Fitness on Jan. 2. Zumba blends dancing and aerobics to form a new, fun way to exercise. Photos by James Wilson
James Wilson

  People across Plumas County are joining in a new exercise craze: Zumba.

  Zumba utilizes the movements of dance to create a unique exercise program that truly works out the body.

  The core idea behind Zumba is that exercise does not need to be boring. To illustrate, Zumba calls its classes “fitness parties.” The instructors guide participants in dances to a blend of Latin and world music.

  The idea started in the mid-’90s when Zumba’s founder Alberto Perez, a fitness instructor in Colombia, ran late for an aerobics class. Perez, in his haste to get to class, forgot to bring the standard aerobics music.

  Rather than go all the way home, Perez used his personal tapes that were scattered in his car — mostly a mix of salsa and merengue. Rather than simply focus on the aerobics, he let the music move him and his students. His students loved it.

  Perez moved to Miami in 2001 and conducted Zumba classes there. Two of his students realized the potential of the program and convinced Perez to brand it.

  The three started the Zumba Fitness Co., which took off at a phenomenal rate. The company started selling DVDs and eventually began training instructors to teach Zumba all around the world. Now Zumba is taught in more than 150 countries.

  Quincy’s Zumba instructors, Jennifer Ludvigson and Christie Brawley, first became aware of Zumba from an infomercial. The infomercial piqued their interest enough to attend a class.

  “We both love to dance,” explained Brawley, “so it really sounded interesting. We went to a class in Reno and fell in love with the idea.”

  “Three weeks later we went down to Sacramento and got licensed to instruct,” added Ludvigson.

  Both Brawley and Ludvigson were certified group fitness instructors before they discovered Zumba. Both continue to teach other forms of exercise, but see benefits inherent in Zumba.

  “Zumba is more for people that like to dance,” said Ludvigson. “It also burns calories at a lower heart rate, so it’s easier to get in shape without killing yourself.”

  By continuously changing one’s position and switching the muscles used in the workout, the heart rate of the participant stays lower than if one was to run, for example.

  During a 55-minute session Jan. 2, Brawley burned 746 calories — the equivalent of running. The difference is that, for people who like to dance, Zumba is much more fun.

  “It’s always a blast,” said Ludvigson. “It makes us smile and laugh, and we’re getting in shape while doing it.”

  Zumba also allows for improvisation, which is ideal for a broad age group. Participants can choose their own speed and limit to their dance. Anyone can exercise to Zumba.

  Brawley and Ludvigson teach Zumba classes at the Feather River Fitness Center on Mondays and Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. and Fridays at 8:30 a.m.

  Jennelle Verderber teaches classes at the Lake Almanor Fitness Center in Chester on Mondays and Wednesdays at 6 p.m. and Tuesdays at 8:30 a.m.

  Caitlin Raymond teaches at Fore! Fitness Nakoma on Wednesdays at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. and Thursdays at 9 a.m.

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