Stepping into a Latin-dance-inspired Zumba class for the very first time can be overwhelming. Between all the new faces and loud music, the whole scene can be a little unnerving. If you've always wanted to check out the "fitness dance party" for yourself, these eight insider tips will give you a sense of what to expect before heading into this fast-paced workout. This way you can leave your nervous feelings at the door and focus on the fun!
- You're going to sweat: Committed gym rats will be surprised at the amount of sweat that builds up during class. There's an opportunity to take a quick break between songs or whenever you see fit, so be sure to bring a big bottle of water and a small towel. Trust me: you'll be happy you did.
- Rock the right shoes: There's no need to invest in a pair of dance sneakers if you're not sure Zumba is right for you, but choose footwear wisely. Traditional running shoes are designed for front-to-back motion, and Zumba is all about the side-to-side movement and pivoting. Check out the bottoms of your sneakers at home, and wear the pair with the thinnest sole and most basic tread pattern — anything with ankle support will be helpful too.
- Expect a mix of levels: Don't worry about being surrounded by the crew of So You Think You Can Dance. There will be a number of people who attend class regularly, but you'll find a mix of all levels, shapes, and sizes at Zumba. Certain hardcore dancers will be jumping and taking things to the next level with every step, while others will choose to take a break midsong. You're encouraged to do whatever feels right for your body.
- Don't stand right up front: Even if you can't wait to get started, don't stand front and center at your very first class. Find a spot in the middle or toward the back. This way, you can get a grasp of the steps and follow people in front. After you attend a few times, try out different locations all around the room to see what you like.
- Identify the regulars: At a huge Zumba class with tons of people, you won't be able to see every single step and motion from the instructor. During the first song, scan the room and look for the folks who seem to be a little more advanced and know what step is up next. This way you'll always have someone to follow if you lose the rhythm or just aren't sure what's going on!
- It's OK to mess up: When class kicks off, teachers will yell, "Just keep moving!" Effort is everything, and no one is praised for their grasp of the choreography or technique. The mission of Zumba is to create an enjoyable workout that suits your needs. As long as you're continuing to move and refusing to give up, you're doing the workout right.
- The routine changes constantly: In most dance classes, one long routine is taught during the class, but Zumba takes a different approach. Once a new song starts to play, you begin with a clean slate and a whole new set of moves. There's no need to feel frustrated if there's a step you can't master. You'll always have another chance to get it right — or even a new favorite move to pick up!
- Prepare for noise: Folks who prefer a quiet, introspective workout might not find a match with Zumba. The music is pumping, and the instructor eggs on the class to yell, sing, and cheer. Social butterflies who love to get involved with the party should look up their closest Zumba location ASAP.