Active Lifestyles: Salsa your way to success at Zumba

Hayley Blackburn

Mr. World-Wide echoes through the speakers. “Now go… now stop… now drop… now PAUSE.” Sweat dripping from my brow, I channel my inner Beyoncé to go, stop, drop and pause like I am on stage at a Pitbull concert. Alas, I am not shaking my tail feathers to a crowd of thousands, but I am dancing my way to fitness at a Zumba class.

Zumba can be a fun addition to your active lifestyle, especially if you love to dance. Every time I feel the beat start pumping, my heart begins to race in synch with the bass. I just can’t help but shake my hips and salsa across Studio 1 for all of the Rec Center to see. Song after international pop song plays and, before I know it, the cool down jam signals 45 minutes are up. When I am looking for a cardio day or a change from my usual routine, Zumba class is my go-to workout.


Five things to know for your first Zumba class:


The music is a cultural experience.

Zumba features songs from around the world and is heavily focused on Latin sounds. A few familiar American pop artists will be heard, like Pitbull or JLo, but get ready to find your new favorite song in a language you may not understand. I love “Caipirinha,” which I hear is named after a Brazilian cocktail.

Warm up your hips to shake, shake, shake.

Booty bouncing, hip shaking and body rolling dominate Zumba classes. These movements are fun, sexy and provide a great workout for your abs. Practice in the mirror right now! Place your hand on your stomach and feel your abs working. Now, do this for another 44 minutes for abs that could make Shakira jealous. Other popular moves at Zumba class involve the salsa steps, shoulder shimmies and squatting low.

You will be sore

Seriously. Zumba is a fun time that doesn’t feel like a workout, but I am always a little sore the next day. Dancing with a Latin-inspired flair uses muscles that don’t get a workout from benching. Diversity in your sweat-seshes is the key to a total body transformation; so keep all your muscle groups moving in new ways to be toned all over.

Dress to impress while you sweat.

At the first Zumba class I attended, I wore basketball shorts and a t-shirt. I do not advise this attire because there are mirrors everywhere! Pull out a colorful top and pants or shorts that have some movement in them so you look fierce while dancing. My mom is a Zumba instructor in Arizona and gets me branded swag for Christmas. Although you don’t have to shop the Zumba store, look for clothes that show your edgy, street style so you look ready for the next Step Up movie. You will be checking yourself out all class long.

Zumba Fitness
My favorite Zumba sports bra and pants to help me move like Shakira. Photo credit: Hayley Blackburn


Work hard

You get out of the class what you put into it. The same class can make you sweat like crazy or barely pant. This is your workout, so choose the level of impact that is best for you. I always opt for the highest impact move (side jumps instead of side steps, etcetera) to keep my cardio up. I shake my hips with every fiber of my being and lose myself in the music. If you half-ass the dances, you won’t get a great workout. Make the most of your 45 minutes and don’t worry about what everyone else in the class is thinking.

You don’t have to be the best dancer in the room.

Remember my post on gymtimidation? The same applies to Zumba – don’t be afraid of looking silly because, really, no one is watching you. Everyone else is focused on the instructor, wishing they could move like him or her. If you are trying to get the moves and are having fun, it doesn’t matter that you aren’t the next JLo. Not trying is far more silly than giving it your best shot.

Zumba and Dance HIITs classes are offered six days a week at the CSU Rec Center, as well as Miramont, Fusion, Raintree Athletic Club and many other places. This week, I challenge you to salsa your way to success at a Zumba class! Dance by next Thursday and tweet me with #CALChallenge; Zumba is a great workout and your hips won’t lie.

Collegian writer Hayley Blackburn can be reached at or on Twitter @hayley_blckbrn. If you have a specific question or topic, let her know. Leave a comment!