Zumba– a vibrant mix of latin dance rhythms and a killer dose of cardio, is a core part of my fitness routine. In the last six years I’ve gone from zumba newbie to qualified instructor.
As my fitness improved, I became tired of the same gym workout. Six years ago I knew very little about fitness and my main focus was hammering the cardio machines in our university gym, lifting the occasional weight and running when it was sunny. As you can imagine I soon got bored, and my fitness adventure felt more like a chore. So when a friend suggested a Zumba class I instantly tagged along. An hour of dancing like Shakira, unleashing all the moves that usually only saw the light of day after a few vodkas in the student union? Yes please! However my first class was far from that. Overall, it was a very awkward hour of facing a mirror, realising I didn’t know my left from my right and elbowing a stranger in the ribs whilst trying to do something that resembled a body roll, but actually looked more like a fish out of water, all whilst a group of lycra clad ladies shot me disapproving looks- that was my first experience of Zumba. Unsurprisingly I vowed to never go back.
However, six months later when our flash new university sports centre opened I became curious once again. My membership included free classes and Zumba seemed popular. So one Friday afternoon I tottered off to a class, it genuinely couldn’t be any worse that the Beyonce fish incident. The warmup went ok, almost tied my feet in a knot attempting a grapevine, but I hadn’t fallen over and most importantly I hadn’t caused anyone any accidental bodily harm so all was good. Second track in was Gasolina by Daddy Yankee (a track I currently use in my Zumba classes albeit with a different routine). That was it, I was hooked. Suddenly I just didn’t care, I flailed my arms about like there was no tomorrow, sweat pouring off me and before I knew it the hour was up. Possibly one of the best cardio workouts I had experienced, and certainly the most fun.
After that I religiously attended Zumba class. The weight began to fall off and my fitness was improving drastically, suddenly I could run faster and further, I became interested in what else I could do in the gym and began lifting weights with my boyfriend. By the time my 21st birthday rolled round I treated myself to a beautiful black and white size ten dress from Lipsy- a world away from my 18th birthday where I was a size 18! Not only had my fitness improved but my confidence too and my grades at University (I eventually graduated with a first class degree). Zumba was having an incredible impact on my life.
When my usual instructor left I felt a bit lost. The new instructor was lovely, an incredible dancer, but the class just didn’t have the same vibe for me. So when the training was advertised in Preston I decided to go along. I originally had no intention to teach, I just wanted to plethora of DVDs to workout at home. I also joined the Zumba Instructor Network (ZIN) so I would get continuous DVDs and music sent to my home. I really began to love being able to select my favourite rhythms and create my own cardio workouts at home.
I fell into teaching accidentally, one afternoon my local gym rang to say the Zumba class I was booked onto that evening was cancelled due to instructor sickness. I suddenly found myself telling the receptionist that I was qualified and was invited to cover the class. With five hours to spare I threw a playlist together from the tracks I knew, checked all the relevant licenses and gave it my all. It was incredible, I was in control of the music meaning all the tracks and routines I loved were crammed into one class. It was a success and I was invited to cover on a permanent basis.
I eventually began my own classes in Lancaster, and I’ve been teaching there for almost four years now. In addition to this I also took on classes at UCLan Sir Tom Finney Sports Centre, which I absolutely love. During the final months of my PhD I was teaching six classes per week and my instructing was my sole income. I can honestly say there is no better feeling than doing something you love.
Whilst I’ve begun to scale my teaching back to three classes a week, I still absolutely love being a Zumba Instructor- its an integral part of my fitness routine and I feel its part of my identity! I’m now qualified to teach Zumba (level 1 and 2), Zumba Toning, Zumba Step and Zumba Core. I’m so glad I made the decision to train and I’m so grateful for the amazing people I have met along the way! If you’ve never tried a Zumba class I would highly recommend it!
Finding a Zumba Class
To find classes in your area see the main Zumba website and search using your town or postcode. The website brings up a variety of Zumba classes, as well as Zumba Gold (slightly lower intensity), Aqua Zumba (in the pool!) and STRONG by Zumba (HIIT meets music). There are also Zumba classes for youths, children and babies- so plenty to choose from. My main tip is to try a few instructors and see what style you like- every instructor is different.
Becoming an Instructor
If you’re considering training- search for trainings in your area. You begin with your Basic 1, where you learn four core rhythms over one ram jam day. You have the option to join the Zumba Instructor Network which I highly recommend. It does require a monthly subscription but it means you are constantly given new music and choreography (should you need some inspiration) plus it saves you from needing to redo your B1 every year. After this day you’re qualified- you do not need to have an Exercise to Music Qualification (although it is recommended). To begin teaching you do need some public liability insurance and a PPL license to play music ONLY if you are using your own tracks- anything given to you on your Zumba CDs is owned by Zumba and therefore if you solely use these you don’t need any additional license- my best advice is to consider what you will be using and speak with PPL if you are unsure. You must also register with HMRC. A first aid course is not compulsory- however I strongly recommend it, many insurance policies are void without it and lets face it, exercise has its risks and therefore I feel it is essential that you are trained appropriately, it could save someone’s life. My best suggestion is to check out emergency first aid at work courses run by St John’s Ambulance and similar organisations. In addition I always carry a first aid box. I also have clients sign a waiver before their first class, I ask for them to declare any injuries, conditions or illnesses so that I can check they are safe to enjoy the class. Once you’ve sorted all these you’re free to enjoy your instructing.
Once you’re established you may want to expand what you can teach- so toning, step or other Zumba specialities. Check the website to see what interests you and what would suit your client base. Bear in mind Step and Toning require you to purchase additional equipment.
Becoming an instructor isn’t complicated but it does require a passion for Zumba, a generally good level of fitness and good organisational skills. At first it is scary getting up at the front with all eyes on you, but you get used to it really quickly. You don’t have to be perfect, forgetting steps is part and parcel of being human, we aren’t robots and we can’t remember everything- most of the time my class don’t notice, and when they do we have a good laugh about it. Just be yourself and enjoy the journey!