Updated: May 20, 2022
If you’ve ever watched a video about Zumba® and thought “that looks like fun, but there’s no way I could do that”, you’re not alone. The music is energetic, the moves look so fun…but something in your mind has got you questioning whether or not you belong in that class. If the class looks fun to you, then the answer is simple - yes, you belong! Zumba is not an advanced dance class for professionals. It is a fun, cardio-based, Latin inspired workout for anyone who wants to join, beginners included! Whether you’re a lifelong dancer, or simply find yourself tapping your toes to the music, this class is meant for you.
“Zumba looks so fun, but I can’t move like that!”
At one time or another, every instructor was a student. And every student was once a beginner. And at the time they were beginners, they didn’t move like that either. The person in the video who seems to be so seamlessly rocking those dance steps has practiced and practiced in order to get themselves shakin’ it like that. And if they can do it, so can you. But here’s the thing about Zumba: it’s not a professional dance class. In fact, it’s not a dance class! It is a place to show up, shake your cares away to some fiery music, sweat it out and just enjoy life for an hour. Dance skills not required.
Everybody and every body can do Zumba, because every body can dance to music in some form or another! Whether you have limited mobility or a full range of motion, if you can move to the music, you can Zumba. It is following choreography that often leads to feeling “unsuccessful” in class. So here is our best tip: jump in feet first.
Getting the footwork down is usually the trickiest part, so start there. Don’t worry about getting those arms in the air like you just don’t care - that part will come. Watch the instructor’s feet and work on mastering the lower body movements first. And here’s the secret sauce to following Zumba choreography: everything repeats! Moves repeat multiple times within a song, and often multiple times throughout a class! A move that you do in the third song of the playlist may just pop up again in the eighth, and now you’ve had a chance to practice it twice! It’s important to remember that it can take 4-6 classes to begin to really feel like you get the choreography - and this isn’t just for beginners! Instructors practice a new song many times before bringing it to their students, and their students, no matter how long they’ve been there, need a few classes to learn a new song as well! So if your legs are feeling a little pretzeled after the first class, don’t sweat it - the more you move, the more you’ll catch on.
Connecting with the Instructor is Essential
One of the easiest ways to put your mind at ease about joining your first Zumba class is to chat up the instructor. Tell them it’s your first time and that you’re feeling a little nervous. They know that feeling because not only have they been there themselves, but they’ve talked to other students who felt that way on their first day. At Yvonne’s Fitness, the instructors will know you’re new to the class, even if they don’t know you’re new to Zumba. We’ll come over and say hello to introduce ourselves, giving you the perfect opportunity to tell us this is your first time!
Talking to the instructor upfront is great for two reasons: 1) they can introduce you to some other people in the class - Zumba is all about community, and talking to another student who has been doing this for a while can help put you at ease, and 2) if the instructor knows they have a beginner in the class, they will teach to that. Good instructors have ways of making the moves beginner-accessible while also maintaining those high energy moves for the seasoned participants.
As mentioned above, pay attention to their feet first. The instructor will usually start by doing a move with just the feet every time time they teach it - even for the long-time participants, this serves as a reminder of “here’s where we start, now let’s build it up”. As the instructor adds more to the movement, remember to keep your eyes on their feet! When that starts to feel comfortable, pay attention to the arms, and try adding those in. Eventually the hips will follow too! It’s all a progression, but focus on adding that flavour over time and you’ll feel less overwhelmed at the start. In no time at all, you’ll “feel the music”, not even realizing that you are absolutely rocking that song.
Getting into that First Class
Knowing where to stand in class is key - you should be able to see the instructor from head to toe (especially toe - remember, “feet first”!). You don’t have to be in the front row, but make sure you’re staggered between participants. Eventually, you’ll catch on to who has been there awhile, and you can also try standing behind a seasoned participant! They’re a great guide for those days when the class is full, and you can’t seem to find a good space to fully see the instructor.
You might feel nervous, you might feel excited - you might feel both! The class is such a rush! However, if you start to feel frustrated during class, stop, march on the spot and let yourself listen to the music. Something about that Latin vibe brought you to this class - let that music wash over you to remind you of why you came in the first place. (Helpful Hint: marching in place is also a great idea if a song is feeling a bit too intense, or you simply just need a minute to take a breather). Most importantly, remember - NO ONE IS WATCHING! That voice in your head that says “I look silly, everyone knows I can’t dance” is just that - the voice in your head. Everyone else is watching the instructor and doing their best to catch on to the choreography, just like you!
VIRTUAL BONUS: Virtual Zumba Classes are great for beginners. While we love doing Zumba in person, there are benefits to being a first time Zumba student in an online class. You won’t struggle to see the instructor, you get the comfort of experiencing your first class in the privacy of your own home, and with pre-recorded classes, you can do a song over again if you want to get in a little bit of extra footwork practice!
Still feeling unsure? Try Zumba GOLD!
If you search Zumba Gold®, you may notice that it is often targeted towards an older audience, but really, it’s just a simplified version of a full-on Zumba class. The music is the same, but the moves are slowed down, and the intensity of some higher-energy moves is simplified to make it more accessible. It is great for older adults and anyone with limited mobility, but it is also a perfect opportunity to learn the steps at a slower pace which is great for beginners. Then, once you gain some confidence with the movement, you can decide if you want to take those steps into a higher-paced Zumba class!
If you never decide to move into a regular Zumba class, that’s okay too! Zumba Gold can be much easier on the body, as it is designed to be lower impact. It’s not which Zumba class you’re taking that matters - it’s the fact that you showed up, took that time for yourself, and let your body move!
No matter what kind of exercise class piques your interest, you have to start at the beginning. The most important thing to bring with you as a beginner to a Zumba class is an open mindset. Go in knowing that it might be a challenge, but it might also be a lot of fun. Know that it’s okay to be nervous, but it’s also okay to be excited. Trust that the instructor is there to make the experience enjoyable for you, and don’t be afraid to talk to them before or after class about how you’re feeling. If Zumba looks like fun to you, take the plunge and jump on in. Once that music hits you, you won’t look back.