Partying the Calories Away through Zumba with Tal

I used to think exercise is a real pain. But Zumba just proved that you can put fun and exercise in a single sentence. Yes, we are not dreaming. It’s possible to shape up and lose some fat without dragging yourself to do it.

Zumba is an “in” thing for aerobic exercise enthusiasts. When you’re twenty or thirty-something, busy, and gaining weight, home exercise videos are one of the few things you can do to console yourself before you down that Big Mac you just ordered in a mad rush to grab dinner.

I am part of the sedentary many, but I wanted to make health reforms and turn me into the fit and fabulous few. It was a good thing that my writing buddy Stella mentioned a certain Zumba instructor who holds Zumba classes discounted for UP students and employees at CSWCD building.

Hours of stalking research later, I found her online. Her name is Tal (full name: Natalia Chan), and she has a blog (click here!)

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I checked her schedule, and true enough, she holds two classes in UP on weeknights. But the CMC Wednesday schedule’s too early (5-6pm) for a working girl like me. So I went there last Friday, only to find a bunch of smiling girls waiting by the stairs.

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For my first ever Zumba class, I settled for basic black tights and a screaming red loose t-shirt to hide the giant ab that needs to be sculpted. I had intended to use my yellow Reebok running shoes for this workout, but after reading numerous Zumba beginner articles, I decided against it. Not able to afford a new pair of cross-trainers, I just wore my cute pink and white sneakers with matching striped socks.

Just for the record, I am not the cheerleader from high school or dancer. I am more of the library geek type who just holes up and reads, with minimal concern for PE subjects and health and nutrition. The health negligence eventually caught up to me and now, I am unfortunately unable to enjoy life at its fullest because I am too sickly. 🙁

So stepping inside that large auditorium was a big step for me, another plus one for my aims of discovering myself further this 2013.

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While Tal sets up the sound system, numerous thoughts were floating in my head.

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I was asking myself, I am no dancer… What the hell am I doing here? Should I just observe and make a blog post about it (wimp!)? What if I look stupid? 

But Tal had been very reassuring about my non-dancing and sedentary background. She said that it was super fun. And the moment the beat started to emanate throughout the auditorium and people started positioning themselves, I just knew that there was no more way that I am backing out. This is really something I must do for myself and for my health, and this is not even a prison sentence. This is the cardio workout I have been googling since last year to complement my renewed interest in jogging weekly.

(Just so you know, I munched on some french fries before entering the room. I am still working on my food and nutrition plan…)

And well, my dancing was as not as bad (maybe it’s because my sister, mom, and boyfriend weren’t there watching me look like a klutz and laughing about it!). Just that, when they started doing coordinated/simultaneous hand and foot work, I get lost in a they-are-dancing-in-the-left-direction-and-I-am-in-the-right-shit-please-Lord-help-me kind of way. But who cares? We were dancing to the tune of songs like “Sexy and I Know It.” Some of that bouncy vibe is bound to rub off. An average of 500-700 calories is burned per hour with a non-stop Zumba class like Tal’s. Indeed, you will be sexy before you know it if you do it regularly.

Prior to this, I was absolutely terrified to take any dance class. I only had those home exercise videos like Regine Tolentino’s Belly Dancing VCD (I looked like a worm when I did it), and the ultra-famous HipHop Abs which is surprisingly, infectiously fun to do but gets stale over time if you keep on doing the same routine day in and day out.

But a group class offers a dynamic and happy atmosphere that you don’t always get when you watch an exercise video. Sometimes, it’s more likely that you give up when trying to follow an exercise video. But when someone is screaming on stage and telling  you to keep moving and encouraging you to keep at it, it really makes a difference. Especially in the final few minutes where you just want to lie in bed, munch on more junk food, and forget the exercise goal.

I am fortunate because Tal is supportive. My least favorite part of the routine (as a painfully shy person) was the T-shirt call where Tal calls people to join her on stage based on the color of their shirt. I tried to pretend that I was not wearing red when she called RED. I did not have any access to a colorless shirt so I joined the red team and well, I did my very best to keep up.

As I scanned the faces of my fellow Zumba classmates from the stage, I just realized that everyone was just having fun and honestly, they did not care if my foot went in another direction because Tal was in front. All my fears about being ridiculed and looking like a complete klutz on the dance floor were dissipated because 1.) this is not school where I get graded, 2.) the usual beloved bullies of my life are not there to laugh at every move I make (!), and 3.) Tal is a very good and nurturing instructor.

It’s a bunch of party songs, in essence, with intense moves of jumping, arm movement, wiggling of the hips, and an occasional raising of fists and screaming. I don’t know the technical terms but I wheezed, I begged for water mentally on the 20th minute, jumped, undulated whatever is able to undulate in my body, and took part in all that aerobic movement. But it does not feel as boring because it’s so hip, the music was so upbeat, and Tal’s energy and commitment to rally everyone to party the fats away was just plain contagious and engaging. Can I just say, she had this Mel C Spice Girl vibe to her. And that’s a big compliment coming from a 90s kid slash giant Spice Girl fan like me.

And just when I thought the fun ended in the routine, we had “Sailing” by Christopher Cross for our cool down, which is one of my favorite songs of all time. 🙂 I stepped out of the auditorium barely able to walk but happy deep inside. I was supposed to eat isaw but after working so hard to burn all those calories, I just decided to go for a fruit shake with Stella before we head off to the UP Fair that night.

Do you also want to experience Zumba like I did? Here are some Tips for those wanting to try Zumba like this poor beginner:

1. Bring one to two liters of water. I was as parched as the Sahara desert by the end of the hour.

2. Find a comfortable pair of shoes that will help reduce your foot’s impact with the floor. (There’s a lot of jumping so allot a budget for a good pair that will last you.) Also, get some really breathable cotton shirt because you’re going to sweat A LOT. A face towel may be a friendly after-workout hello.

3. Make friends with the regulars. This way, you will have an increased likelihood of coming back and seeing them again.

4. Breathe during the exercise (believe me, you can forget breathing sometimes, but you need to consciously will yourself to do it). And keep moving even if you cannot follow all the steps. It’s okay. 🙂 This is not a contest, but a fun party to get you fit.

5. Don’t think of time remaining or time elapsed or calories burned during the session. JUST HAVE FUN AND GROOVE IT. That’s the whole point of joining this group exercise. It makes fitness activities so much fun.

6. Let loose and allow yourself to look ridiculous. This is not the time for prim and proper.

7. Don’t eat too much before the session. Lots of jumping and sweating. Don’t pig out after the session, sayang ang calories.

8. Ignore the video camera on the side. Find a colorless T-shirt to exempt you from T-shirt Calls. (– just kidding, Tal. )

Thanks again, Tal! Had a fabulous experience. My sweaty, red-faced, smiling self is living proof that I tried Zumba, lived to tell the tale, and clamored to come back for MORE! And I will.

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P.S. I experienced an endorphin high of happy hormones up to two days after. And whenever I heard the song “Sexy and I know it” on my iPod after this class, I feel like wearing my sneakers, hiding in my room, and practicing the moves. Hooked! <3 It is indeed an addicting venture.

Unlike the disgruntled notion from the non-Zumba world that it’s just one of those exercise fads that might fade in time, I really disagree. I think it’s here to stay. 🙂 I tried dumbbells and treadmills, and I did not feel like coming back to them as much as I did when I tried Zumba fitness last week.

So come on, let’s party the calories away! 😀

To find the nearest Zumba party place near you and convenient to your schedule, just check out: Zumba.com

To learn Zumba under the expert guidance of Tal, click here to check her schedule. 🙂 I think she also has classes at Planet Infinity Gym on Mondays at 7-8pm. Just ignore the video cams, and make sure to get a photo opp with her after workout for added fun in your chest of photo memories. You can also text her at: 09178553399.