Ditch the work out and join the party!
When Louise Stephenson began offering informal Zumba classes to snowbird ladies in the garage of her parents' Florida home, she had no idea her love for the upbeat and sexy workout would propel her toward a new career.
Stephenson is a Zumba instructor here in Vankleek Hill. She offers classes at the Vankleek Hill Community Centre on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7 p.m. (except the third Thursday of the month, when it's at 9:30 a.m. instead), and Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. whenever the hall is available.
For those of you who don't know what Zumba is, Ii's an exhilarating, effective, easy-to-follow, Latin-inspired, calorie-burning dance fitness-party that's moving millions of people toward joy and health.
Zumba Fitness® is the only Latin-inspired dance-fitness program that blends red-hot international music, created by Grammy Award-winning producers, and contagious steps to form a "fitness party" that Zumba-lovers claim is downright addictive.
Since its inception in 2001, the Zumba program has grown to become the world's largest - and most successful - dance fitness program with more than 14 million people of all shapes, sizes and ages taking weekly Zumba classes in more than 140,000 locations across more than 150 countries.
Stephenson said she became addicted to Zumba after attending a class given by local Zumba guru Amy Cooper in Grenville last summer.
"I fell in love with Zumba when I tried my first class with Amy Cooper in Grenville," Stephenson recalled. "I was immediately hooked. It truly, literally changed my life."
Stephenson said she was in a funk at the time - she was overweight and constantly working. She knew she needed to make a chance not only for her health, but to restore balance to her busy life.
"'I'm a freelance translator by day and I love my job, but I was sitting at my desk for at least 10 to 12 hours a day, and it was just too much," she said. "My life lacked balance - all I did was work, I was always "in my head.""
Once she started doing Zumba, Stephenson said, things began to change.
"I loved it so much that I made it a priority in my life," she remarked. "I refused to miss a class. It helped me tap into this inner joy that had been dormant for a long time. I did six years of ballet as a child and with Zumba I started to remember just how much I loved to dance. I began to transform into a healthier, happier me as the weeks and months passed."
Then, last Christmas, Stephenson went to visit her parents in Florida. She said she just couldn't do without her Zumba fix, so she brought some playlists with her.
She set up in her parents' open garage and worked out there. Many of the snowbird ladies would walk by the garage and stop to watch Stephenson while she worked out. Stephenson said she was shocked when, the next day, a few ladies came back dressed in work out clothes.
"They just joined in," she said. "Next thing you know, I was giving an informal Zumba class. Every single one of them mentioned I should be doing this for a living. At first I didn't really take their comments seriously, but then it dawned on me that yes, that's what I needed to do. It was a revelation. I'd just been telling myself in the past months that I needed to bring more joy into my life, and here was the path I could follow to do it."
When she returned from Florida, Stephenson signed up for the Zumba instructor course, then for a CPR course. She reserved the hall at the community centre and began preparing her classes.
She said the response has been "phenomenal" and noted Vankleek Hill was desperate for a Zumba class.
"I' just blown away," she commented. "Honestly, this was the best decision I could have made."
When asked what makes Zumba so special, Stephenson said the key is the music.
"We pick music that is so infectious that you can't help but feel good," she explained.
Stephenson works hard to create routines that are easy to follow, so anybody can join in at anytime and not feel too lost. She said she has new people every class and it's important that they be able to just join in and follow along.
"Students have to be able to follow along from the get-go," she said. "That's very important."
Another big reason why Zumba is so popular - it's exercise in disguise. Stephenson said she doesn't consider herself to be an overly athletic person, but Zumba was big revelation for her.
"When I look at my students during the class, I can see them sweating, but with big smiles on their faces," Stephenson said. "You feel like you're at a party just having fun, but then the pounds start to come off, you start to feel happy and full of energy. Many people, including my husband and I, are hooked as of their first class."
Stephenson said she feels very fortunate to be doing something she loves while staying fit and regaining the balance she was craving in her life.
"To be able to actually enjoy exercise and finally get fit doing something I love... what a gift!" she noted. "I always had to work hard at motivating myself to exercise in the past, it always felt like a duty or a chore. Now it's just plain fun!"
For more information about Stephenson's Zumba classes, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org