Zumba: the business of burning calories for fun in Clinton

They come in droves to salsa, merengue, cumbia and even belly dance.

They come in droves to salsa, merengue, cumbia and even belly dance.

It’s all part of the new cardio-fitness craze called Zumba, and it’s taking the international fitness scene by storm.

But if you hone in on South Whidbey, where some were introduced to the new exercise routines by Chizue Rudd, group exercise director at the Island Athletic Club in Freeland, it’s clear that the craze is still spreading even on the island. It was at the Freeland club where Allison Miller got her start with Zumba.

After becoming a certified instructor of the officially named “Zumba Fitness” program, Miller, a Clinton mother of two young children, introduced members of her church congregation to a casual class or two. She was mainly interested in offering an exercise option to fellow moms who need daycare while they work out.

When the church space they were using quickly became too small for her purpose due to an overwhelming response, Miller realized the need for affordable fitness classes among mothers with young children was bigger than she knew.

“Facebook has been my greatest tool,” Miller said.

“People who take Zumba often post about it after class. It has created a buzz. I believe that is what happened at the church this summer,” she said.

Now, a whole new contingent of South End hip shakers are flocking to Miller’s “Island Zumba” classes at a new studio in Ken’s Korner in Clinton.

Family Care Essentials, the health, fitness and wellness store, has expanded and built a dance studio next to its shop. The studio is equipped with a sprung wood floor, mirrors and an instructor’s stage. Miller holds about 17 classes per week, including three free classes that include toning and a review of the Zumba choreography.

The tag line on every Zumba website (Miller’s is www.islandzumba.com) reads, “Ditch the workout, join the party!” which pretty much sums up the mad success of this worldwide fitness phenomenon.

“I think what is special about Island Zumba is the non-threatening, accepting environment,” Miller said.

“I have all ages, sizes, dance abilities and backgrounds of men and women dancing together.”

In a nutshell, Zumba is a dance fitness program using Latin-inspired international music and dance steps that combine to create a fun and effective workout. It is cardio-based, with sculpting exercises designed to tone the entire body. The routines feature intervals of fast and slow rhythms, peppered with resistance movements designed to burn fat. The classes last about one hour and include a warm-up and cool down.

But the real attraction for the exercising masses is the easy-to-do movements set to upbeat and mainly Latin-influenced rhythms, with a bit of hip hop, reggae and polka tunes thrown into the mix for good measure.

Offshoots of Zumba dance offered at Island Zumba include Zumba Toning, which uses the same rhythms as Zumba to create a total body muscular endurance workout, utilizing lightweight toning sticks (1.5 pound maracas). The Zumba toning sticks are provided in class.

There also is a class called Zumba Gold designed for the active older adults, people recovering from injury or the true beginner, a version of set on offering an exclusive group fitness program for children called Zumbatomic.

Miller will offer an introduction to Zumba through the South Whidbey Parks & Recreation program this winter. Look for it on the schedule of parks and rec classes.

One of Miller’s main goals is to make Zumba available to everybody by making it as affordable as she can.

There are a few payment options at Island Zumba, including 10- and 20-class punch cards, and monthly unlimited memberships, where members can take as many classes as they like for a set cost and drop-in rates of $7 per class. Miller also offers a significant discount for students (age 14 through college age), families and a special $2 drop-in rate for children 7-13 who can dance if they are with a parent.

“My prices are competitive,” Miller said, “and in many cases, cheaper than what is offered in Seattle. That has been a huge complaint I’ve heard over and over. That South Whidbey doesn’t offer anything like the prices for exercise offered at the YMCA or 24 Hour Fitness.”

Island Zumba currently offers three free classes each week and any free trial class for newcomers.

Check the website for special events such as today’s and tomorrow’s pre-turkey calorie burnout.

Newcomers should mention at the front desk before class that it’s their first time.

“Be sure to tell the instructor it is your first time so she can give you some pointers,” Miller added.

Island Zumba is in Ken’s Korner Shopping Plaza next to Island Drug. Call 360-661-3719, e-mail info@islandzumba.com or click here for information.