Zumba fitness craze sweeping St. Marys

Touted as a "fitness party," the Zumba workout program is gaining popularity across the country, as well as on a local level. Licensed Zumba instructor Brandi Benden teaches classes four days a week at the St. Marys Boys and Girls Club, while fellow certified instructor and Curves of St. Marys owner Peggi Yeager plans to incorporate Zumba classes into the gym's circuit beginning on Feb. 10.By combining Latin dance moves with resistance training, Zumba provides an intense workout, no matter a person's fitness level. Participants can burn anywhere from 400 to 500 calories or more per 45-minute session depending on how intensely a person moves. "I love how great Zumba Fitness makes you feel," Benden said. "Zumba is all about getting out there, feeling the music, just letting loose and having a great time. And all the while you are getting a fantastic workout. That's why Zumba is often called 'exercise in disguise'; often times, you are too busy having such a fun time with your friends that you don't even realize how much you are exercising."A typical one-hour class consists of 13-15 routines."We do a few songs to get your muscles as well as your joints warmed up. This is essential in helping to prevent injury, especially during the cold winter months," Benden said. "Warms-ups are followed by songs of varying intensity, designed to both raise and lower your heart rate. Finally, we slow things down with a nice cooldown where we stretch the muscles back out again, and hopefully leave everybody feeling refreshed and renewed."Classes take place Mondays and Wednesdays from 5 to 6 p.m. and on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7:45 to 8:45 p.m. Benden plans to add daytime classes starting in February, in addition to possible Saturday classes once or twice a month."Everybody's first class is absolutely free," Benden added. "I want people to come see what Zumba Fitness is all about without feeling they are risking too much."There is no need for any kind of formal dance training to take Zumba classes. All you need is the ability to move and the willingness to have a good time," Benden emphasized. At Curves of St. Marys, the Curves Circuit with Zumba fitness offers a different spin on the new exercise craze. "Our members will do one minute on a resistance machine, then one minute on the floor of Zumba move. I will be in the middle of the circuit the entire class teaching 'in the round,'" Yeager explained.Each 30-minute class incorporates warm-up, resistance training, cardio, cooldown and stretching. According to Yeager, Curves of St. Marys plans to begin offering the special Zumba classes on Thursday, Feb. 10. at 5:45 and 6:15 p.m. The two classes will continue to be offered weekly on Thursday evenings. She noted that both classes are already full and the regular Curves circuit is not available during the Zumba class. "We are looking to add classes as we go, once we determine the best days and times," Yeager said. "Classes are filling up fast. I can take 27 ladies per class."The Curves Zumba classes are being offered free to Curves members during February. In addition, anyone interested in trying the classes may do so as part of a free weeklong trial membership at Curves. Yeager emphasized that potential members must first visit the gym to learn the circuit before they are permitted to add Zumba.Zumba was conceived in 2001 by creator Alberto "Beto" Perez of Cali, Colombia. Zumba classes are now offered in over 90,000 locations across more than 110 countries and have reached more than 10 million people of all shapes, sizes and ages.