Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, February 21, 2014

Zumba sessions offer fun, fitness, flexibility

“Keep moving! Roll those shoulders! Have fun with it!”

Shelley Black, Zumba instructor, is doing her best to keep a roomful of women moving to the thumping ‘80s tune blasting through the speakers in a large activity room at Stuart Heights Baptist Church in Hixson, Tenn.

“Here we go: right, left, two, three. Keep it up!”

In return, each woman is doing her best to keep up with Black, whose back is turned to the class as she runs through a series of rapid, fluid exercises disguised as Latin dance. Some are doing a better job than others, but everyone is doing exactly what Black told them to do: they’re moving – even the shy ones in the back.

Black, Hamilton County Judge Rebecca Stern’s secretary, can relate.

“My family didn’t encourage exercise,” she says after the class is over. She’s flushed, but not nearly as soaked with sweat as her participants. “I went to my first class when I was 19. I got in the back row because I didn’t want anyone to see me.”

As Black gained confidence, she worked her way to the front. Eventually, the instructor asked her if she’d consider subbing. Black has been teaching exercise classes ever since.

Zumba, though, is unlike anything else she’s taught.

“It’s different because everything is done in steps of three, and people are used to doing things in even numbers,” she says. “But I break people in easy.”

Black also keeps things fun. “Zumba is dancing, so people have a great time,” she says. “You see more smiles. People come because they don’t feel like they’re exercising.”

Nicole Walker, one of Black’s regulars, agrees. “It doesn’t feel like you’re working out because you’re just dancing around and acting silly.”

Leisa Slater, another of Black’s aerobic disciples, says time flies when doing Zumba. “That hour is gone. Anything else I’ve done has felt like work, and the hour drags on.”

Despite the emphasis in Zumba on tight, rhythmic moves, Black says perfection is not expected. “I tell people to just come and enjoy themselves. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else in the room, just keep moving and do what you can do.”

Slater says the casual nature of Black’s Zumba class helps her to feel comfortable when exercising around others. “When you’re learning something new, everyone else is learning it at the same time.”

The benefits of moving Zumba-style, Black says, are off the charts. “We used pedometers to count how many steps people were taking, and it was around 3,000 steps per class. The amount of calories people burn is shocking.”

Slater says Zumba also helps her to simply feel better. “I started taking these classes last fall, and I got hooked. I feel better about myself because I’ve done something besides sit around and watch TV.”

That, says Black, is the key to why she teaches Zumba. “I love helping people do things to better themselves.”

The Zumba movement started in the 1990s when fitness instructor Beto Perez forgot his CD of aerobics music for a class he was teaching. He played the Latin music CDs he had in his car instead and changed the routine to dancing – and the rest is history. “His students loved it. No one wanted to go back to the old routines,” says Black.

Black has been teaching Zumba for five years, although for her, it wasn’t love at first step. She took a Zumba class at a judicial conference she was attending with Judge Black, and “hated it” because she didn’t understand the moves. A few years later, as Zumba fever was spreading across the U.S., a local YMCA asked Black if she would teach some Zumba classes. She agreed, and fell in love with the exercise style while earning her certification.

Black currently leads Monday night’s class at Stuart Heights, located at 105 Cloverdale Drive. The music and dancing begin at 6 p.m. The class is open to men and women.

Black encourages attorneys who are under pressure at work to take a class. “Most lawyers lie down at night thinking about their deadlines, and they wake up in the morning thinking about a statute of limitations. Zumba is a healthy way to get rid of the stress,” she says.

Black says attorneys who want to test the waters can purchase a ten-class ticket for ten dollars. She hopes at least a few will take advantage of the offer.

“The hardest thing about Zumba is taking the first step to be here,” she says. “So just come. Don’t be afraid to exercise.”