Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Dancing your way to fitness with Zumba

Tired of the old monotonous and painstaking routine of lifting weights or doing aerobics in order to lose weight?

Fret not. Now you can shed the centimetres and tone those muscles while dancing to some of your favourite Pitbull, Daddy Yankee, Enrique or Ricky Martin tunes.

The Zumba fitness program has added the word fun to exercising. Marriam Kebaimetse, one of the few certified Zumba instructors in Botswana, runs her own fitness club ‘Fitnessnfun’ currently based at the Gaborone Civic Centre.

Arts & Culture decided to pay her a visit, to help make sense of this global exercise phenomenon and shed light on its prevalence here in Botswana.

“I first got to learn about Zumba in 2012 after trying in vain to lose weight following the birth of my son,” she says. “I had spent a lot of money going to the gym and weight-loss boot camps but with no results.”

Kebaimetse says after growing tired of the gym she started jogging with a couple of her neighbours.

“I was huge and depressed,” she says. “And sometimes they would not show up and I would be disappointed.”

One day she was driving around town when she passed a group of people jogging on the side walk and decided to get her neighbours to form a fitness movement.

“We would get together early in the morning and jog for six kilometres during the week and climbed the Kgale hill on Saturdays.”
Kebaimetse soon got to learn about Zumba through a friend, Tiapo Graves, who was already a certified instructor.

“After joining Graves’ class and seeing results in just a month I was hooked,” she says. And as if to prove her point, she switches on her tablet to display her ‘before-and-after’ photographs.

“It’s like you are just dancing and having fun; it does not really feel like you are working out.”

Following the impressive results and her new found obsession with the fitness program Kebaimetse decided to become an instructor herself, and enrolled for training.

“They sent a Zumba Education Specialist (ZES) from the US to train us and that’s when Zumba started to become popular because now there were more instructors opening their own classes.” After getting her license she opened her own fitness class in October 2012.She currently instructs over 40 members. “Following training you get the opportunity to join the Zumba Instructors Network (ZIN) franchise and pay a monthly subscription fee,”she says.

If you do not join ZIN after training, she says, your license is only valid for a year.

“As a ZIN member you get new material every four to six weeks that includes new songs and moves to keep the exercises exciting.”

You do not necessarily have to change songs, she says, but it is important that you do. She says other benefits include advertising on the Zumba Fitness website.

Kebaimetse dismisses the ‘myth’ that Zumba is for women.

“It was started by a man,” she says. “It is only the perception of men here in Botswana.”

She says there are men in her class but not enough. “I do get gigs to instruct at various corporate companies where men also take part in the dance and get to enjoy themselves,” she says. “But getting them to join a regular class has always proved a challenge.”

Harry Ferguson, one of the few men in Kebaimetse’s class hailed the exercising program saying it has helped him lose an incredible amount of weight. “Since joining my energy levels have been sky high and I don’t even have to prise myself off bed in the morning anymore.”

Ruth Samuel, also an enthusiast, said her love for dancing makes Zumba feel nothing like an exercise. “You just lose weight without even realising it.”

Kebaimetse says Zumba is a full body work-out. “You need to attend one class to understand it,” she advices. “There is not a single body part that you do not work.”

And the benefits extend to more than just health.

“I get people calling me talking about how it has improved their energy levels and performance in bed,” she says. “It also helps with emotional stress; very therapeutic.

The Zumba dance fitness program was created by a Colombian choreographer Alberto Perez back in the 1990s. The choreography incorporates Hip Hop, soca, samba, salsa, mambo, and other forms of music and dance and each session lasts about an hour.

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