Jodt Stott never imagined she would be able to keep up with her friend, Zumba instructor Autumn McCavit, when she attended her first Zumba fitness-dance “party” in Hillsdale at the Elks Lodge two years ago.
“I remember when I started and thought ‘Oh my, I am NEVER going to be able to move like her [McCavit],’” Stott, 49, said. “I couldn’t even touch my toes. In just about a month I was able to touch my toes and squat and sit with the bottom of my feet touching!”
Now, Stott is the instructor of the same class at the Elks Lodge, which occurs on Mondays and Wednesdays from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. Stott took over in August for McCavit when she became busy with family issues. Stott had been assisting McCavit and took advantage of the opportunity to get licensed and become the head instructor.
Currently, six to eight people attend the class on a regular basis. The numbers usually increase in the colder months and decrease during the summer because people become busy with outdoor activities, Stott said.
Zumba began in 2001 and has become a national phenomenon in the years since. Zumba.com defines the fitness style as “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 is downright addictive.”
The main difference between Zumba and other forms of dance workouts is that it focuses on letting the music move the dancers instead of counting reps over the music, according to Zumba.com.
The website stated that more than 14 million people take weekly Zumba classes in more than 140,000 locations across more than 150 countries.
Classes are offered in Hillsdale at the Stadium Roller Rink, Curves, Perennial Park, the Elks Lodge, and – as of last semester – Hillsdale College. The class started as an initiative of sophomore Emma Langston and the newly-formed Health and Wellness Club.
“Last semester, I was so sad when I came to campus and found out we didn’t have Zumba, so I talked to Dean Philip at the end of the first semester about starting it. I said, ‘there’s a need, and I can fill it,’” Langston said. “There was a group starting, called the Health and Wellness Club, under Brock Lutz, and so we got hooked up with them.”
Langston got her license over Christmas break in her hometown of Orlando, Fla., and began leading classes in Curtis Dining Hall on Wednesdays from 7 – 8 p.m. The classes will move to the new indoor athletic facility when that is completed, Langston said.
About 20 – 40 girls participated in the inception of the Zumba program last semester. This semester, that number has doubled and on some evenings, even tripled. This semester’s kickoff session had 102 attendees, while a consistent average of 40 – 60 usually attend.
Along with more participants, an additional instructor joined the Zumba fitness program this semester. Junior Shannon Baldwin became certified right before school started after encouragement from Langston. They now co-teach the class.
“You build relationships and [Zumba] breaks down barriers. You’re going to dance and have fun; it’s very unifying to have women all across campus come together and have fun together,” Langston said of the program. “You don’t have to have musical rhythm or dance abilities. Anyone can do it and have a blast doing it.”
“A lot of people people think ‘I’m not good at dancing,’ but it’s definitely doable. You don’t have to memorize moves,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin and Langston do have extensive dance backgrounds, which they did admit is beneficial for instructors who choreograph the routines.
Stott said she has many favorite parts of the high-energy workout, including the ease with which non-dancers can participate, as Baldwin and Langston said.
“I like that you get a workout without feeling like you are exercising,” Stott said.
Stott and other participants are, in actuality, treating their bodies to a vigorous cardio and strengthening workout. This is why the Zumba tagline is “exercise in disguise.”
“There are a lot of toning moves incorporated with a cardio workout. You can burn between 400 – 800 calories on average,” Langston said. “But you don’t even realize you’re working out.”
The health benefits that arise from Zumba are numerous, according to the three instructors.
“I have seen and know of several people who have lost a significant amount of weight. I know of people who were not very mobile and now can move more freely. I personally dropped my cholesterol levels significantly, to the point that I am no longer on cholesterol medicine,” Stott said.
Langston agreed that the physical benefits are obvious, especially to those who aren’t used to a steady exercise routine.
“A lot of girls have told me it’s inspired them to start workout regiments of their own. It’s easy for someone who doesn’t work out intensely like an athlete would, and it’s a great way to stay in shape and to get started,” Langston said. “A lot of girls say ‘I just didn’t realize how much I’ve been sitting down and how I’ve needed to get up and dance.’ They say its a big dance party.”
Baldwin also stressed the mental benefits Zumba offers.
“It’s good for your mental health, at least for me. I always look forward to it; it pumps me up to keep going and a lot of the girls that come get really excited about Zumba, so it’s definitely an endorphin boost,” Baldwin said.
All ladies are welcome to attend free Zumba classes on Wednesday evenings at 7 p.m. in Curtis Dining Hall.