Monday, October 15, 2012

Buffalo, Shake It With Zumba!

A little over four years ago, I saw an infomercial for Zumba Fitness. As someone who had been teaching aerobics for a few years, I was looking for new class formats to try out. From the moment the infomercial started, I knew that Zumba would be my next adventure. I hopped on the Zumba website and decided to become licensed to teach it. 

A few weeks later I drove up to Rochester, NY and became a licensed Zumba Instructor. Within the first hour of the training, I was hooked. I spent the next few weeks immersing myself in Latin music before starting up the classes at Best Fitness in Tonawanda. I couldn't believe the feedback! At the time, Zumba was fairly unknown in the area, but after a few classes, the room was packed, and the numbers kept increasing. 

That fall I also began teaching Zumba for Bodyshaping By Sandy. Students fell in love with the classes, and above that were losing weight and gaining self esteem. Zumba changed my life too. It helped me lose weight, and teaching the classes helped me through some tough times in my life. It became a second family to me. It became that ME time, and an hour a night to just let anything bothering me fade away. 

I continued to regularly teach Zumba classes until this fall semester. I decided I needed to take a little time off to give my body a break and focus on a few other things. I am terribly missing it, so I decided I'd check out some other local instructor classes and learn some new moves of my own! 

Buffalo is full of so many wonderful Zumba instructors, and each has their own unique style, giving Buffalonians so many great options to choose from. I decided to highlight five local instructors, either offering classes on their own, or working out of local gyms/fitness companies, who each share the same passion for Zumba that I do. 

Julie and I have been friends for a while. We met while teaching for Bodyshaping By Sandy. Julie got involved in Zumba on a whim. The owner of Bodyshaping asked instructors to check it out, and Julie decided to, never thinking she would actually teach. Julie didn't feel confident in her dancing and was never comfortable dancing in front of others. Zumba changed that for her. 

"The best part is helping others. I really enjoy helping people reach their fitness goals and love getting them to realize that exercise can be fun." Julie told me. "One student has already lost 30 lbs. and keeps coming back for more. Another student has gained so much self confidence."

Julie brings so much fun to her Zumba classes. She has a great sense of humor that gets her students laughing and forgetting they are working out. She offers great "pep talks" during class that stick with her students long after their class is over. 

Julie incorporates so many easy, fun and catchy routines in, and always choreographs special songs during holidays and special occasions. She keeps that heart rate pumping high throughout her class and has more energy than anyone I know. 

In addition to a fitness routine, Julie tells her students to eat as naturally as possible. "Try not to put anything artificial in your body."

Julie teaches classes in West Seneca for Bodyshaping By Sandy & Curves. She also offers her own classes at St. John's Church in West Seneca and teaches at Villa Maria College for students and staff. Her classes typically run about $5 each, or classes can be purchased in semesters. 

Like me, Mary's first time taking a Zumba class was when she took the Zumba training to become licensed to teach. Mary was one of the original instructors who brought Zumba to The Buffalo Athletic Club. I met Mary when I purchased a three month summer membership to the BAC a few years ago. Mary's class was the first Zumba class I ever attended, outside of teaching my own classes. Teaching Zumba has always been my passion, but that day, I never had so much fun taking a class. 

Mary's personality is electric. She radiates happiness and joy, and you can't possibly have a bad time when you are in her class. She found a way to engage all her students from the front to the back of the room. "The best part of Zumba for me is the people. Not just the .
front row divas but that shy person in the back who finally gets that one step & breaks out in  the biggest smile in the world. It's my job to make everyone feel good and get a great workout."

"There are so many success stories!" Mary told me. "I never realized until I started teaching just how much impact one word or a smile can have."  

Mary's tip to those looking to get in shape out there: "Just move!" Whether it's playing with your kids, taking a walk or joining a fitness class, just keep moving! 

Mary teaches at a handful of the different BAC locations throughout the area. You can check out her schedule on their website. Non-members can also check out the classes! Drop Mary and e-mail today and she will get you into a class for free! 

After giving birth to her second child, Dawn Hammer was suffering from post-partum depression. As she sought therapy to help her out, part of the plan was to join fitness classes. In the past she would sign up for classes but never really attend. A fellow fitness instructor inspired her to join in classes, and eventually to teach. When Dawn heard the Latin beats of Zumba, she was instantly hooked. Soon after, she contacted a local fitness company and attended a Zumba training. Instantly, Dawn felt better about herself, was noticing physical differences in her body and turned around a very hopeless mind frame. 

Dawn offers classes Monday - Thursday evenings at The Park School in Snyder. Classes typically run around $5 per class, but you can buy different packages that reduce that cost even more! I had the chance to check out one of Dawn's classes this summer, on a very hot Buffalo summer night. The gym used for these classes is a good size and there were around 20 people in the class the night I went. There was plenty of room to move around. 

Dawn uses a lot of hip hop influence in her songs and the routines are fun and easy to follow. She throws in a few combinations that challenge those that aren't beginners, but after a few times through, everyone in the class had the steps down. Dawn uses different formations throughout class and brings in one of my favorites, "the battle" to break up the class and get everyone shaking! 

"People often tell me they don't have time to workout. While there are a lot of excuses, think of what you are getting in return: More energy during the day, rest better at night, and stay healthy to take care of family." 

Dawn's students have surely reaped the benefits. Students have increased bone density, were able to get off blood pressure medications and helped put their diabetes at bay, in addition to losing weight!

You can't help but feel inspired after an hour in her class. 

For the past 22 years, Olivia has been teaching a variety of different fitness programs to different populations. Her favorite have always been the dance based ones. "Dance is a powerful expression, and the joy of dance has always compelled me to find a way to make dance accessible to the masses."

With the simplicity of Zumba, the powerful Latin music, and the ability to let the music "call us" to dance, Olivia knew she had found her niche. "Dancing is the most fun you can have standing up!" She told me, and I tend to agree!

I had the chance to check out Olivia's class at Canalside this past summer. Canalside offered FREE classes during the week and Tuesday evenings were Zumba. A few of my friends and I checked out the class, and as far as class locations go, there has been no better spot than Canalside. On a beautiful summer night in Buffalo you get to see the sun set over the water! Olivia leads the classes along with two other instructors from Catalyst Fitness

While all three ladies who led the class were great, I really enjoyed the songs that Olivia did. Her facial expressions, movements and the wonderful passion you could see from her, made me wish I was taking a full hour of just her classes. You can catch her in action at Catalyst Fitness during the week. 

Both the newbies and the regulars make the class for Olivia, who said, "Seeing newbies after their first class knowing they are hooked and watching the regulars keep coming back and making a commitment to fitness that they never could before is the best part of Zumba for me."

When I asked Olivia about success stories, she answered a little differently than the others. "Zumba at the Waterfront has been a success story for Buffalo! It has been a part of the revitalization project at Canalside and our numbers were better than we could have hoped for. People had no idea where the waterfront was, where to park and if it was safe, but as they started to come out of the woodwork, they not only experienced Zumba, but the beautiful waterfront Buffalo has to offer! Now, a new crowd of people have experienced the revitalization taking place in this area!"

What more could you ask for, Buffalo?

For Jill, Zumba was the answered prayer she never expected! After leaving her full-time job in Employee Relations at UB, Jill became a stay at home Mom. She was teaching a few Pilates classes at the time but was hoping she would figure out a career path as time went on.  

After a fellow fitness instructor friend had to step back from teaching Zumba, Jill was asked to take over. She quickly learned the routines and took the training class and immediately was hooked. She couldn't believe she could earn a living dancing and sharing it with others. 

"I wouldn't be honest if I didn't admit that getting paid to do the one thing that I absolutely love is an absolute dream come true!" Jill told me. "But, it's not just that, it's the fact that I'm dancing with amazing people, my "Zumba babes" as I call them." Zumba is all about diversity in music and rhythms and Jill sees that diversity in her students every week. They come from different backgrounds, are different ages, but share one common passion for dancing and getting in shape! 

When I attended a special summer class Jill organized, I wished I lived closer so I could join her classes regularly. She combines great music, fun choreography and a lot of energy into an hour class that flies by. Out of all the classes I attended this summer, that was the one that felt most like a "family." You could tell all these ladies felt welcome, and over time have developed great friendships, in large part because of Jill. 

Jill's classes run through West Seneca Community Education and Lancaster Community Education and are offered in ten week sessions. While she doesn't offer a "walk in" option, you can contact her and get a guest pass at certain locations. 

Jill's fitness tip to everyone is to find a program that you love, because the most effective program is one that you will stick with! 

For thousands of Buffalonians, they have found that fitness program to be Zumba. If you haven't checked it out yet, please consider getting in touch with one of these amazing Buffalo women who all have an incredible passion for Zumba and helping people in Buffalo reach their fitness goals. 

Happy shaking!


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