Monday, December 31, 2012

School fundraiser in La Manzanilla, Mexico


A Zumba fundraiser in the Ejido office with June Nery
On Thursday a gaggle of women got together for an hour and a half Zumba with June Nery and myself (as a guest instructor) to raise money for school supplies for the local elementary school in La Manzanilla, Mexico, about three hours south of Puerto Vallarta. June says they need everything --- not just pens and notebooks but tissues and toilet paper. Everything.

People were generous plus worked it out on the day after Christmas.

June holds weekly classes in the Ejido office in La Manzanilla, a little ex-pat community in a small fishing village in Tenacatita Bay, in the state of Jalisco. The Ejido office is like the community building in the states. Concrete floors, ceiling fans, one bathroom. Sufficient.

June Nery leads weekly classes in La Manz
June is a former dance teacher from the U.S. and it shows up in her form. Perfect. And she can always face the class, turn away, then turn back, which is one of my dyslexic challenges. Working out with her reminds me to get my arms up higher, my movements large and identifiable. Always good reminders.

The greatest morning challenge at that location is the smell of pork carnitas being cooked in the big metal basin in the street, with the carnitas fumes wafting in toward the end of the class. Could be a good thing for some. Probably not much of a good thing for a vegetarian. But interesting.

June raised another $1,000 pesos for school supplies, about $76 U.S. dollars. That can go a long way down here.

Off the beach for a fundraiser in La Manzanilla

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A month of Beach Zumba

The early morning Zumba class in Nuevo Vallarta is growing!
It's been a month since I dragged my PylePro PA system down to the beach in Mexico and started an impromptu Zumba class. And what a fiesta this past month has been.

It's so different than teaching Zumba in the states. It's kind of a pulsing, changing crowd, like the waves we're watching. I might start out with 20 people when the class begins at 8 and by 8:30 it could be up to 30 or more. And back to about 25 as we're stretching.

I'm out in front on the hardpack sand where there is a corridor of walkers and runners between me and the waves, who also getting their morning exercise. Everyone reacts differently to the class --- but there's definitely no sneaking by. A few avert their eyes, hoping not to make eye contact. But the majority are dancing their way by us, or a quick thumbs up, often even dropping in for a routine or two. And then they are back the following class for the whole 60 minutes.

I find I have to really focus on the music and the routines rather than what's going on out in front of me or I lose it. Last week I spotted some baby tortugas trying to swim out through the surf. On Friday a friend's husband was paddleboarding in front of us and between routines we stopped to yell a hearty "Hola, Jay!"

I have a small cadre of regulars, mostly Mexican women, who live year round in the nearby condos. And they are the ones who really bring the fiesta to the class. The rest of the crowd is here for a couple of days on vacation, maybe up to two weeks, delighted to find a Zumba class on the beach. Sometimes I have a handful of men participating. Sometimes none.

What it means, as a teacher, is that I have to continue to keep the routines simple but fun, and assume that there will always be a majority of newcomers.

But the bigger challenge has been coping with the tides. We haven't had many low tides in the early morning and the softer sand is a challenge. But what a workout. Wow! My homework for tonight is to put the tide chart into my calendar. That's a first in my teaching career. But I can live with it. It's a blast to be teaching in such an incredible setting.

All my Zumba friends and instructors, come join us if you're on vacation in the Puerto Vallarta area. We're in Nuevo Vallarta and hopefully will be out there through March on Monday/Wednesdays/Fridays at 8 a.m. I'd love to have some guest instructors stop on by and lead a routine or two.

For those of you in the La Manzanilla, Barre de Navidad/Melaque area over Christmas, I'll be in La Manzanilla on Thursday morning (Dec. 27) for a Zumba fundraiser for school supplies for the local school, with June Nery. C'mon over to the Ejido office in La Manzanilla at 9 and join the hour and a half long party and help the school children!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Have Sound System - will beach Zumba

Two weeks after arriving in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, I couldn't stand it. No exercise? No dancing? No laughing?

No way.

I explored some of the local gyms and resorts and teaching anywhere was going to be too complicated, for a variety of reasons. So with the management support at Bahia del Sol in Nuevo Vallarta, I hung out my Zumba shingle on the beach and cranked up the music.

Second day of Beach Zumba at Bahia del Sol, Nuevo Vallarta

Wow, did it work!

Vacationers from the condo, people taking morning walks, random exercisers. No matter. Some weird version of a flash mob? Who knows. I just hope it keeps up. I've added Saturday, so now we'll be out there shaking it up on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays at 8 a.m --- and hoping for a low tide. More flat, more hard pack.

I ordered a Pyle Pro PA system and brought it down in the shipping carton, no problema. It's the same system I used in the States.  I brought the receipt for customs, which they actually asked for --- probably assuming it cost way more than the $180 I paid for it. I knew from experience that electronics are very pricey or unavailable in Mexico.

So I wheel it down to the beach, hang out the Zumba poster, crank up the sound, like the Pied Piper.

Pure fun in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico
I'm doing an active version of Zumba Gold --- or a low impact version of Zumba. I have all ages but more of retirement age than youthful, at least so far. My simplest explanation is that this is Zumba and I don't jump. I illustrate how to bring up the cardio or lower the impact. But basically we just wing it, keep moving and have fun.

The other challenge, I would anticipate, is having many short-timers joining us for a week or two,  with only a small core group of hard-core, die-hard participants. So I'll plan to keep the routines simple and fun and keep the more complicated, 'dancey' ones to a minimum.

But this is a dream come true --- seriously --- to head down to a warm Mexican beach for an hour of Zumba.  Get my exercise, get my laughs, get my morning chats. Followed by a morning soak in the pool.

Now, on to the rest of the day, feelin' grand!

Have sound system, will Beach Zumba!

Two weeks after arriving in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, I couldn't stand it. No exercise? No dancing? No laughing?

No way.

I explored some of the local gyms and resorts and teaching anywhere was going to be too complicated, for a variety of reasons. So with the management support at Bahia del Sol in Nuevo Vallarta, I hung out my Zumba shingle on the beach and cranked up the music.

Second day of Beach Zumba at Bahia del Sol, Nuevo Vallarta

Wow, did it work!

Vacationers from the condo, people taking morning walks, random exercisers. No matter. Some weird version of a flash mob? Who knows. I just hope it keeps up. I've added Saturday, so now we'll be out there shaking it up on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays at 8 a.m --- and hoping for a low tide. More flat, more hard pack.

I ordered a Pyle Pro PA system and brought it down in the shipping carton, no problema. It's the same system I used in the States.  I brought the receipt for customs, which they actually asked for --- probably assuming it cost way more than the $180 I paid for it. I knew from experience that electronics are very pricey or unavailable in Mexico.

So I wheel it down to the beach, hang out the Zumba poster, crank up the sound, like the Pied Piper.

Pure fun in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico
I'm doing an active version of Zumba Gold --- or a low impact version of Zumba. I have all ages but more of retirement age than youthful, at least so far. My simplest explanation is that this is Zumba and I don't jump. I illustrate how to bring up the cardio or lower the impact. But basically we just wing it, keep moving and have fun.

The other challenge, I would anticipate, is having many short-timers joining us for a week or two,  with only a small core group of hard-core, die-hard participants. So I'll plan to keep the routines simple and fun and keep the more complicated, 'dancey' ones to a minimum.

But this is a dream come true --- seriously --- to head down to a warm Mexican beach for an hour of Zumba.  Get my exercise, get my laughs, get my morning chats. Followed by a morning soak in the pool.

Now, on to the rest of the day, feelin' grand!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Zin 41 tackles cueing

First, a disclaimer. I'm a Zumba critic. But as an advocate. Not as a snob.

I attend classes wherever, whenever, whomever, just to see what's happening out there, who has the best routines, flavor, style, enthusiasm. I attend because I appreciate a great class and a great workout. And I especially attend so I can be a better Zumba teacher.

Coming into this fitness training thing late in life, I have a lot to learn and I'm never going to be the best. But I'm going to be enthusiastic, bring the party to it, and try to be as good as I can. There is only so much I can do about my 'limited memory banks' when it comes to remembering 100 percent of any routine. But the rest of the success of my class is up to me.

So it was interesting to really hear a firm message from Beto and the Zumba  message on this latest Zin 41 DVD. No quibbling here.

• Don't introduce new moves between songs. Just start the dang song.
• Shut up and non-verbally cue.

Sounds simple. But it takes a fair amount of practice.

The voice-over on the one-on-one portion of the DVD was the best I've heard.  It reminds us to start slow, set the step and style, get the class comfortable, then build on it.

It shows --- and tells us --- how to preview the next movement a beat before we start into it. No nuance. Real direction.

And it reminds us to watch the class, to keep each part of the routine simple until they become comfortable. Then go for it.

And it also reminds us that these routines aren't static. They are suggestions, not mandates and we're to use our own style and flavor as we teach. In fact, it's what will make us each personally successful.

And as a self-proclaimed Zumba critic, that's what I'm looking for. I want you to have your own style and flavor. But I don't want to be frustrated trying to figure out what the heck the routine is, which direction to go, what my arms and hips are supposed to be doing. Keep it simple, cue me clearly, and bring on your party. Then I'm sure to be back, no matter where your class is held.

Postcript:  Having just returned from teaching a Zumba Gold class, watch for an upcoming post on the dilemma of cueing in Gold. It's not the same beast. Or is it?




Sunday, October 14, 2012

Getting back in shape with Zumbathon workouts

Felipe Rivera and Cynthia Henderson are Latin dance experts
I started back into 'life in the Finger Lakes' with our Saturday morning Zumba Gold class at the Hector Wine Co. in Hector, NY, with a chance to stand in the back and workout instead of teaching. I start back on Monday morning.

It was a great way to start a Saturday morning since I have a fair amount of jet lag left from a month-long travel around the globe.

A quick nap prepared me for an afternoon 'Party in Pink' Zumbathon at Island Fitness in Ithaca, NY. I've been meaning to check out the facility and the classes all summer long but when the weather is good at the lake, who can leave Seneca Lake? Apparently, not me.

The facility is fantastic. Light. Clean. Well-equipped. Affordable! After years of California athletic clubs, this one blows the doors off for the price. And why should I be surprised? Of course the Ithaca community would prioritize affordable workout facilities in a place where the winters must test the most stoic Northeasterner.

I love Zumba jams that give me a sample of multiple instructors so I know whose class I want to make sure I try in the future. Seven instructors brought their best stuff forward. Individual styles are so important to the Zumba crowd and the background and the influence of the teacher comes through, whether it is dance, strength training, belly dancing, aerobics. All were excellent and I'll be back to Island Fitness next week to try Deb Noonan's toning class on Tuesday.  Two instructors I'll also be following are Cynthia Henderson, who teaches Zumba at Islands on Monday at 4:30 p.m, and Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the City Health Club, and Felipe Rivera at Finger Lakes Fitness.

Party in Pink at Island Fitness, Ithaca, NY
The next jam on my schedule is the SPCA fundraiser on the Commons in Ithaca, sponsored by the Finger Lakes Fitness Center.
It's next Saturday, Oct. 20 at 1 p.m.

I hope to see you there. It's a great event and a cause that is always near and dear to my heart.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Two Zumba classes: a great day

I discovered at the last minute that Pakko was on vacation in Hawaii and had canceled his Zumba classes this week in Sacramento and that my Zumba buddies were all headed to Pepper Von's class instead.

Woo Hoo! Pepper Von and my Zumba buddies? Perfect.






Pepper is a fitness legend around Sacramento, and now in Zumba nationally. Last week (while I was in Tonga) he was teaching a Zumba class to my instructor colleagues in New York --- something I was disappointed that I had to miss. I already knew I liked Pepper's style, choreo's and enthusiasm from one class I had tried last year before we moved from Sacramento. So it would have been a great opportunity to meet my new New York Zumba Zin buddies and do another class with him. I definitely need a clone so I can be all the places I want to be at the same time.

We had an energetic, non-stop, fun (no other way to describe) hour. Hard to beat, hard to describe.

For one thing, he's got two drummers (pictured above) to accompany the music and one roams the class and keeps you on the beat, occasionally joins in the dance, keeps the energy really high.

The play list and one-hour class is literally non-stop --- no stopping to change the music or get a drink. Just go for it!

Pepper's got the most amazing classroom management I've ever seen --- in any class. Not just exercise or Zumba. And that's coming from a teacher.... Despite having 50 to 60 people in the room, if he sees you doing an exercise incorrectly, chewing gum, too close to a wall, he's got laser eye contact, still smiling, but somehow gets the right gesture and you know exactly what you're supposed to do/correct/change.

And he's smiling.  Everyone is smiling. No question you're there to have fun. And everyone does.

What I really watch for as a new student in anyone's class is how difficult it is to follow the instructor for a first class. And he's so easy to follow. So I started concentrating on how the heck he does that. It's through understandable, consistent gestures. It's clear when to stop one part of the choreo, move on to another. The choreo's are simple but not too repetitive to be boring. He introduces the new step a second before the next part start if it's remotely confusing. He includes the Latin dances but also has a fair amount of Hip Hop and African beat music. It really works.

Bottom line, he's great. Which is why he is now a sought after Zumba Education Specialist. Check his bio here and see what he's already accomplished.

He's teaching a Sentao class tomorrow afternoon (Thursdays) and a Toning class on Tuesday. I'll check one of these out before heading back to New York next week. If you haven't tried a class with him, head down to his Step 1 Studio pronto!

Back to Sacramento: a Zumba epicenter

We just got back to Sacramento last night from our trip to the Kingdom of Tonga in the South Pacific, and after an ungodly amount of sitting in jumbo jets, I decided to work off my jet lag and vacation hangover with some of the top Zumba teachers in the area.

I started out this morning with Linda Taylor who was teaching a Zumba Gold class at Step 1 studio on 19th and T Streets. Awesome teacher, great routines and enthusiasm, really paid attention to everyone in the class. She's very active in Zumba and was voted to be a representative for instructors for California and Hawaii. She invited me to join her and her daughter, Latoya Bufford, in class tonight but I'll probably wait until next Monday, when my jet lag is barely a memory. But there was nothing better for me this morning then to sweat that jetlag out, dance with friends, then drink a bunch of water. And then take a nap before finding another class tonight.

A wonderful problem is trying to figure out how to make it to all (or at least some) of the great instructors in the area. My choices tonight include some of the my favorites: Pepper Von at 5:30 at Step 1, Pakko (Abraham Contreras) at the Yemaya Studio near REI at the same time, or Linda and Toya at 7 on Florin Road. All excellent instructors, all tough decisions. And this is just the tip of the iceberg --- just some of my favorite ones that are close to Midtown.

Attending other Zumba classes is a great catalyst for new routines, new approaches to choreography and just a plain old refresher for my classes in New York and Mexico. I always get something from a class.
Always. Sometimes I'm reminded how not to do something. But that's okay too. I find it's helpful to be a student and remember what it's like to try to follow a new routine.

So, maybe see y'all in a class somewhere soon?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Heading west to my Zumba 'home' group

You know how you find a favorite class, favorite instructor, favorite routines and that's the one you can't wait to get back to?

I'm heading back to Sacramento next month --- the epicenter of great Zumba teachers ---  but I can't wait to join up with my Pakko groupies in his Zumba class, M-W-F at 5:30 near Cal Expo.

I had taken a summer of Zumba classes in Upstate New York two summer's ago. When I returned to work in Sacramento, I started looking for some classes through the Zumba.com class locator. It's a great web-based roledex. I tried out a few that were okay but then landed in Pakko's class, originally off 24th Ave. and Broadway. He's since moved to a bigger studio.
It was packed! I didn't know a soul but it didn't matter. These guys were rocking and the guy at the front was making it happen. It didn't matter  how little elbow room we had or how we much sweat we dripped. 

It was absolute Zumba fun, a serious addiction.

So, what's so great about his class, besides the fabulous workout? Since I've become an instructor, I've tried to figure it out. Here's what I've come up with so far:

• Pakko really knows how to dance. He wasn't an aerobics instructor who decided to teach Zumba. He's a Latin dancer who knows fitness, who joined Zumba early on. So when you're watching him in the front of class, it looks like great, something you want to emulate.

• As hard a workout as you get, the routines are still simple to follow. He does all his own choreography but has a lot of repetition of moves, building on each move as the song progresses. And he does great cues. When he whistles, all heads snap forward because you know there's going to be a change. I can't whistle like that, but what a great technique.

• You never know what will be on each day's play list. He's a DJ as well as a dancer and a Zumba instructor, so he has a huge range of music and must have created hundreds of routines. So although there is the necessary repetition of songs from class to class, there's also a lot of new stuff coming our way. So --- it's never boring.

• And somehow he gets the crowd really moving, hooting and hollering. Incredible energy.

Beyond the class, he's also quick to donate his time for Zumba jams for a good cause. 

Pakko drops by a Zumbathon during his lunch hour to help out
Last year he showed up at a fundraiser in his work clothes to lead a few numbers --- shades of the original YMCA construction workers. Fantastic.

And last month he held a jam to raise money for a co-worker because the man couldn't afford to buy new glasses, even though he was working full time.

A good guy.

If you're in the Sacramento area, you can find Pakko's class (Abraham Contreras) at 1791 Tribute Rd. Suite B, in Sacramento, right near REI and Costco. 

Maybe I'll see you there on Sept. 14 on my way through town. Here's a video clip from class in December. For Smartphones and iPads, click here.

video


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Zumba takes to the Irish pub

I was browsing Zumba.com, looking for my next class to visit, when I spotted an evening Zumba class in an Irish Pub in Penn Yan. It seemed like an equally bizarre venue, since I'm teaching my morning class in a winery. I was definitely imagining the Happy Hour party with a Zumba event in the middle and people swilling Guinness' on the side.

Fortunately, I was wrong.

It's a great space for a class. Good wood floors, spacious dance floor, a slightly raised platform in the front, even disco lights so the fluorescent lights don't have to stay on.

Kayla Luppino is teaching there M-W-F and Saturdays from 7 - 7:30, as she launches her Zumba career. She's fabulous dancer, energetic, brings the party to the pub. She is obviously a dancer by heart, her enthusiasm is contagious. And the walk in price is just $3. Easy!

A great surprise was a bonus toning class afterward by Danelle Bell, a recent arrival from Memphis, Missouri. She just left her eight classes in Missouri and is finding her niche here. I'd travel far to take another toning class from her. I've been somewhat hesitant about getting my toning certification, thinking it would be too hard or too demanding a class for me to teach. Now I'm hooked, definitely. She was easy to follow, used great music, and I really need to add it to my own workout. So that's the next training for me when Zumba offers its next toning certification in my area.

The class in Penn Yan was another reminder about why it's so much fun trying other instructor's classes. You never know what you'll find --- it's still all Zumba, just with our own style. I'll hear a song I like, or see a routine with a new move, or, this time, try a little toning. It keeps adding to my repertoire and enhances what I do in my own classes.

I love the Zumba network. Instant community wherever I go, always a party, lots of new friends. Hope to see you on the road somewhere soon!

Here's a video of Kayla, followed by Danelle.

video



Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Zumba sisters of Hammondsport

I met Delia Lopez-Stull in the parking lot at WalMart in Watkins Glen over a year ago and I've been trying to get organized enough to get over to try her class ever since. It's about a 20 to 25 minute drive but somehow I got into my head that it was 50 minutes, and since they teach at 8 a.m.... well, my attending the morning class seemed unlikely.

When I met Delia last summer, she had just taught a Zumba class and had raced over to shop in Watkins, still wearing her Zumba workout clothes --- a great marketing device and a great way to meet friends. Of course, I accosted her with my usual 20 questions.
The Hammondsport Zumba sisters: Evelyn (L) and Delia (R)

Delia and her sister Evelyn are originally from Puerto Rico, by way of NYC --- Delia retired from a career there before moving to live full time in Hammondsport and starting her new Zumba career. Evelyn moved there three years ago.

Having sisters teach together sounded intriguing --- I find having two instructors often enhances a class; two styles, two levels of impact. I wasn't disappointed in the experience.

While one sister leads, the other sister either moves to the middle of the pack or to the back so when you're turning, there's someone leading from both sides of the room. It's really helpful in a room without mirrors and when you are new to the routines.

They said their afternoon and evening classes are packed and the morning class is smaller. That's the opposite of what is happening in our area. Interesting.

They did some of the 'traditional' Zumba songs and routines but modified them to suit their own styles and likes, making songs easier to follow or more fun. And they had a lot of fine beats, a lot of enthusiasm. They are definitely keeping the party in Zumba. If it feels like an exercise class or I want to look at my watch, it's not working for me....

Next time I want to visit their class after school, held on the school grounds where Evelyn says sometimes her 12-year-old son leads a song by popular demand. Love getting that age generation involved. Why wait?

You can catch their classes Mondays and Thursdays, with a toning class on Saturday. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Brenda brings Zumba to Watkins Glen

Always perfect form!
Brenda Fitch has been an aerobics/fitness instructor and trainer in Watkins Glen, NY for decades and like many fitness instructors, made the leap to Zumba. And she's loving it.

I first met Brenda right after she had gotten her certification and I brought her songs and routines from California and Mexico. And Brenda shoved me up in front of the class and made me lead some routines, helping me get my confidence to believe I wasn't too old or too anything to be able to do this.

Last year Brenda was on the road teaching five days a week in three different communities --- in addition to working full time. Then she dropped to four days a week so she could go back to school. Seriously high energy person!

You can tell that she has a lifetime of fitness experience when she teaches --- she is responsive to different individual's level of fitness, constantly showing Zumba students how to modify routines. And if there is a glitch in the music or the system, she just moves right on and the class still gets a great workout, has fun.

You can catch Brenda and her routines at the Watkins Glen Community Center on Mondays and Wednesdays at 5:30, the Hector Firehouse on Tuesdays at 5:30, and Saturday mornings at 9 a.m. at Exercise Enterprise, back in Watkins Glen. She still shoves me up to the front to lead a few songs when I'm in town and we have a blast! Hope to see y'all there!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Taking Beach Zumba to the Hector Wine Company

We started our seasonal Beach Zumba class today at the Hector Wine Company with plans to move down to the beach on the east side of Seneca Lake, New York,  as soon as the weather consistently cooperates.

Our first Beach Zumba class at the Hector Wine Co.
Somehow this morning's group --- the Hearty Hector Warrior Women --- would normally be categorized as Zumba Gold candidates because of their ages --- many in the 60s and 70s.

But this group is not the 'On Golden Pond' crowd. They have spent a lifetime of walking, doing yoga, working in their gardens, and boy oh boy, has it paid off. Physically fit, able to move, dance, follow routines and still remember to HAVE FUN! Because that's the Zumba deal for me. Dance, have fun, get or stay physically fit, have a few laughs. What more could we ask for?


Setting up class at the wine bar
The Hector Wine Company, located on the Seneca Lake Wine Trail,  is perfect --- lots of room, good floor, lots of natural light. And a bonus --- the wonderfully friendly Luna, a huge Great Pyrenees/Irish Wolfhound is delighted to keep us company while we work out.

We'll meet back up at HWC on Friday morning for another workout and keep checking the weather until it's time for Beach Zumba to head down to the beach.
video