Reader Request – Tips for new Zumba Instructors


Hi everybody!  Did you have a good weekend?  I managed to take care of a couple more the items on my list, and hung out with J so it was a good onefor me :)

Late last week I received an email from a reader that I thought would make a good reader’s request:

I was just wondering if you had any pointers/tips? I just became Zumba (Basic 1) certified three weeks ago and I’m going to start subbing co-teaching my first Zumba classes next week. (eek!)

Teaching Zumba can be a daunting task.  Even for the seasoned fitness instructor is can be a bit over whelming.  I know a few really, really, awesome fitness instructors who took the training but decided they didn’t want to teach Zumba because they found it too stressful.  The nice thing about teaching a regular fitness class (kickboxing, step, aerobics, etc.) is you can totally make it up as you go along.  If something isn’t working you can easily change it on the fly, you can use any fitness music (assuming it is the proper tempo for the class you are teaching) and you don’t need to have strong musicality skills.  Zumba is a different type of beast, and hopefully these tips will be helpful when preparing to teach your first Zumba class!

#1) Know your music

I really can’t stress this enough.  Know that song inside and out.  Listen to it until you know every bit of it.  Are there any pauses, or “quirks” within the song where you need to do something different or special?  Does the song repeat predictably each time or does the sequence vary throughout the song?  Do you know exactly when the song is going to end?  Believe me, if you don’t know your music, your participants will know.  Live, breathe and sleep your music.  I listen to Zumba music constantly in the car, I’ll choose two or three songs I want to memorize and listen to them over and over until I know them.  Luckily I spend a lot of time driving so I get lots of chances to do this ;)

#2) Keep it simple

When you first start out, try to choose as many easy songs as possible.  What do I mean by easy songs?  They are those songs that repeat predictably and don’t have many “quirks” or pauses.  Zumba Mami (Zumba Fitness), Don’t Let Me Down (Zumba Fitness), Zumba He ZumbaHa (by Dj Mam’s), Zumba Samba (by Karmin Shiff), Chori Chori (by Arash), Krazy (by Pitbull), Waka Waka (shakira), Shake it Up (by mara) and Let’s Get Loud (Jennifer Lopez) are all examples of easier songs you could use.  In comparison, songs like “Bring it On (Zumba Fitness), Lo Que Paso, Paso (Daddy Yankee) and Con El Pompi Pa’rriba (Mala Fe) all have more quirks, many different song parts and are more difficult to memorize.  Do yourself a favour and try to stick to the easier songs.  Your brain will thank me.

Part two of keeping it simple – your choreography.  Especially if you are starting your own class and will have many participants that are new toZumba.  Keep your choreography simple to allow your participants a chance to learn the steps.  More importantly keep it simple to make it easier on yourself.  Even if you are team teaching and only teaching 4 songs your first class, that is still a lot to remember when you are starting out.  Keep it simple.  Keep it clean, don’t try to be fancy.  There is a time for fancy footwork and your first few months of teaching isn’t it.  If you have access to pre-choreographed routines (if you are a ZIN member) – use them.  I find the live version tends to be more simplistic than the one on one, but know that even still you can simplify the choreography further.  Find a song you like, watch both versions and decide which you like or which parts of each you like and develop a routine.  Creating routines on your own when starting out is another stressful and aggravating task you don’t need to deal with.

#3)  Find the beat

If you don’t think you have any musicality you need to study music.  Learn how to find the downbeat and phrases within music.  For many this comes naturally, but if it doesn’t come naturally for you it is something you need to learn.  Participants instinctively want to move on the downbeat, they may not know that’s what they are doing, but they will notice it feels wrong if you aren’t on the beat.  Instructors who follow phrasing and the downbeat are much easier to follow – and as a result tend to be more popular than those who don’t.

#4) Educate yourself

I’ve said it before, and I’ll continue saying it until something changes.  Obtaining a license to teach Zumba classes is so easy.  Basically you just have to live through the training and you will get your license regardless of how terrible (or awesome) you are.  Believe me, I have no ego when it comes to my abilities.  I am not even close to being the best instructor out there but trust me, I’ve seen some people who still couldn’t figure out how to do a basic cumbia leaving with their license.  It scares me.  If you are serious about making Zumba classes a part of your job or income you owe it to yourself and your participants to become a certified fitness instructor (if you aren’t already).  The Zumba licensing workshops don’t teach you how to properly warm up or cool down participants.  You are not taught how to monitor a room full of people and you are really not even taught how to teach.  You’re mostly just taught the basic moves, you do a master class, a few drills and have a lecture or two and that’s about it.  There is no testing at all.  The dangers of teaching without a working knowledge of the body are many.  If nothing else get yourself into as many other types of fitness classes as you can to learn from those instructors.  Watch their warm-ups and cool downs, watch how they teach and learn from them.

#5) Keep “Sorry!” to a Minimum

The truth of the matter is – you are going to screw up.  Chances are you’ll screw up the first time you teach and you’ll still screw up occasionally after 300 classes.  That’s just the way it is.  Try to keep the apologies to a minimum during classes, especially with new songs – the participants don’t know you’ve made a mistake, just keep going.  I admit I say sorry when I screw up a song that I’ve been doing for ages and my groups know the choreography and do the right thing even though I do the wrong thing, but that’s only because I know they know I’ve made a mistake so I might as well acknowledge it.  If you do say you’re sorry, don’t dwell on it, say it and move on.  They probably won’t even remember by the end of class.


The best way to forget your choreography and music is by stressing too much about it.  It’s okay (and good) to get a bit nervous before teaching, but don’t let that nervousness consume you.  If you get in front of everyone and forget everything the world won’t end.  It’s a fitness class not brain surgery.  10 years from now nobody in the class will remember you messed up, you probably won’t even remember.  Relax and try to have fun.

#7) Make your first class a small one

If you have the opportunity, try to make your first class a small class (even if it’s just a “class” of 6-10 of your friends).  Find a decent amount of space (maybe someone’s basement) ask some friends to come over and use them as guinea pigs.  You can learn a lot from that first class, you can see what works and doesn’t work in a more relaxed setting.  You’ll build confidence and as a result will feel more comfortable when you teach your first “real” class.

#8)  Be you.

All of us Zumba Instructors have our favourite Zumba instructors.  Whether you love Gina, Tanya or your local ZES you have a favourite.  Don’t try to be them.  Be you.  Anytime you try to be someone you aren’t you just come across as a watered down sad version of someone you aren’t.  Be you.  You are the only person you can be authentically.  Find your voice, find your style, find your groove and stick to it.  Those who like your style will love your classes, and those who don’t – it’s no biggie, they just prefer a different style.  We all have different tastes and likes and there is a group of people out there who are looking for YOU – your style, your personality, your energy level – give it to them!

#9) Give 300%.

They say in order for your participants to give 50%, you need to give 300%.  The amount of energy you expend as an instructor in unbelievable.  Expect to be totally exhausted after teaching your first class.  It’s a whole different experience than taking a Zumba class, so prepare yourself for that.  Drink lots of water.

#10) Have Fun.

If you try teaching and it sucks all the enjoyment out of Zumba for you – don’t teach.   Not everyone is meant to be an instructor.  You may find out that it isn’t for you, and that is okay.  Maybe you’ll find you love teaching more than participating and that’s good too!  There will always be a need forinstructors and participants.  One can’t exist without the other.  Just because you’ve obtained your license don’t mean you have to teach.  Give yourself permission to quit teaching if you don’t like it because if you hate teaching your participants will know.

That’s it for my tips – any other instructors (or seasoned participants ;)) out there that have any tips to add??


Tags :

An Intro To Zumba Gold


It occurred to me the other day that while I wrote intro posts on Zumba Toning and Aqua Zumba, it hadn’t bothered to go back and finish off the rest of the specialities (Zumba Gold & Zumbatomic) so I thought I would do just that.

What is Zumba Gold?

Right from the mouth of Zumba itself:

Zumba® Gold takes the Latin and International dance rhythms you know and love from regular Zumba® classes and brings them to the active older adult, beginner participant and other special populations that may require modifications.

So who is the Zumba Gold Participant?

As mentioned above, many Zumba Gold participants are active older adults, beginner participants and anyone else that for whatever reason doesn’t feel up to participating in a regular Zumba class but still loves to dance.  I have participants in Zumba Gold that also attend regular Zumba classes but  like to supplement regular Zumba with the low impact Zumba Gold once a week.  They find in Zumba Gold they have more time to work on perfecting their footwork, and more time to enjoy the music.

What makes Zumba Gold different? Isn’t it just a slowed down version of Zumba?

No.  And yes…

Many of the songs I use in regular Zumba classes I will also use in my Zumba Gold class, but the choreography is usually a little bit different.  I will swap out any high impact moves with low impact alternatives, I leave out a lot of the hip movements, swivelling and pivoting and any jerky or uncontrolled movements.

There are some moves that are always performed at half tempo in Zumba Gold, but many of the moves you know and love from regular Zumba classes are the same in Zumba Gold.  A salsa that I would teach in my regular class would be taught the same in Zumba Gold except I would “tame it down” so to speak no order to make it appropriate for the participants.  That’s not to say that I don’t break out into full on Zumba craziness now and again – because I do – but I do that to entertain the class (and only for a few seconds at a time), I don’t intend for them to follow my lead on those occasions {and they rarely do, generally they break out into fits of laughter and giggles}.

Keep in mind that there are varying degrees of Zumba Gold classes as well.  One of my friends has a class of Zumba Gold participants whose average age is 55-60, so her class is going to be considerably more high intensity and have perhaps more difficult choreography than mine as my average participant age is in the 70′s (with a number of participants well below the 70 mark – and a number well above the 80 mark!).  As with regular Zumba classes, you work at your own level so even though I have a vast range of ages and abilities everyone is getting a workout appropriate for them, and everybody is having fun, and that is the most important part!

I am new to exercise – do I HAVE to start out in a Zumba Gold class?

Absolutely not.  Those new to exercise are more than welcome in regular Zumba classes, please go where ever you feel most comfortable.  While it came be really helpful to start in Zumba Gold where the choreography is a bit easier, and the whole class is low impact it really is up to you where you want to go.

The same goes for pregnant women.  If you were active and participating in Zumba before becoming pregnant, chances are (with your doctor’s approval of course) you can continue participating in regular Zumba classes as long as you are comfortable doing so.  Or you may feel that you want to go to the low impact Zumba Gold for your pregnancy, and/or during the first few weeks returning to exercise after giving birth (you will need your doctors approval before returning to any exercise after giving birth).

How long are the classes?

The class I teach is normally 45-50 minutes in length, but this can vary from instructor to instructor and class to class.  Most Zumba Gold classes are 30, 45, or 60 minutes in length.

If its low impact will I get a good workout?

Yes!  I have a pretty high aerobic capacity so my heart rate doesn’t really get high during Zumba Gold, but I do sweat and I do need to drink lots of water.  I’ve worn my heart rate monitor a few times and in the 45 minute class I burned around 300 calories, which isn’t shabby!

What should I wear?  Do I need to bring anything with me?

Wear whatever you can move comfortably in – a T-shirt or sleeveless shirt, pants or shorts and a pair of sneakers.  Bring a bottle of water, and if you are someone who tends to sweat when you exercise, a small towel wouldn’t be a bad idea either!

How do I find out if there are any classes in my area?

Check out the “find a class” section on the Zumba website.  All you need to do is enter your address and it will bring up a listing of all of the classes in your area

I think that’s about it!  If you have any other questions regarding Zumba Gold or Zumba Gold classes please leave ‘em in the comments.  Have a good weekend :)

Tags :



I think I’ve mentioned Gwyneth before, not Gwyneth Paltrow, but the mangled up, six-time amputee Gwyneth the spider.

She was a gift to Pekoe and Ollie from Shawn & Joanne back when we got married nearly 7 years ago.  She used to have 8 legs, now she has two (and one of those is partly missing).  She used to have bells on the end of each leg, now she has none.  She used to be a soft rabbit fur, now she’s, well, not soft.  She’s been sewn back together countless times and has even spent a few nights at the vet.  Well, she was only accompanying her feline friends, she wasn’t actually there for any medical procedures but there was one time when Ruth one of the VA’s was nice enough to sew Gwyneth up a bit when her stuffing was coming out while she was there.

To put it mildly, Gwyneth has been around the block.  She’s been drowned in water dishes, walked on, shut in the front door and has really had a hard life.  But we just can’t throw her out.  You see, Gwyneth is Ollie’s baby.

Ollie takes Gwyneth with her everywhere.  Okay, that’s not totally true, but she does drag her along quite often.  Ollie is an odd little cat.  I’ve written about her co-dependence before but Gwyneth brings it to a whole other level.  You see, if she doesn’t know where we are she goes and gets Gwyneth, shoves her in her mouth and wanders around crying until someone either calls for her or goes to her.  Anytime we leave the house we can be sure to come home and find Gwyneth waiting on the doormat where Ollie has left her.  If we’re in the basement it will only be a few minutes before you hear Ollie crying and you open the door to find her and Gwyneth waiting to be consoled.

She also does this at night if we’ve gone to bed and she’s not herself ready to sleep.  So every night before going to bed, we have to find Gwyneth and take the gross old spider into our bedroom with us.  Ollie’s tricky though.  She knows we do this so she’ll sneak in and find Gwyneth, take her back out to the kitchen or somewhere and start crying.  So lately I’ve started putting Gwyneth at the end of our bed at night in the hopes that if Ollie comes looking for her she’ll just decide to go to sleep instead of taking her. 

Last night I did I normally do, got ready for bed, found Gwyneth and we went to bed.  Only a few minutes later I heard Ollie come into our room and get on the bed.  A minute or two later I heard her jump onto our laundry basket and then to the floor.  She had stolen Gwyneth.  She then proceeded to go into the kitchen and mew and mew like a broken hearted little creature.  I didn’t want her to wake J so I went out to get her.  I picked her and Gwyneth up, brought them back into the room, sat Ollie on the bed and put Gwyneth in a different spot on the floor.  I gave Ollie a couple pats and she happily curled up and went to sleep for the night.

Which begs the question….why didn’t she just go to sleep on the bed in the first place?  Why did she have to come get Gwyneth, get back off the bed, go into the kitchen and cry just to have me carry her back to bed?  I say again, Ollie is an odd little cat.

And BTW – for any of you thinking we should just hide Gwyneth better at night, Ollie has two back-ups that she will use if or when Gwyneth isn’t to be found.  Her first back up is an old fluffy blush brush that the cats like to play with, she’ll carry that around and drop it – which makes a fair bit of noise.  And her second back up is a plastic stick that used to be part of a cat toy (Pekoe liked the toy, Ollie preferred the stick) which also makes a lot of noise when she drops it.  At least Gwyneth is quiet (since she lost all her bells).

I actually had a hard time going to sleep last night after all of this occurred, I just kept giggling to myself over what a foolish little cat I have.  It’s a good thing she’s so mighty adorable ;)

Tags :


Meet Maggie

Last Sunday was the day.

I’ve been saving up for quite a while, and managed to get my hands on a 25% off your entire purchase coupon so off I went (along with my buddy Arlene) to purchase Maggie.

To say we were a tad nervous was an understatement

You see, the coupon I had procured had someone else’s name on it, and in the fine print it said, “this coupon cannot be shared,” and we weren’t terribly sure how picky they were about these things.  When we arrived at the Coach store we went in and started to take a look around.  I had been on the website and had a pretty good idea of which bag I wanted before heading into the city, but was waiting until I saw what they in stock at the store before making my final decision.

Turns out the bag I’d been eyeing online was definitely the one I wanted.  We found ourselves a sales associate and started the purchasing process.  She asked me my name, I told her, “Suzanne,” and then remembered that someone else’s name was on the coupon…so I strategically folded it in half so the bar code was on one side – and the name/email address of the actual coupon recipient was on the other side.  Once she had put in her little handheld computer thing what I was buying I went up to that cash to pay.  I gave the cashier my coupon and she didn’t even check the name on it(phew!), she took all my info and happily announced to me how much the coupon had saved me, gave me my receipt and moved on to the next person.

But I was still standing there – bagless.

Arlene says, “Where’s your bag?”

“I dunno.  I think they get them ready out back.  I couldn’t really ask her where it was since the coupon I used was for preferred customers, and as I preferred customer clearly I’m suppose to already know the procedure!”

So we waited…

And while we waited I posed with a few friends…

Then we saw the sales associate that had helped us and Arlene asked her if they brought the purchases out to the front once they were ready.  She said yes, and a moment or two later she brought me the bag.

And we got the hell outta there.

Once we were safely out, I said, “Do you feel like we just got away with a crime or something?”

I was overheating, it took me about 10 minutes to chill out.

Clearly I wouldn’t be good as a criminal if using a coupon with someone else’s name on it sends me into a tail spin.

But the mission was a success and I’ve got my new handbag :D

Ladies and gentlemen (who am I kidding?  No men are reading this!)…

I present to you…


The photo quality is poor because I took these in low lighting but she has a really pretty purple lining inside, like a grape-y colour purple.

Did anyone notice there were two boxes in the photo up there?

That’s because I also got a little friend for Maggie.

It would have been shameful to use my old ratty wallet in such a pretty bag.  A crime even!  Okay maybe not, but I’m sure you guys have my back – right?

I really wanted to get a more classic style handbag that will last me for years without going out of style, so I figured I’d go a more fun route with the wallet.  And anyone that knows me knows that being matchy-matchy isn’t my thing so buying a matching black wallet was out of the question.


While I don’t really consider Maggie (the bag is actually called “Madison Leather Maggie Shoulder Bag” which is why I call it Maggie – I’m not normally so crazy that I name all my accessories ;) ) a birthday gift to myself, it’s kind of neat to have something like this to commemorate my 30th birthday. Have you ever made a big purchase on a milestone birthday?  If you have what did you buy?

Tags :



There are some decisions, that regardless of their insignificance to outside parties, are very difficult for those on the inside to make. 

I made one of those decisions today. 

One that will make no difference at all to literally billions of people, but for me making it breaks my heart.

Last winter/spring I taught a crazy number of classes each week – 19 to be exact – most of which were Zumba.  It wore me out.  I had no life outside of work and was unbelievably exhausted all of the time.  I knew then that I would cut back classes in the fall (over the summer I always teach fewer classes as many of my groups break for the summer) and planned to take on no more than 15 classes total.

Easier said then done.  After scheduling my regular classes I was already at 15 and then was reminded of an agreement I had made the previous fall for a 10 week session of classes this fall (it was for a non-profit group that had to submit a request early to obtain funding), and to round that out I ended up adding another class at a location nearby so that I could piggyback the classes (this is something i do for the classes that pay my by the hour.  I try to schedule them so I can do two while I’m in that area to make it more worthwhile).  Which brought me to 17 classes – better than 19/week but not much.

At first it was fine.  I was rested from the summer months and happy to be “back at it” but by mid-October it was starting to wear on me.  Now for the past month my life has consisted largely of work and sleep.  What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?  Wonder what the weather is like?  Think about what you’re going to have for breakfast?  Every morning I wake up and the first thing I do is calculate how many hours it will be before I can crawl back in bed and have a nap.  Once i know how long it will be I start giving myself a pep talk, “You can live through 3 hours, it’s not that bad, you can do it.”  And I do live, I can do it – but it is that bad.  I miss eating real meals, I miss having time to buy groceries, and most of all I miss J.  Many weeks go by with us only seeing each other for a couple hours even though we live in the same house, our working hours seem to always be at polar opposites.

I can’t do it anymore. 

Which brings me back to the title of this post: decisions.

I had already made some change to my schedule starting in the new year (and some sooner) but today in the light of an injury I’m nursing (a hip flexor injury – strictly an over use injury contracted last Thursday) I’ve had to make a decision I had hoped I wouldn’t have to make.

For the past four years I been teaching one or two morning classes at the university for largely the same group of participants, over that time many of which have become friends who I look forward to seeing each and every week.  I had already decided to cut back to one morning class at the University starting in January, but today I sent the email to the program coordinator to let her know that I won’t be able to teach my Thursday morning class for the winter/spring term.  I’ve been teaching five classes/day on Thursdays and just cannot continue to do that to my body on a weekly basis.  Four of those five classes are Zumba (the fifth is a seniors class which isn’t hard on my body at all) so it is a Zumba class hat had to go.  because the class at the university is the only one I don’t run myself (meaning I have no control over cancelling the class if weather/roads are bad), is the furthest away (it is a 30 minute drive from my house), and is the only one that will be replaced by another class/instructor in my absence so while I won’t be there to teach – somebody will.

While I am going to miss everybody terribly, you won’t be getting rid of me forever – I’ll be back in the spring/summer teaching one or two morning classes, and I will still be teaching my Monday evening and Tuesday noon classes. 

Like I said at the start of this post, this decision will make no different to most all of the people that read this post, but for those few who it does matter to, please know it took me well over a week to make my decision.  And I’m keeping my fingers crossed that you get a great instructor/class in that time slot,..