The New York Times recently wrote about the surge in injuries coming out of Zumba classes. Zumba, if you're not familiar, is a Latin-influenced dance-exercise class. As the article explains, its target audience is those who don't necessarily think "traditional" exercise is for them. The issue is, though, that Zumba IS exercise and there IS proper form to be mindful about, just like every other exercise class. In every class, it is the duty of the instructor to not only teach the steps but teach them safely and to pay attention to what people are doing. The problems start when this isn't the case.
So what should you look out for when trying out a new class? Here are a few points:
- How big is the class? If you're packed like sardines and you've never taken the class before, either get out or get in the front row. There is nothing worse than not being able to see the instructor or getting kicked by your neighbor with spacial relation issues. (I'm not naming the gym that had the over-crowded class where I got kicked; clearly, I should have left!)
- Is the instructor doing the entire class along with you? If so, consider leaving unless there is another instructor in the room walking the floor to make sure you're doing the exercise correctly. Club Zum in downtown Seattle has instructors who are extremely vigilant about each individual and their form and has modifications for people who can't do a specific move; they stress quality over quantity. Instructors will even pull people aside after class to go over an exercise. Take charge! If you're not sure about a move in class, modify it to make it work for you (your instructor should be able to help with this) and ask the instructor to go over it after class if they have time.
- How do you feel? Some people feel like they need to power through a movement or exercise, even if it feels bad. Follow your body's gut. If you're not feeling well or something hurts, either stop that particular exercise or discretely leave the class. Exercise is meant to put some amount of stress on your body so it can adapt (be it to lose weight or gain muscle, etc). Exercise should NOT hurt.