Whew! Sorry I didn’t make it back for my second post yesterday.  I rapidly progressed from sorta sick to “call the national guard, there’s an emergency” sick.

Speaking of national guard and emergencies, my thoughts and heart is with the people in Western Mass today who are picking up the pieces after the tornadoes yesterday.  So scary!

I promised some tips on how to enjoy your Zumba class more.  If you haven’t checked out my previous post about Fitness and the Comfort Zone, I encourage you to do so.  I’ll wait.  Go ahead.

Done?  Yes, I really did use the men’s bathroom.

Okay! So now that you’ve learned to put your pride on the shelf and let loose at the gym, what’s the best way to suck as much enjoyment out of your classes?

1.  Buddy up for Zumba.

Everything’s more fun with a friend to laugh with!  Bring friends with you for Zumba.  Not only will you have more fun but you’ll have accountability.  As in “I don’t care if it’s American Idol’s season finale, DVR it and get your ass to Zumba.”  Notice that I’m assuming you have pushy friends.

If you just don’t have friends who are into fitness I’m gonna tell ya… you need some.  You need friends who will push you to go to Zumba when you don’t feel like it.  You need friends who tell you to take a walk when you feel like eating nachos after a bad day.  Note that eating nachos is not a bad thing!  But eating nachos because you’ve had a bad day is not healthy behavior.  Plan for indulgences, don’t let your food be a pacifier.  If you’ll permit me to be self-referential again, check out my post on eating for reasons other than hunger.

2.  Wear appropriate clothing.

This means wear supportive undergarments (you don’t want the girls flippity flopping around), proper shoes and socks and light, sweat-wicking clothes.  Shoes are the biggest question I get about Zumba.  I wear these Target shoes (I’m on my second pair and I love them).  Running shoes or shoes with heavy tread are not a good idea for dancing and twisting (see my post on Zumba and knee pain).  If you must wear a heavy athletic shoe, ask the salesperson to help you find one good for lateral movement.

3.  Try to listen to the instructor’s instructions.

You want to have fun and be social during Zumba but if you’re instructor is speaking, it’s probably a good idea to listen up.  I’ve gotten the cut-eye a few times from a few people who missed my breakdown because they weren’t listening.

4.  Keep moving!

If you’re lost, try to keep marching or shaking rather than coming to a full stop.  When you start to move again, you stand a good chance of being behind the music and even more confused than you were before.

5.  Don’t quit!

Unless you physically feel that you are becoming ill or injured, no quitting when the going gets rough!  Quitting is not allowed!  Stick it out — it will get easier, but not if you run for the door!  You only overcome challenges by doing them, not by hiding in the locker room.  That’s why you need friends to help encourage you.  Don’t worry about being perfect — Zumba is about having fun and getting exercise.  Even making mistakes burns calories.  You’ll be proud of yourself when you succeed.

6.  Keep SMILING.

You’re attitude about exercise will determine how much fun you have in class.  When you have fun, you will keep coming back for more!  Here’s a secret too:  Instructors teach better classes when it seems like their students are having fun.  The more fun you have, the more fun we have.  The more fun we have… you get the picture.  It’s synergy.  It’s the circle of life.  Everything is better when you have a positive attitude.

7.  Don’t overdo it.

There is such a thing as overexercising.  If you start to feel a bit “meh” about Zumba, or your joints ache in unpleasant ways, it might be time to try a different class.  Take a week off for yoga or pilates and stretch out your muscles a bit before coming back.  One way to make sure you don’t overuse your Zumba muscles is to cross-train.  Make sure you’re getting strength and flexibility training in and not just cardio.  Being fit is about being strong in all three areas.

8.  Don’t overestimate your calorie burn.

Zumba burns calories.  But that doesn’t mean that you can feast at the Cheesecake Factory afterwards and assume that your burger, fries, soda and cheesecake are taken care of.  If you’re trying to keep a healthy weight, make sure you’re not undoing your Zumba efforts by too many indulgences.

Feel free to share your own tips in the comments below!

See you tomorrow for our Friday giveaway!