New twist on exercise craze makes a splash at area clubs
By Stephanie Merry
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 3, 2011
On a recent Wednesday night, 25 women in Columbia Heights were busy making waves. J.Lo's voice urged people to get on the floor, but these ladies were content in a Washington Sports Club swimming pool, mimicking the moves of an infectiously energetic Aqua Zumba instructor. Erick Ruiz, 20, presided over the group from the floor above, circling his hips and kicking his legs, while whooping and shouting a simple mantra: "OVERexaggerate."
The scene felt more like a thumping dance party than your grandmother's water aerobics.
Zumba, a Latin dance-based form of aerobics, has buzzed past classes such as step aerobics to emerge as the fitness craze du jour. But anyone who has taken a class -- or watched with awe from a safe distance -- knows that the routines require coordination and practice. And the ability to laugh at oneself doesn't hurt, either.
The pool-based form is perfect for anyone looking for a less daunting introduction to the workout. For starters, no one can tell if you look idiotically uncoordinated, because everyone's feet are thankfully obscured by water. It's also less rigorous on your joints.
"It's supposed to be a little easier, especially for people who are overweight or who just had surgery or have knee problems," Ruiz says. "It's a way to get comfortable with the moves before moving on to land Zumba."
That's not to say Aqua Zumba is a mere steppingstone; several of the women in the class are also fans of Ruiz's floor class. And although you generally burn fewer calories underwater than in regular Zumba, you can make it more challenging by doing more exaggerated movements and bending your knees to put more of your body under the water.
Ruiz definitely doesn't let his students get away with simply going through the motions. If he perceives waning energy in the class, he feigns laziness, rolling his eyes and half-heartedly yelling out "woohoo" between yawns for melodramatic effect. Like a car battery in need of a jump, only a frenzied jolt of energy -- in his case, from the students -- gets him going again. Sometimes he parts the class in two, Moses style, and directs individuals to move to the center and lead the group.
The class is a lot of silly, lighthearted fun, but it's also an effective form of exercise. Just ask Ruiz. The instructor, who used to weigh 250 pounds, managed to hit his goal weight doing -- what else? -- Zumba.