Monday, March 28, 2016

How to Survive Zumba License Class

Have you ever had little happy accidents happen slowly over time and then suddenly it's a year later and you look back and say to yourself, "How the hell am I now a licensed Zumba instructor?!"

No? Just me? Ok, let me tell you a story.

About a year ago, I got up the courage to start taking free Zumba classes that were offered by the campus I work on. I instantly fell in love with the class and it became part of my weekly routine.

After about six months of consistently attending Zumba twice a week, I was getting pretty good. I was making friends and having fun and getting better. At this time, the guy who organizes all the exercise classes for the campus came to me with an idea. Would I ever consider becoming Zumba certified so I could substitute teach my class? The campus would pay for my license classes and I would be an official Zumba instructor.

And because I am a crazy person, I said yes almost instantaneously.

Now, if you don't know me in real life, you would not look at me and go, 'Oh hey. She looks like a Zumba instructor." I can be clumsy and spazzy and not-at-all graceful. So why would I think I could be a Zumba instructor? Because why the hell not? What's the worst that could happen?

And then the coordinator came back to me and told me there was a license class in four weeks. Four weeks is absolutely no time what so ever when you're facing an eight hour Zumba license class. I was in nowhere near good enough shape to survive an eight hour class.

So I dropped the hammer. I got a temporary gym membership. I started running again. I checked out zumba DVDs from the library. I pushed myself. And when the time came to sign up for the class, I chickened out. Even after all my work, I didn't feel ready. I didn't feel like I was 'good enough' to be a Zumba instructor.

The coordinator was really supportive about it and we committed to talking about it again in the spring. I told myself that I would keep my training up and by that time, I knew I would be ready.

But Thanksgiving happened and the holidays happened and when he brought the class back up in late January, I was probably in worse shape, not better. I wasn't in a better place about it and while I wanted to be a Zumba instructor, I didn't know if I could do it.

The difference this time turned out to be my Zumba instructor. Before, I didn't know what the license class was. All I knew was that it was an eight hour class to license you. It sounded absolutely terrifying. However, after a long talk with my instructor, it turns out that I way overbuilt it in my head. I was stressing myself out over nothing.

With a new sense of clarity, I signed up and I did it. I am now a licensed Zumba instructor. It wasn't anything like I originally thought it would be.And because I originally had no idea what to expect, I thought I would outline my experience to calm the fears of anyone else considering getting their license.

  • You cannot fail. Let me repeated this again so you fully understand. You cannot fail the Zumba license class. There is no test or assessment or anything. If you pay the money, show up, and stick out the full eight hours, you will receive your Zumba license. The way it was explained to me was that the license showed that you were taught, it does not guarantee you a teaching position. You still have to prove to whoever is hiring you to teach a class that you are good enough to teach.  But for me, I didn't care about that part. I already knew that I had someone who wanted me to teach, I just needed the piece of paper. I just needed to survive the class.
  • It will be a large class. My Zumba class can flucuate with somewhere between four to twenty people and since we practice in a room that used to be a cafeteria, there's plenty of space for everyone. The Zumba license class was huge! It had to be close to sixty people in a regular-sized dance studio. As you can see below, the room was packed. While it was a different experience from what I'm used to, having to be incredibly mindful of the choreography so I didn't spin into someone, the plus side was the it was fairly easy to hide. It was easy to blend in and not participate if you don't want to. The teacher encourages energy and bravery as qualities that make a good instructor, but if that's not your speed yet, that's perfectly ok. 

  • It will be a long class. When you sign up, they tell you it's an eight hour day. And while it is a very long day, it is definitely survivable with how they break it down. The first hour to 90 minutes is a full Zumba class. It will be the perfect example of a class they will teach you in the remaining seven hours. After the workout, you'll sit down and they'll give you an overview of what Zumba actually is. From there, the teacher breaks down the four different styles of dance that are at the core of Zumba. They'll go through one, break for lunch, and teach the remaining three after lunch. Each dance will be shown by the basic steps and there will be some actives to teach it. At the end of the day, it was the most sore I've been in a very long time, but at no point during the day did I feel like I was going to die. Just know your body and pace yourself. No one will push you harder than you push yourself. It's ok to take things slow. 

  • Beware the pressures of ZIN. After breaking for lunch, the teacher will go into their schpeel about ZIN: the Zumba Instructors Network. It's a $35 a month subscription service that gives you music, choreography, DVDs, and other perks. They will push you very hard to join, but the thing to remember is that, in the USA, you do not need to be a ZIN member to be a Zumba instructor. The wording they use implies that you need to sign up, but it's not true. If you're playing on teaching at a gym and running several classes a week, it's probably a good deal, but for me, it clearly wasn't. Since I'm going to be a sub, my choreography should be as similar as possible to the regular teacher's choreography, meaning I didn't need any new moves. The pressure is high during the class, so you should do some research beforehand to determine if it's right for you. 
  • Don't be embarrassed if you aren't a good dancer. I'm not. I try really hard, but I don't pick up the moves very quickly so in a new class with a new teacher, I flail quite a bit. Don't worry about it. Everyone is concerned with themselves and won't focus on you. Just focus on yourself, too. 

  • Things to bring in your gym bag:
    • Drinks: a refillable water bottle, some gatorade, maybe a coconut water. My teacher didn't pause for hydration breaks like my regular teacher, so be prepared to quickly glup some H20 when you rotate to the back of the room. During sit-down breaks, I sipped coconut water, as well. 
    • Snacks: trail mix and protein bars. While there is a break for lunch, you'll be working out afterward, so eat light. Don't want to get nauseous or puke it back up. Graze slowly and tell yourself you'll just gourge on the way home. 
    • A big towel, to dry yourself and to sit on. You will be sweaty and you will be sitting on the floor. Two birds, one stone. {Sidenote: some people bring camping chairs to sit on during breaks, but there's an air of judgement in the room against those people. While it's completely reasonable to bring one, 'serious dancers have no problem sitting on the floor' to quote my own teacher.}
    • Change of clothes. After the full workout, towel yourself dry, try to stop sweating by waiting 15 to 20 minutes, and change out of your sweaty clothes. I brought a change of clothes, but I changed too soon after the full workout and kept sweating in my clean, dry clothes. 
    • Sweatshirt. Once you stop moving, keep sweating, and sit down, you'll get really cold really quickly. Layer up. 
    • Tissues or toilet paper. There were sixty of use so the bathroom ran out of toilet paper almost immediately. Unless you want to use paper towels, heed my warning. 
    • Business or contact cards. You'll meet a lot of people and this will make things easier. And on that note...
  • Making friends is easier than you think. I thought going into it that I would be a loner and I would be 100% ok with it. However, oddly enough, because the teacher chose some of the same songs we do in class, I knew the choreography. Because of this, some of the other students started looking to me, which was incredibly odd. If I had been more social, I could have been making friends hand over fist. In hindsight, I wish I had. It was a much more supportive and friendly environment than I had prepared for. 

I didn't anticipate enjoying the class as much as I did, which is probably the reason I chickened out the first time. I was only focused on surviving, but if I had known more beforehand, I think I could have really thrived. If you choose to do it, you will be fine. And don't be like me, try to enjoy it, too. 

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