Underwater Zumba offers cool alternative to summer workouts

Aqua Zumba exercises are done in water that comes up to the rib cage. But for some songs and moves, participants are instructed to sink deeper in the water - up to the neck. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
Aqua Zumba instructor Erick Ruiz leads the 45- minute class at the Washington Sports Club in Columbia Heights from the side of the pool. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
The class attracts men and women of all ages and backgrounds. Some of the songs have words in English, while others are in Spanish. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
Aqua Zumba class members work out with instructor Erick Ruiz. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)

WASHINGTON – Curious about Zumba but don’t want to dance in front a class full of people? The popular, calorie-burning dance-fitness craze is now being done underwater.

Aqua Zumba is a cardio class that has participants dancing to Latin music in the pool.

Erick Ruiz is a licensed Zumba instructor at the Washington Sports Club in Columbia Heights. He teaches the class “on deck,” meaning he leads from the side of the pool while class members watch and follow from the water.

The Zumba cardio dance classes are in 150 countries and combine different rhythms with easy-to-follow steps for a “party atmosphere” to give the class a fun vibe while still providing an intense workout.

“(It’s) so uplifting, so much fun, I just have a such a smile on my face whenever I get out,” says Camille Dewalder, who takes the class.

People of any age, size and fitness level can participate. Doing the workouts in water is easier on the joints and is recommended for those who’ve just had surgery, want to get used to Zumba or are pregnant.

The water provides resistance, which is part of the workout itself. Pushing the water builds strength.

While some might be self-conscious of working out in a bathing suit, nobody can see what anyone else is doing because everyone is in the pool. In addition, all eyes are on Ruiz leading the class.

And, Ruiz promises, no one has to know how to dance.

Robin Levenston says she joined the class because she wanted something different.

“You can’t stop smiling. You can’t stop laughing. Your body is doing the strangest most bizarre things and nobody can see. And it’s great,” says Levenston.

Ruiz says he likes to see splashing and hear the class scream. Both mean people are having fun and burning more calories.

The classes are 45 minutes long with a warm-up and a cooldown. Most participants are women.

For those who aren’t sure whether this type of workout can make a difference, Ruiz offers himself as proof. When he started Zumba in 2009 he weighed 250 pounds. He is now down to 180.

Anyone can join the classes. They’re free with a Washington Sports Club Membership. The club is offering a 30-day-trial membership for $30.

WTOP’s Michelle Basch contributed to this report. Follow Michelle and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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