Lower-intensity, pool version of Zumba dance/fitness offered in Chattanooga

Lower-intensity, pool version of Zumba dance/fitness offered in Chattanooga

October 25th, 2012 by Casey Phillips in Life Entertainment

Christina Brown, right, teaches an Aqua Zumba class at UTC's Aquatic and Recreation Center. Aqua Zumba, an in-pool version of the dance/fitness activity, is becoming increasingly popular in the the city with programs offered at several facilities.

Photo by Allison Love /Times Free Press.


Aqua Zumba is offered at the following athletic facilities:

• University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Aquatic and Recreation Center, 601 E. Fifth St. Mondays and Wednesdays, 5:30-6:30 p.m. (Restricted to UTC students and faculty members with an ARC membership.)

• The Fitness Center at Siskin Hospital For Physical Rehabilitation, One Siskin Plaza. Mondays and Wednesdays, 5:45-6:30 p.m.

• North River Family YMCA, 4138 Hixson Pike. Mondays and Wednesdays, 6-7 p.m.

• The Rush, 5510 Highway 154. Tuesdays, 6:30-7:20 p.m.


Find certified Zumba instructors and learn more about the activity at www.Zumba.com.

In recent years, classes in Zumba have skyrocketed in popularity with more than 14 million weekly participants in 150 countries. Locally, more than 180 courses are available for the Latin dance/fitness activity within 25 miles of downtown.

"Ditch the workout, join the party" is Zumba Fitness' official tagline. Recently, that party has moved to the pool as local fitness facilities add classes in Aqua Zumba to their activity schedules.

Like its land-based cousin, Aqua Zumba helps participants work out using a soundtrack of fast-paced, international pop music combined with techniques straight off the dance floor. The main alterations, instructors said, are to the techniques to account for water's added resistance and buoyancy.

When her supervisor asked her to develop new, more exciting courses for the University of Tennessee's Aquatic and Recreation Center, coordinator of aquatic programming Anna Forkum said an in-pool version of Zumba seemed like a can't-miss solution.

"The land class is very popular on this campus, so I emailed all the [Zumba] instructors and asked if anybody was thinking about getting the Aqua Zumba certification," Forkum said. "I know that at other facilities, they have the pool packed."

One instructor responded. At 18, Christina Brown, now 20, helped develop the university's traditional Zumba program. Its popularity grew rapidly, from 90 students in two weekly classes to seven classes with an average of 40 participants each.

Brown said regular Zumba is hard on her knees, and she was interested in the lower stress of teaching it in water. This summer, she attended a one-day training course at a convention in Orlando, Fla. There, she spent nine hours learning to simplify and slow down the fast movements of regular Zumba into a form better suited to an aquatic environment.

"You're being more active than you realize, but you don't feel like you're getting that tough workout you would in a land class," she said. "It's way less intense."

In August, UTC began offering Aqua Zumba as a biweekly group fitness class for students and faculty ARC members. Currently, Brown is the facility's only certified instructor.

With play lists that feature upbeat songs such as Shakira's "Waka Waka" and will.i.am's "This Is Love," Zumba is particularly popular among younger participants, especially women. Compared to UTC's water aerobics classes, which have an average of two to three participants, Aqua Zumba classes average eight to 10, Forkum said.

"It's definitely more successful," she said, adding that students seem attracted to a more hip take on water-based fitness.

"Water aerobics is looked at as something for older people," she added.

Although it is slowed down significantly from its terrestrial counterpart, Aqua Zumba shares regular Zumba's gradual learning curve. Over time, the movements become more complex and faster, Brown said.

Aqua Zumba targets different muscle groups than regular Zumba. Because of water's buoyancy, there is less stress on the joints and lower body, but the added resistance of moving through the water makes it better for working out the upper-body muscle groups such as the pectorals, biceps and shoulders, Forkum said.

The slower movements and lower intensity make Aqua Zumba an excellent entry point for elderly participants or those who feel intimidated by the faster, more complex movements of a land-based class, Brown said.

By the time she left the ARC's pool after an hourlong class to join about 10 other girls in the hot tub, sophomore Julia Martin, 18, was smiling but exhausted.

Martin began Aqua Zumba about three weeks ago largely because she was interested in Zumba but didn't want to feel as exposed. Working out in the pool have been positive, and so far, she said, she's enjoying her experience.

"I was afraid to do out-of-the-pool Zumba because I was afraid I would look like a goofball," she said, laughing. "It's kind of hard at first because you have to coordinate stepping with the flow of the water, but once you get the hang of it, it's really fun."

Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.