Zumba: More than Exercise


23By Terry Rogers

At 70 years old, Joe Burgess says that his Zumba class at Mispillion Fitness is not like classes offered elsewhere. He says that although he receives routines regularly, he likes to make his class his own, understanding that everyone in the class has different fitness levels.

“I tell each class that I am older,” Mr. Burgess said. “I tell them that they may want to go slower than me or go faster. I let them set the speed, but I can guarantee that if you take my class, you will come out sweating.” He said that the routines he creates push heart rate up and then lower it, providing an overall exercise.

Originally from the Fredericksburg area of Virginia near Washington DC, he said that he used to vacation in Rehoboth Beach. When he retired, he decided to purchase a home in the area, selling his home in Virginia. He said he became interested in Zumba while working for a federal court judge in Washington DC, who could be a difficult boss.

“I was stressed and I was gaining weight,” Mr. Burgess said. “I knew I had to exercise but I really hated it. A friend suggested Zumba, so I went to check out a class. I absolutely loved it, so I took some classes and became licensed. In Zumba, you become licensed, not certified.” He said that he currently teaches a 55 and older class at Mispillion Fitness so he focuses his routines on that age group.

According to Mr. Burgess, Zumba sends routines on a regular basis, but he tries to tailor his classes to meet what his students need. He says he hears songs on the radio that he likes and then searches online for Zumba routines for his song. The routines consist of a combination of salsa, country, Latin and other genres of music.

Mr. Burgess said that the workouts allow people to forget the outside world, which allows them to reduce stress. The routines provide an outlet for them to use their mind and body to become more fit while also reducing stress that can lead to medical issues.

“Too many people think they need to know how to dance in order to enjoy Zumba,” Mr. Burgess said. “You don’t. All you need to know how to do is to move. I tell people all the time to think of it as dancing by yourself. I don’t want you to watch others to get the moves perfect. I say that I am a facilitator, not a teacher. If I am doing a jumping jack, you can do something else if that is what you want to do.”

All athletic abilities are welcome for Zumba and Mr. Burgess said, in high school, he would have been the last person anyone would have thought would lead an exercise class. He said that he was the person slammed against the wall in dodgeball and the last one during gym class to finish running around the field.

“I was a high school teacher who decided after three years that I wanted to work for the government,” Mr. Burgess said. “I landed a job at a federal court in Washington where I worked for 40 years. The stress of that job led me to gain 40 pounds and to health problems. Out of concern for my health, I went to one of those weight loss centers who counseled me on the correct foods to eat and pointed out that I needed to exercise. It was Zumba that led me to a 40 pound weight loss and an obsession with the exercise.” In 2013, he was certified to teach Zumba and Zumba Gold. In 2015, he was certified to teach Aqua Zumba.

One of the myths of Zumba, according to Mr. Burgess, is that Zumba is only for women. He would like to see more men participating because it provides an excellent workout. The routines include many different types of moves.

Mr. Burgess said that he is developing arthritis in his joints and he often has stiffness, but after one of his Zumba classes, the pain is lessened and he is more limber. The classes become a way to socialize as well, something that is very beneficial for older people. One of his students is 89 years old and she often out performs him during class.

Classes are offered at Mispillion Fitness every Tuesday at 11 am and Mr. Burgess says that he would love to see more people get involved in the program. “Try all the classes and you are bound to get hooked,” Mr. Burgess said. “I challenge everyone over 55 to try the class, especially men. I guarantee you will have fun and get fit all at the same time.”