WHEATLAND – As the last of the tap students trickled out of Dance Wyoming on Gilchrist in Wheatland last Thursday evening, the space was filled with women gearing up for the next class – a high energy Zumba session led by Ashley Philo. There were different ages, body types and fitness levels. Some had been coming for years and some were newbies, but the atmosphere was friendly, open and welcoming.
Zumba was first introduced in the United States in Miami in 1999 and this is the third year Philo has been teaching in Wheatland. It is an aerobics-style exercise program that pulls its moves from Latin dances like the merengue and salsa dancing.
The high-energy class starts with a warm-up to some oldies music and moves into more Latin style music and movement as the class progresses. It is a cardiovascular work-out that keeps the participants moving, heart rate up and sweating, but usually with a smile as the steps are fun and easy to do without becoming monotonous.
Philo discovered aerobics and Zumba when she was teenager and couldn’t find a sport that appealed to her (and she was good at), but wanted to do something active. By the time she was 17-years-old, she was teaching. She has taught several different aerobics and muscle conditioning classes over the years, but Zumba is her favorite.
“Your energy as an instructor can be really affected by the energy of the participants, it really matters,” Philo explained. “But with Zumba, I always have energy. It’s so much fun.”
She went on to explain how Zumba is easy for newcomers. It’s mostly based on a step-touch and goes from there. The steps aren’t hard so everyone can feel successful after a class, not frustrated.
“It’s just plain fun. The best form of exercise I’ve ever done and I’ve done plenty,” said long-time exerciser Karen Artery. “Ashley is a really good teacher. People catch on pretty quick.”
“I think Zumba does more than just offer exercise. It helps people, and women especially, be more accepting of their body and have more self-confidence,” Philo added.
The weekly schedule may be found on Facebook under “Wheatland Fitness Classes.” The current winter schedule offers Zumba on Monday at 7 pm, Wednesday and Thursday at 6 p.m. Don’t use the weather as an excuse to stop staying active in the winter months – get up and move. Perhaps with a Latin flair.