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The Last Page


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By Paula Hilton


“Are you AAAAWWAAAAAAAAKE?!?” our exuberant Zumba instructor screamed over the loud booming dance music permeating the room.


“YEEEEEEESSSSSSS!” 40 people screamed back, while gyrating wildly to the music.


That’s how I start my weekends.


About two years ago, my oldest daughter discovered a Zumba class at a nearby church. After going to the class alone for a couple of weeks, she suggested I go, too. I had recently experienced a traumatic loss that left me weeping in my front room every night, so I decided maybe getting out of the house would be a good idea.


But I was a little hesitant about Zumba. I was 59 years old, not a dancer and certainly not fit. But the thought of hanging around my house continuing to do nothing but feel sorry for myself wasn’t all that appealing either. So I went. And then went again. Then I found another class to take. Then another. I was hooked.


Zumba Fitness started in the mid-‘90s when choreographer Alberto “Beto” Perez in Cali, Colombia, realized he had forgotten his aerobics class music. He quickly improvised by using the merengue and salsa tapes he had in his backpack. The members loved it, and thus Zumba was born. It includes aerobic movements and dance, performed to energetic music. Choreography includes soca, hip-hop, salsa, samba, mambo, lunges, squats and merengue. Did I mention body-rolls, fist-pumps and booty-shakes?


My instructor, Amy Kon, tells me she has been active in sports and exercise her whole life. She started teaching Step Aerobics in the ‘90s, but then found Zumba in 2009 and fell in love with it. She became licensed and started teaching Zumba in 2011, and in the past six years has taught in Honolulu and Fort Walton Beach. I take her Saturday 9:30 a.m. class as well as her Monday 5:45 p.m. class at PASARDA on Industrial Road in Fort Walton Beach.


My other instructor, Sundy Keichel, teaches Thursday nights at the First Baptist Church in Fort Walton Beach. Sundy started Zumba in 2009 when her neighbor invited her to try a class with her at Holloman AFB. She loved it and attended as many classes as she could. And when an instructor needed a sub and asked if she was interested in teaching, she thought, “Why not?” She became licensed in April 2010 and has been teaching ever since.


It’s no mystery there are plenty of health benefits from Zumba, including weight loss and improved coordination and endurance, but it’s also a mood booster and confidence builder. Where else can you wear hot pink shoes, turquoise leggings, a bright coral sports bra and a purple tank top? And if you don’t think bright colors and learning to twerk doesn’t boost your confidence, you haven’t been to Zumba!


Both Amy and Sundy know how to whip me and both of my daughters into shape. We attend all three classes together weekly, and while I admittedly can’t always keep up with them, it’s certainly fun trying.


I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a form of exercise that is fun and effective. As of 2015, there were about 14 million Zumba students in 186 countries. Now, at 61 and 40 pounds lighter, I am proud my daughters and I are part of that 14 million.


The only remaining mystery is how do Amy and Sundy look so beautiful and refreshed after class while the rest of us are panting, sweating hot messes? Maybe it was part of their training!

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