Zumba Dance Workout Beginners Step

This morning I decided I was ready to try to learn some of the Zumba steps, having done my basic research and being excited to try it.

The first one I looked at was a class led by a guy with about eight students.  His style was mostly marching and lunging – and I didn’t have enough space to follow along (my home has ‘pathways’, not wide open spaces!). It was a 50-minute session, and I suppose I got a bit ‘warmed up’ for the few minutes I spent on it, but I didn’t like the drumming and screeching music.  Exit stage left.

So, I picked out a different ‘tutorial’ that was only 15 minutes.  “Oh, I can dance for fifteen minutes!” I thought.  Wow.  Wrong.

Zumba dance workout video I chose was this one:

Yeah, right – 15 minutes….Holy cow!  Am I that out of shape??!!  Apparently so.  And out of practice.

The Zumba Dance Workout Beginners Steps I learned  Fumbled Through

This video by Donna Giffen (a Zumba Educational Specialist) teaches 12 steps based on four main dances:

  • Merengue: march, two-step, Beto shuffle (Beto is the founder)
  • Salsa: basic, rock-back, and travel (two-step)
  • Kumbia: basic, sleepy leg/candle step, funk
  • Reggaeton:  stomp, twostep, vibrate hip

Of course, I had heard of these main four, but did not know the steps from one another at all.  I still don’t, but I got the basic idea.  I have to admit, though, that by the time we were done with Kumbia, I was exhausted, so I did the Reggaeton towel-drying-my-back from my chair while Donna (an expert instructor from the UK) did the work.  I do believe I heard her breathing just a little hard toward the end, so I didn’t feel TOO badly.

Every one of these steps involves hips, feet, ankles, abs, and arms. It definitely felt like I was ‘working’ my body – every part of it.  Felt good – in that ‘successful workout’ kind of way.  She does a great job of showing the basic moves and describing what each of the separate body parts do, and how to move them.

She starts with just the legs, or just the arms, and then builds from that to add it all together. She goes nice and slow at first (but not long enough for me to ‘get it’), and has you add in other parts as you go along. Fine, nice and slow. Now – full speed!  ACK!  Reminded me of the motorcycle class I took. Too fast!

How Did I Do as a Zumba Dance Workout Beginner?

Honestly, I stank.  I felt like I had no grace at all….


I would have been totally embarrassed if I tried to go to a class and follow along.  Now mind you, I’m no stranger to organized dance/aerobics where we would all be looking at ourselves in the mirror and following the instructor who normally stands at the front.

Nor am I unfamiliar with Latin music (as I’ve said, I love it!), but no one has ever ‘taught’ me the steps.  I didn’t even know the difference between the four styles Donna showed us in the video, although I’d heard of them all.

But watching it from a ‘non-mirror’ image is definitely harder.  She calls out “left then right”, but because I’m watching her, I’m doing right then left.  Then my brain interrupts with ‘no – you’re going right – she said go left’!  Well, whatever.  I’ll do it backwards, as if I’m her mirror image, which of course I am not (a fact that she would no doubt be relieved about – I’m sure).

Come to think of it, though – when in my younger years we would go out dancing, I would find my own style and rhythm that worked, but if I even glancedat someone else’s moves, it would throw me totally off.  I had to focus entirely on what I was doing with the dance response and not be distracted by someone else’s style.

The truth is – it IS hard, no matter how easy Donna makes it look. I can always claim the ‘but I’m middle-aged!’ card – but that would be cheating.  Anyway, for my first try at it I lasted about as long as I’d expected to.  All told, about 15 minutes – and worked up a good heart-rate and sweat.

How Did Other Zumba Dance Workout Beginners Respond to This Video?

Others had left comments on the video, so I could gauge my own reaction to theirs.  And I was NOT the only one who found it hard.

“I’m starting Zumba today and I found this hard… I’m so scared”

Yes, I would have been terrified if this was my ‘intro’ on the very day I was to start class!  I probably would have not attended after realizing how dismal my solo results were.  Honestly, I wanted to slow Donna down – and just keep working on the half-tempo steps until I got the body movements figured out and somewhat ‘locked in’.

Body memory is an important part of choreography – if you do something over and over, it becomes automatic – almost reflexive – like typing.  So – I know with practice I will eventually ‘get this’, and even be good at it, if I keep it up. Which I want to do, definitely.

Zumba is Choreography, Not Just Disco-Shakin’-it

Several years ago I was involved in a stage-fighting group.  In classes we learned hand-to-hand moves, stances, how to hold and wield and strike and parry a sword (or epee or rapier) in classical fencing moves.  Of course it is all for ‘show’ – so no one got hurt, and we even learned how to make the ‘sounds’ and ‘actions’ of being hit, so our audience would believe it was real. (World Wrestling Federation, anyone? Yes, it’s all staged).

The instructors we had were Master Stage Combat Trainers (the guy had even broken in the whip for Anthony Hopkins’ use in The Mask of Zorro).  It was a lot of fun, but much slower paced than this video, for sure. Cliff would never have allowed us to go that fast – we’d have put someone’s eye out!

Of course, we’re not using weapons in Zumba (well – a good dancer’s moves are a sort of ‘weapon’ – Cupid’s arrow style), but we all know that using muscles in unfamiliar ways can hurt, and bumping into or steppin’ on someone else is to be avoided.

Still, the scared person quoted above received encouragement from someone else:

“Don’t quit. I started yesterday, first it will be difficult then will be fun. Think of it as more of a dance class. That’s what I do. 😉 good luck!”

Good enough advice for me. I will try it again tomorrow – and maybe by next week I’ll have these basics down!

How ‘Ready’ Did I Get Before Starting?

I didn’t.  I was sitting in front of my computer, cup of tea beside me, and just decided to try it.  Pulled up youtube to check out some of the offerings.

Zumba Dance Workout Beginners Step

I was wearing my pajamas – flannel pants and a long-sleeved cotton tee, topped with a sweatshirt.  The sweatshirt came off about 10 minutes in.

On my feet I am wearing a pair of leather-soled fleece slippers, the kind that have no tread at all.  I did notice a couple of the students in the initial video (that I bailed out of) were barefoot – which I think would be a problem, so I will definitely address the footwear issue again soon.

I think what I was wearing for shoes was a good thing, as I’d read that using ‘court shoes’ or ‘cross-trainers’ caused aching in the hips, knees, etc. while doing Zumba. I can definitely see that.  Classic dance shoes have slick bottoms, and that’s to allow for spinning, turning, etc.  Definitely preferred over ‘traction’.  We don’t want ‘traction’ when we’re shaking our stuff!

Also, I didn’t have a full-length mirror set up, which I will have to do to really learn this stuff.

When I say ‘Zumba dance workout step(s)’, I’m talking about the moves.  But Zumba also can be done with an actual “step” – a low, disc-shaped platform that comes with one of their video packages.  I haven’t tried that yet, but as I understand it, and from what I know of aerobics and strength training, doing ‘steps’ is important (think: climbers). But probably way beyond what I’m up to trying yet.


I am excited to try to learn the steps that Donna teaches, but I will have to start slowly and work at it to get the coordination down.

I would love it if readers would like to accompany me on my journey as a Zumba-person.  Leave us a comment if you like it!!

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