Zumba: It's Not Just for Middle-Aged Women Anymore


The infomercials may feature extremely toned models who make it look effortless, but to say Zumba is easy would be a bold-faced lie. Believe me, you will be sweating by the end of this class. However, it is important to note that after Omar Baraket’s Zumba class, you will leave feeling overwhelmingly good–beaming even–because though it is exhausting, it’s an incredibly fun time. The instructor, Omar, makes it a point during every class to make sure you’re smiling, and his friendly yet intimidating demeanor is the perfect combination to motivate you to push yourself and work harder without fully exhausting yourself.

The first class is always the most difficult, and that’s okay! Strom fitness classes promise an unintimidating environment, and you can trust me when I say that everyone is more concerned about themselves getting the moves right than they are about you. Go into the class expecting the moves to be a bit difficult to grasp at first, especially the footwork. Just focus on the beat of the music because, according to Omar, that's the most important thing. Move your feet in a way that’s comfortable for you; it doesn’t have to be perfect, as long as you keep moving. The movements may feel a bit awkward at first, but that's normal, and you'll start to feel more comfortable as the class goes on.

One of the best aspects of this class is that, while you are Zumba-ing, you're not thinking about anything else. You become completely absorbed in the moment, feeling the music and moving with the beat (and trying your hardest to get the steps right). It's the perfect activity for those trying to relieve stress in a healthy and productive way. It's also incredible for forgetting the problems you're facing; in that studio, your biggest concern is not bumping into anyone.

One aspect that sets Omar’s classes apart is how dedicated he is to making sure everyone in attendance is having a good time. He ensures that even during the more intense songs, we all still have a smile on our faces. During the last song before cool down, he pulls a few people from the group and brings them to the front, facing the rest of us, and has them act as demonstrators. It is one of my personal goals to be one of them. It's the perfect time to show off your skills and give support to some of the other dancers. This class focuses on both self and group improvement, with consistent clapping and encouragement from the instructor and other participants.

Omar Baraket has had a passion for Zumba for many years; his father was the first Zumba instructor in Tunisia, so he has been dancing for quite awhile. Before he began teaching Zumba here, he was a salsa instructor, which is evident in his routines. When asked how he comes up with his routines, he gave a simple answer, "I listen to music I like, and then the movement comes from the heart." His passion for Zumba is infectious, and everyone participating in his class seems to reflect that. His number one piece of advice for newcomers? "Zumba is for everybody; don't be shy." This is a class that anyone can participate in, regardless of gender, age or past experience.

Attending a Strom fitness class is on the University of South Carolina bucket list. If you’re looking to cross this item off, I can’t think of a better way than Omar’s Zumba class, which meets Wednesdays at 7:45 p.m. at Strom, and Thursdays at 5:30 p.m. at Blatt. I promise a workout that is so enjoyable, you'll be disappointed when it ends.

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