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Like most people who have never tried group exercise classes, I must admit that I entered my first Zumba class with a fair amount of fear and trepidation.  Added to that was my complete lack of dance (or even coordinated movement) ability.  But as the spouse of a fitness center owner and one who generally hates more traditional cardio exercise methods, I felt the need to try to support this new venture in our fitness center.

After several weeks of combating Zumba Anxiety Disorder (ZAD), I feel compelled to share my 12-step method of combating ZAD in hopes of helping those of you who also suffer from this common, dreaded disorder.

1.  Give up worrying about what someone else will be thinking about what you look like.  They are likely way too busy worrying about their own steps to worry about yours.

2.  Don’t look in the mirror at first.  You may psyche yourself out of continuing.

3.  Get a partner to go to class with you and encourage each other.  You can laugh with, not at, each other.

4.   Have some water or a sports drink nearby.  You will probably need it.

5.  Don’t panic if you have to take it slow or stop at first.  That’s better than passing out.

6.  Don’t fret over being able to follow the moves exactly.  Realize that the point is to get you moving – which burns calories and makes you healthier.

7.  Believe the instructor, when she tells you that you need to just jump in and try to follow rather than having her show you every step one at a time.  It will eventually come to you with repetition.  Trust me, I am incredibly slow in catching on, but I find that with each session, I get at least one move down a little better.

8.  Spend a little time at home between classes working with a Zumba DVD or Zumba videos on the internet.  It will increase your confidence level.

9.  Don’t think you are a pervert because you stare at the instructor’s behind.  It actually helps you to learn to move yours.

10.  Don’t listen to anyone else who puts down your efforts.  This is about you, and any critics are likely closet ZAD sufferers.

11.  Sticking with it is the only way to be cured from ZAD!

12.  Loosen up and enjoy yourself!  Take it for what it is – a fun way to get fit.  Nobody is going to be talking about how inept you were at Zumba steps when they do the eulogy at your funeral.

Jeanie Thomas, a licensed social worker by day, owns Innovations Fitness in McDonough, GA, along with her husband, Frank.  Fellow ZAD sufferers can receive encouragement from her via their Facebook page at or come to Innovations Fitness for a Zumba class where you will likely find her in the back looking goofy. ;)

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