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My year as a Zumbarella

Hollie TaffinderHollie Taffinder talks about the transformation in her life after she discovered Zumba…

“Have you seen the photo of you on Facebook? You look awful.”  My Mum, The Wordsmith.

She had seen a candid photo taken of me at Corby Cyclefest, standing hands on hips and it was my worst yet. The only silver lining was my face wasn’t showing.  I was the biggest I had ever been and depressed.   I decided, like millions of other people making New Year’s Resolutions that I was going to lose weight.  I have never been skinny but I had definitely let myself go through the comfort of finding a partner and a deep love of pyjama trousers.  

Zumba then and now

Now this isn’t a piece to stroke my ego because actually, I’ve only lost 17kgs in a year because there’s only so many times a girl can say no to chocolate.  But I want to tell you what Zumba can do.  It was invented in the 90s by Alberto Perez as a fitness class that can burn up to 650 calories during a 1 hour class.  

Zumba involves dance and aerobic movements performed to energetic music and has a huge following of over 15 million people in 180 countries.  Not only is it an amazing work out for your body and mind but its ability to build ones confidence is indescribable. 

I remember trying a Zumba class many years ago where I felt out of place and the music was the stereotypical salsa, salsa, oh and a bit more salsa.  I decided to do a search on the web for the official Zumba fitness classes in Northampton as a half serious attempt at starting something new, something to say I had tried and I’d find an excuse in a week or two as to why I had to stop.  I came across a lady on Facebook called Suzi Suze Zumba who was listed as an instructor for classes at Abington United Reformed Church on Wednesday evenings.  I gave her a text and she replied explaining it was for all ability levels and I was more than welcome to come along and see what I thought, have fun and just enjoy it.  So I wrote it in ink in my diary, put aside my £4.50 and went out sports clothes shopping where everything made me look like a 5 foot 8 sausage in Lycra.  

Wednesday rolled around and off I went in a baggy t-shirt and hideous green leggings to Abington United Reformed Church and sat outside in my car until I plucked up the courage to go in.  The first thing I saw as I walked through the door was the brightest pair of multi-coloured leggings, fluorescent pink trainers and the biggest smile you ever did see.  Suzi welcomed me in, asked me to fill out a health and safety form and told me to go upstairs ready for class.  

As I stood at the back of the room, I observed all the women coming in smiling and saying hi to one another in their brightly coloured outfits.  All of them were different sizes and different ages, the array was really nice to see because I find nothing more off putting than knowing I’m about to wobble and sweat in front of a room full of Barbie dolls.  A few moments later Suzi came up, announced to everyone she needed a quick wee (something I have become accustomed to hearing now) so I took my position… the back row.  


The music started.  It had catchy beats and nearly every song was of a different style –Bollywood, dance, hip hop, chart tracks, salsa…. OK so there were two salsa tracks.  I watched Suzi like a hawk, trying to pick up the steps.  Everything followed a pattern and whatever Suzi did, I did.  But then I pulled the ultimate Rookie mistake of copying her ‘two times’ hand gesture instruction on a move.  It still makes me giggle when I see newbies do it now because EVERYONE DOES IT ONCE!  

As the hour class went on and the routines became a faster pace, I was sweating and gulping down water like it was going out of fashion.  The final track, Waiting On The Stage, nearly killed me and still does to this day, but a quick shout of encouragement by Suzi was all I needed to finish the routine.  

After the cool down, looking like a tomato and smelling like a wet Labrador I limped over to tell Suzi I had really enjoyed her class and I’d be back.  Now, old me would have been lying, but new Zumba me… that was a true hell yes I’m coming back!  I drove home on such a high desperate to tell my husband about the most awesome work out ever.  I’ll be honest, there was a living room demonstration that I still don’t think my dogs have recovered from witnessing.

Within a couple of weeks, I had mastered the basic steps and before I knew it I was doing 4 of Suzi’s Zumba classes a week and coming out of every one beetroot faced and grinning ear to ear.  I drove my work colleagues insane telling them all about Zumba, how fun it was and trying to get them to come with me; they even gave me a nickname which is probably not suitable to print.  But the more I did, the better I felt and I wanted everyone to know what they were missing!

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In class I started to grow in confidence and the moves I had been too shy to perform (shimmies and booty shakes are a Zumba staple) I now didn’t care about what I looked like.  I became more sociable and chatted to the other ladies before class and soon realised it was a little family that was always growing and welcoming new members.  I started to move from the back row to the middle row, carefully choosing where I stood because hardcore Zumbarellas are weirdly protective over their dance floor spots.  I even downloaded the songs to listen to in the car.  Zumba had danced its way into my heart and there was no getting rid of it.  My body shape was changing, my eating habits became healthier, I tried other new exercise classes and I think my husband would tell you I was a nicer person to be around in general.  

January 2018 will be my 1 year ‘fitaversary’ and I am still amazed at myself that I kept going.  I’ve dropped 3 dress sizes and discovered a love for jeans which to those who know me, is the most shocking of all as I’ve not owned a pair for 14 years, but now they hang in my wardrobe next to my pink unicorn  Zumba leggings with pride.  I have Suzi and the other Zumbarellas to thank for that.  For their insane spirit, enthusiasm, welcoming arms, banging routines and neon clothing- I am eternally grateful.  So if you want to try something new, come join our girl band (boys welcome too!)  It will be the best choice you ever make.

You can find out more about Zumba here


I'm the editor and owner of The NeneQuirer.

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