Becoming a Zumba Instructor

When I left the United States for South America six years ago, the fitness landscape was a little different. I was teaching mostly freestyle classes, meaning that I designed the workouts within the framework of the particular format. For example, I would teach a boot camp class that I designed from start to finish. You could go to someone else’s boot camp and it would be totally different. You could come to my next boot camp and it would be totally different.

But at that time, branded classes like Zumba and BODYPUMP were starting to get more popular. As a participant, going to these classes means knowing exactly what to expect. Thousands of instructors are teaching the exact same workouts to thousands of students.

These classes require the instructors to have specialty certifications. Unless you’re licensed as a Zumba instructor, for example, you can’t legally teach Zumba, even if you’re a darn good dancer.

The workouts are really, really good. I was just starting to debate which specialty certs I should get when I moved to South America.

Tree pose in Guatape, Colombia
Tree pose in Guatape, Colombia.

I taught yoga in Argentina, Panama, and Colombia; I’ve kept up my ACE group fitness certification with the required continuing education, and I completed my next 300 hours of yoga teacher training, but I didn’t seek out any other specialty certifications.

When I got back to the States, I started looking at gym group fitness schedules and discovered they’re made up almost entirely of branded classes nowadays. I picked up where I left off: deciding which specialty cert to start with.

Six years ago, I wouldn’t have chosen Zumba first. I was teaching a lot of lifting classes, anyway, I had a serious love of kickboxing (still do), and I didn’t consider myself a dancer. But after a couple of years of rumba classes in Colombia, I’m feeling a lot more confident in my booty-shaking moves. And what do you know: the Basic 1 Zumba instructor training was happening right here in Las Vegas on May 27, which was a couple of weeks away.

So I signed up.

And I had a blast on Saturday.

Zumba basic 1 training
Thanks to ZES Abraham Hernandez for this photo.

If you’ve never tried Zumba, you should. Dancing has so many benefits, one of which is that it doesn’t even feel like exercise. And honestly, you don’t have to know how to dance. You don’t have to shake your hips if you don’t want to. 🙂 It’s fairly easy to follow along in a Zumba class, so you’re really only going to deal with the typical learning curve that would be present no matter what type of new activity you do.

Next up for me: lots of practice. If you live in Las Vegas (or if you visit!), I hope to see you at a class.


If you’ve ever thought of becoming a Zumba instructor yourself, I would ask you to consider this: even though Zumba doesn’t require you to have a primary fitness certification (like I have through ACE; there are many organizations that offer certifications), you should take it upon yourself to do that. Zumba does encourage you to get that within six months of becoming a Zumba instructor, but I say, do it beforehand if you can. Zumba teaches you to teach Zumba, but your primary group fitness certification will teach you about anatomy, ethics, and so much more. It requires some studying, and you need to pass a test, but it will make you a better Zumba instructor and open the door to teach other fitness classes, as well.

And keep this in mind: the Zumba training day is only the beginning. I’ve been teaching fitness for 15 years, and I still have a lot of work ahead of me with music, choreography, and cuing before I’m ready to teach a Zumba class. Be ready to put in the time to become a great instructor.

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