How to Take Fearless First Steps

An expert Zumba instructor answers your questions.

Dance workout classes are becoming more popular than ever — yet for the novice, they can be very intimidating. In order to offer you some expert tips on how best to approach your first class, 24Life spoke to Coach Lilia Garza, a Zumba instructor and personal trainer based in Fort Worth, Texas.

Garza began her Zumba career as a gym member trying to lose 20 pounds of baby weight. A lifelong dancer, she instantly became hooked on the Latin-based dance workout class, and several years later she moved to the front of the room to become an instructor. Today, Garza teaches classes of more than 100 members on a regular basis.

Zumba classes give people the opportunity to improve their overall health in many ways, says Garza. Garza has had members tell her that attending Zumba classes has helped them with all parts of their lives — for instance, coping with depression after a divorce, getting off medication for high blood pressure, losing dozens of pounds and much more.

The best thing about Zumba classes is that anyone and everyone can do them, regardless of age, fitness level or dance background. Garza tells us how.

How do I master choreography fast, to get the most out of my dance workout class?

Coach Garza: Whether it’s someone standing at the door of the group fitness room scared to come in, or a friend that I’ve invited to class for the first time, I always give the same advice.

Zumba class is just a fitness class. And it’s a party at the same time. If you go into the class knowing that all you have to do is move your body, you won’t be as nervous. And the key to catching on with choreography is shaking the nerves off, feeling the music and having a really good time. When you aren’t thinking too hard about mastering every step (and there aren’t that many steps in some Zumba classes), you can just move with the music and let your ego go.

No matter what, you can’t be wrong in Zumba, so just go with what feels right for your body that day. It’s always better to move than to stand still, so don’t be scared to go forward when everyone else is going backward, as long as you’re picking up your feet and smiling — no need to be perfect. In fact, moving in any which way for the duration of the class will give you a great cardio benefit, even if you aren’t nailing the exact choreography.

After a few classes, you’ll be getting every step, feeling like a new person and soaking up the endorphin high, which will have you on top of the world.

What are some tips for going to your first Zumba dance workout?

Coach Garza: The most important thing about going into your first Zumba class is to have fun. You should listen to the music, try to feel the music and keep a smile on your face from start to finish.

It’s also important to wear the right clothing. Loose and breathable fabric is best, as are comfortable cross-training or dance shoes. I don’t recommend wearing running shoes, because they don’t provide lateral support and also don’t work well with turns and slides on the ground. Bring plenty of water and a towel, and take frequent hydration breaks — after every song if you need to.

If you are new to class, you definitely want to set yourself up in the second or third row of the room so that you can see the instructor. If you can’t see the instructor, look to the person just in front of you and follow him or her.

Just remember, there are no wrong steps in Zumba classes. Enjoy the party, bring your energy, let the music move you and know that you’re doing wonders for your body and your soul. Dance is life!

If you have questions for a future Coaches Corner column, please email To find a Zumba class near you, visit the class locator.