May 25, 2016

Partly sunny

Fired up about fitness: Zumba fans shake, shimmy and sweat

With the pumping sounds of an international nightclub, the gymnasium at Tower Sports & Fitness in Lorain is an exercise hub for those looking for global inspiration to get moving.

Dozens of women and a few men, too, come to the former Lorain YMCA building to shimmy, shake and sweat off as many as 500 to 1,000 calories in one class at Zumba Zone with Pen & Lu.

Salsa, merengue, samba, reggaeton and other Latin-based dance and fitness moves are the hallmark of the craze that is Zumba, a fusion of worldwide music and moves that focuses on fun first.

More photos below.

Burning fat and calories is just a universal side effect.

Zumba is taught at more than 50,000 locations in 75 countries.

Search on, and you’ll find more than 175 Zumba classes within 25 miles of Lorain County.

“It’s popping,” said Kelly Dixon, owner and manager of Powerhouse Gym in Elyria, which offers Zumba; Zumba 45, a 45-minute class; and Zumba Toning, which uses weighted, maraca-like toning sticks to sculpt the muscles. “They are our most popular classes. We get up to 50 people in a class, whereas other classes we get maybe 15 people. It’s fun. It’s energetic. And people like to dance. Zumba involves a lot of dancing, a lot of rhythm music. The first time you do it, you find muscles you’ve never had before, all over the place. It’s a really good workout.”

There’s a buzz in the air as Penny Grieve and Angela Rigsby, Pen & Lu, respectively, jump on the wooden stage to kick off the class at Tower Sports & Fitness.

After a quick announcement, the music is cranked up and the dance party begins.

The Zumba instructors said they lead solely by visual cues and contagious movement.

“Our tagline is we’re going to make you sweat, and we’re going to make you smile. We just want you to have fun,” said Rigsby, a mother of two from Lorain.

The global company behind the fitness trend, Zumba Fitness LLC, has its own catchy slogan: “Ditch the workout, join the party.”

“People are very doubtful about that, but Penny was my instructor when I first started Zumba a year ago in March, and … it is not like a regimented workout,” Rigsby said.

“You come in and you are doing salsa, and you are doing hip-hop, you’re doing reggaeton — you don’t even realize how good of a workout you are getting. I have lost 43 pounds and completely toned my body.”

Grieve, who lost 47 pounds in her first year of participating in Zumba classes and following a healthy-eating plan, said she and Rigsby joined forces to teach classes together last June, and it’s been a great chemistry and partnership ever since.

“We are the only ones in the area that teach classes together,” said Grieve, a mother of two from Elyria. “We keep our moves simple and easy to follow. We do them long enough that they are easy to catch on to. That’s what makes it attractive to the vast majority of our clients. We keep it simple.”

For Joni Poli, of Amherst, Zumba has been the jumpstart to incorporating other healthy moves in her lifestyle such as improving her diet, walking more and being more active.

“It is so addicting, in a good way,” Poli said with a laugh. “It has given me flexibility and energy. It’s something that you kind of want to scream to everybody, ‘You’ve got to try this!’ I try to go four to five times a week. Now I feel guilty if I miss a class for myself.”

With one bulging and two herniated discs in her back, Debbie Pena was not an avid exerciser. Pena, of Lorain, had received nerve blocks for pain so she could get through everyday life and her job at Ford Motor Co.

“After taking (Zumba), I can bend over and touch my toes,” said Pena, who started Zumba in June and attends classes three times a week. “It’s been very therapeutic for me and helping out my back. This is the first exercise regime that I have stuck with it. It’s definitely something that I look forward to going to every day. You want to be there. You want to go back and do it again.”


If burning calories and releasing your inner Latin dancer isn’t enough incentive to try out a Zumba class, maybe this weekend’s Zumbathon will get you to shake your “money maker.” From 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at Tower Sports & Fitness, 1121 Tower Blvd., Lorain (the former Lorain YMCA), there will be an all-you-can Zumba buffet to benefit the American Cancer Society — Relay for Life Elyria. It’s $7 pre-pay and $10 at door for two hours of Zumba with Pen & Lu, the duo hosting the Zumbathon, and six other Zumba instructors from around the area. All proceeds — 100 percent — will benefit the American Cancer Society.

“It’ll be a fun day for a great cause,” Penny Grieve said. “We really want to help the American Cancer Society find cancer cures, and we really would like to introduce people to Zumba — a way of exercise that you can stay with, that you are not going to want to leave.”

Register by visiting

More information

Contact Chrissy Kadleck at 329-7155 or