ZUMBA is my safe place (guest post).

 When I asked Samantha to do a guest post I had delusions of grandeur.  I thought Id write an amazing intro showering her with well-deserved praise and totally setting her up for all ya’ll to leave MY BLOG in a hurry and git over to hers to read the archives.  The problem is….I cant.  Reading the post below immediately transports me back to watching her teach ZUMBA at Fitbloggin and I sit transfixed.  Her moves and freedom there were so beautiful…so compelling to look at…so PLAIN OLE SEXY CONFIDENT Im not embarrassed to say it brought tears to my eyes.  Her joy was palpable and it made me wish we could all experience it—even fleetingly.


PreZumba Vamping2 300x234 ZUMBA is my safe place (guest post).

Samantha & her partner in Zumba crime: Mrs. Fatass


One of the most frequent compliments I get after teaching a Zumba class is how confident I am and how much people covet how comfortable I am in my own skin. 

People look at my short, stocky, 270 pound body and don’t see the extra jiggle that I see.  People see the fact that I love what I’m doing and that I want them to get their groove thing shaking and will go to every length to get them to sweat more than they think possible – including being a total fool. They see that I OWN my choreography and push it to the limits. They see sass and attitude and power.

And honestly, it’s kind of amazing for me to try to see myself through their eyes.  Why?  Because I am one of the most anxious and nervous people you could ever meet UNLESS I’m in Zumba.

So what is it about Zumba that is so different? Is it the Zumbawear? Is it the music? Is it the choreography?

Not really. Those are all great but…

What’s so different about Zumba in my eyes is how the class itself embraces people being different and finding your own style.  From the first time I walked in to Zumba class I felt the often touted “Zumba love.”  Zumba became my safe place.

Instructors are taught to encourage their students to modify every move they do to their own level.

For more advanced students that means adding jumps and squats or other fitness elements or more advanced foot work to the basic dances.  For newer students if could mean doing the most basic of moves, a step touch instead of a grapevine, a stripped down salsa, until they feel comfortable with the moves and can add their own flair.  It could mean adding flair with different arm movements or sass with a flick of a head or a deeper stomp to accent the music.

Every student is free to interpret the music in a way that is real and honest to themselves. It’s not just a suggestion, it’s encouraged.

And that gave me the freedom, at 400 pounds, to go in to that first class and struggle through basic salsa, cumbia, merengue and reggaeton songs and leave feeling successful, happy and wanting more.

It’s a class where someone going the wrong direction isn’t going to be noticed and reprimanded.  In fact, one hip hop routine we do in class turned in to something different and even more fun when someone turned the wrong way on a move and faced their neighbor and did the standing crunch/body pump move.  It added an element of playful interaction that changed the mood of the whole song.

Now we don’t do it any other way!

Another cool thing? Everyone is welcome in a Zumba class regardless of color, creed, fitness level or gender.  It’s easily accessible to everyone because it’s, at the core, a class that circles the world with its style and tries to bring a little something for everyone.

People think it’s a class for just women and that’s just preposterous!

Zumba was created by a wonderful male, Columbian aerobics instructor. Every move has a more masculine or more feminine modification.  When we teach moves like the Samba we can show a more feminine, on-the-toes Samba or a more masculine stomp-and-twist Samba. Even belly dance moves have a more masculine version so that men in the classes don’t ever need to feel like they’re being forced to do something that doesn’t feel right to their body.  And if we find a move that we can’t modify we are never afraid, in my class anyway, to change it to something more middle of the road.

Zumba is the one place that having a booty that jiggles is a GOOD THING.

Everyone always looks at the women with larger rears with envy when we do body pumps, or booty circles or hip drops or even the smooth sensual slides of belly dance because they look good doing it! It’s not uncommon to hear “Why doesn’t my butt move like that!” It was really scary for me to get up and teach a song for the first time because at 340 pounds I felt like people would look at my giant butt and laugh – they cheered and wanted to learn to make their body move like mine.

And lastly – Zumba is all about embracing personal style and being who you truly are.

It’s really cool to me to watch a student come to their first class in sweat pants and a baggy shirt.  As they get more comfortable in their dancing, in the basic moves, and they gain confidence they start to come in wearing tank tops and leggings or shorts and some even progress to wearing all the wild and crazy Zumbawear.  They begin cutting their shirts and mixing and matching colors and patterns to stand out even more.

Something wonderful happens when they reach that point.

They become part of the front row crew.

They show off their modifications, they play with other students and they make my job even more fun.

That’s when some even go off and get their license and start teaching their own classes.

For the hour I’m at Zumba I smile, I laugh, I dance and I PARTY.  I never feel like people are judging me because they are too busy having a good time and getting their own sweat on.  For me, it’s also a return to my youth.  I danced until I was 13 and this is the first thing I’ve found that lets me tap in to my “inner dancer” and use that energy as an adult.

I get to put on a sexy song and strut my stuff, throw on an angry reggaeton and be a fighter, dance the tango and be a prideful woman or throw down on in dance battle with my students.  I get to act. I get to play and I get to watch my students do the same.

Everyone should have a place in their life like a Zumba class release that allows them to feel comfortable, powerful, and free.

For some it may be found on the road running or cycling, in the pool, in a room surrounded by heavy weights, or at peace on the yoga mat but I challenge everyone to find what Chalene Johnson calls the “soulmate” workout and never let go!


Samantha is a relocated Yankee living in Eastern, NC.  She graduated with an English degree from an all women’s college in Raleigh, NC and, naturally, now works as a technical analyst for a bank.  Six years in to her journey from 475 pounds to a healthy weight, Samantha prides herself on her mad Zumba skills and her willingness to try new, scary things as often as possible.  She then whines when she inevitably gets hurt over at simplifyingsammie.blogspot.com  She also blogs about her zany adventures and her struggles with weight, food, anxiety, family and finances.


Never miss a post. Enter your email to get my latest posts delivered to your inbox.


  1. says

    Wow. Thank you Samantha for sharing your amazing story with us. I love the way that you describe that special and empowering space that you’ve found through Zumba. I am just sad that I missed the Zumba session at Fitbloggin. I have never thought to try Zunba before and now am so excited to go to my first class. Thank you.

  2. says

    Zumba is amazing! For the short time i was able to attend a class, i loved every minute. It taught me that exercise doesn’t have to equal punishment, but can be fun.

    Maybe someday i’ll have another opportunity to get back to it.

  3. says

    Samantha – you can totally tell you have a dancer background. I loved the class I did with you and Sue. I was pregnant and tired for the hour we played in the sandbox at Fitbloggin’ but I knew the two of you were not going to sweat me for details. I had my heart rate monitor on and stayed in a safe, loving place with the two of you. Cannot wait to see you next year. xoxo

  4. says

    You nailed it. I think that’s a huge reason why people flock to Zumba. It’s a safe place. I usually open my classes by encouraging students to check negativity at the door – that for one hour in that room we are all the smartest, strongest, most inside out beautiful people. That the voice inside us that criticizes is silenced while we dance. And it works. And I know you know what it looks like when a student starts carrying that idea around outside of class too. Zumba has saved me more than once in the last year. For me, it’s a lifeline.

    So thank you once again for being my partner.

  5. says


    I’m a fairly recent convert to Zumba and I love it. I love the more hip-hop type movements.

    I love the freedom and fun of the classes and the fact that ALL of my instructors encourage us to be sassy and sexy.

    You must be super-fit to be an instructor and that’s such a great achievement and I’m sure your love for Zumba comes through in your classes and your students must love you! What an inspiration you must be.


  6. says

    I just went to my first Zumba class on Tuesday and I totally get this! It was so much fun! My mom was there too and even though she couldn’t do all the moves, she did her own thing and it was great to see her having fun with it anyways.

    Go you for being awesome! :)

  7. says

    I wish I had just ONE of your moves…you and Sue blew me AWAY at Fitbloggin! I had tried Zumba once before and my experience was…meh. After your class, what I learned is that Zumba is true self-acceptance in action. You ROCK!

  8. says

    Can’t we start a new movement because I am certainly a part of the #frontrowcrew

    Thank you Sam, this was beautiful.

    I get my certification in 4 weeks because of you and that wonderful SUE.

    Keep inspiring folks like me everyday so maybe we can look half as good as you on stage.

    Shine on sister.

  9. says

    I was lucky enough to take that Zumba class at FitBloggin – and it was one of my favorite sessions of the conference. I’ve wanted to try Zumba for a very long time. I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner. Sam’s passion shined as she lead the group. It was great inspiration for me as a new yoga teacher – the way she motivated her students was amazing.

  10. says

    How fun! I have heard SO MANY great testimonials about doing zumba and improving their health. However, I have found it is not for me. I am too type A and struggle with not knowing the moves to get a good sweaty workout in.

    But it IS fun!! :)

  11. cheryl says

    you mean there ARE classes that don’t accept one regardless of color, creed, fitness level, gender? Never have run across one…thank goodness.

  12. Heather Davis says

    Samantha, You are such an AWESOME Zumba instructor! I always look forward to your classes. You Rock!

  13. says

    Samantha (and Sue) rocked my socks off at Fitbloggin!! Their passion, moves, and beauty was one of the highlights of the conference. These ladies can drop it low and shake their moneymakers! There is only one instructor at my gym that holds a candle and she is only teaches one class a week–that one class I never miss! I feel like I find my inner Fly Girl in that class and for that hour I am a PYT (Pretty Young Thing) again! Keep being an inspiration Samantha and Sue! xo

  14. says

    Samantha, I so love this post! Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how the fitness industry doesn’t always appeal to people just getting started on their journey. My group step classes are full of lean, fit people. Nobody needs to lose more than 20 pounds.
    I love that you found a group class that inspires and motivates and lets YOU BE YOU! Rock it sista!

  15. says

    How wonderful to have found something that you love, can’t wait to do and never want to stop. I think that’s the key for all of us- finding something that makes us love our bodies and doesn’t feel like work. So happy that you have found Zumba and have shared it with so many in such a positive way.

  16. says

    I have taken Zumba many times and I just want to sincerely say that your class with Mrs.Fatass at Fitbloggin was by far one of the best zumba classes I have taken. You encouraged and inspired all of us to be free and and sexy, while having fun. You rock :-) thank you for sharing your story.

  17. says

    Great post! I used to really be into Zumba when I lived in FL, but since moving to Alabama, it’s just not the same. Still looking for a class with the right vibe. That’s why I had to start running.:)

  18. says

    Adore this post! I’d heard of zumba before, but hadn’t seen the spirit of zumba until I met these two fabulous ladies at Fitbloggin! Like yoga, I’m all about integrating exercise and self-love, something that improves the body & head/heart at the the same time.

  19. says

    This post was sooo inspiring! I think we were all made to move and dance to the beat. You have made me want to go out and try Zumba! :)

  20. says

    Love it!! Love it so much! It just makes me all happy and warm inside hearing that you fell in love with something as fun as Zumba and that it brings out the comfortable you. I’ve been healing from a foot surgery, but it looks like I’ll soon be able to explore Zumba again; I’ve only been once before, but like you, used to dance and miss dancing as an adult. Your classes sound like tons of fun!

  21. says

    Great explanation about Zumba. I just started with few classes and I feel the same what it brings us. Very inspirational. Great post Samantha. It is challenge for me to go for Zumba classes with 3 small kids home.
    Thank you very much.

  22. says

    I thought I’d have to lose a lot of weight and get way fitter before attempting zumba, but you make it sound like such fun that I may just try it much sooner! Thanks for sharing, Samantha!