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Zumba for Runners

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Some things go together like peanut butter and jelly. You don’t have to think too hard or long about how well they complement one another to understand the connection. They just fit. With other things though, you might have to defend them a little more, like my appreciation of peanut butter mixed with maple syrup. Sure, it’s like a million calories and maybe a bit out-of-the-box, but it’s yummy!

You can apply this logic to fitness as well. Kickboxing, for instance, would logically pair well with strength training exercises for building your leg muscles. It’s pretty much peanut butter mixing with some jelly. But for other fitness pairings, the connection might not be so obvious, and the subject of this post is an example of one of those possibilities: Zumba and running.

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While you might find yourself suspicious and doubtful of a claim that says Zumba can be beneficial as a cross-training method for runners (as long as you have the right cross training footwear), there’s validity in that claim. Like the peanut butter and syrup detail though, it might need more support in order to fully sway you to accept it!

What is Zumba?

Zumba is a trend that focuses on dancing as the means to work toward fitness. There, of course, is more to the process than just dashing to the dance floor and going with the flow of the music. Rather, these are dances led by a Zumba instructor who uses moves that the class should mimic, and the pattern for those moves can embrace interval training through the varied paces and different levels of exertion. Overall, it’s a way to enjoy your fitness in a social setting that’s energetic, fun, and effective.

Of course, you are wondering, how does Zumba benefits runners? Let’s scale this back just a bit in order to best answer this question. It isn’t just that Zumba itself can physically help a runner. Dancing in general can. If you find you’re suspicious of that idea and need to discuss it, keep reading for evidence!

Balance and Form

One reason why pairing dance and running works is because both of these fitness methods require very similar, basic details from their pursuant. Specifically, for instructed/ballroom dancing and running, balance and form are important. One dance might require a solid form of high shoulders and elevated chin whereas another might be more concerned with the position of your hips, and mixing up those combinations can create a dance that doesn’t reflect the style you were going for as well as it should. In regards to balance, think of a jive where fancy things like flips are employed. If you’re balance is off, you could get seriously injured.

Likewise, an off-form while you run can lead to injuries since you could be putting unneeded pressure and impact on the wrong areas of your body. Your balance being off can do the same or cause you to fall. In both fields then, you’re being trained to keep the right stance and balance, so partaking in two areas that promote those ideas could double your chances of success.

Bone Health

On a comparable notion, both of these forms of exercise can help to build strong bones. Why? Because you’re exercising with your own body weight—moving yourself through running steps and dance maneuvers—and when you apply that kind of pressure on your bones, they can strengthen by added bone tissue. Since having weakened bones can lead to injuries during fitness endeavors, having two exercise tactics that build up your bones is a great concept! Both of these fitness approaches can also get your heart pumping and your lungs working, so once more, you might find that doubling your methods has double the effects—particularly if you’re looking to lose weight.

Muscle Training

Different exercises work different muscles, which is a general benefit of cross-training. Instead of only focusing on the muscles that are most required for your preferred fitness method, you’re allowing more to become engaged by adding in other fitness techniques as exercise side-dishes. This is an idea that can be applied as a benefit for a runner who dances for cross-training purposes because dancing can exercise most, if not all, of your muscles through varied routines. Think about all of the parts of your body that are moving when you’re dancing, and you could see the logic behind that concept.

You might argue though that your legs, hips, arms, core, etc. are involved with running as well, so the idea behind this muscle toning increase is questionable. But while you might be on to something in regard to how running exercises a number of areas of your body, the multiple-muscle-toning idea still holds merit because, even if you exercise the same number of areas for running and dancing, you don’t use them in the same way. Running is a pursuit of what’s in front of you, for the most part. That means your body is going forward, and forward, and forward, and while you might have to vary your stance to take curves or miss a pebble, it’s still the basic process. Even your arms are going through the same basic action of pumping to keep you going.

Dancing is different. You’re going side to side, and your legs, arms, hips, and neck can be utilized in less limited ways. Your routine might require sidekicks, arm-waving, head-turns, shakes, jumps, diagonal steps… Essentially, any muscle could be targeted if the right dance step is employed. In that way, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to strengthen more of your muscles by adding some form of instructed/ballroom dance to your fitness schedule—like Zumba! Similarly, this variation of movement can also help a runner build flexibility.

So what makes Zumba so special?

So far, we’ve focused quite a bit on why dancing in general is a good idea for a runner’s cross-training schedule, but what makes Zumba stand out from the rest of the options? First, there’s the ease of taking up the craft. While perfecting a ballroom Paso Doble or learning to do the lifts for a Jitterbug might take a considerable space of time, you don’t have to learn the steps before you go into a Zumba classroom, and you can figure them out as you go.

Additionally, those steps are led by an instructor, so you have no reason to feel like you need to memorize routines. You also don’t need a partner, so you don’t have to worry about compatibility. Better still, there are no lifts in Zumba, meaning that you don’t have to worry about being dropped if you miss a move. Ultimately, Zumba is a lower-risk, less-skill-needed way to gain those dance benefits.

And it can be fun! Make it social and bring along friends! You can laugh, make mistakes, and enjoy the motions as you chase after your fitness goals, and that fun, forgiving atmosphere can be a great method of calming down after a serious run—or a great way to keep working while you recuperate from one. You’re still exercising, but in a manner that’s tailored toward entertainment before you dive into more strenuous fitness tactics. If you prefer as well, you could buy a Zumba set, invite some friends over, and dance right in your living room! It’s so convenient!

Though maybe a touch unconventional then—like peanut butter and maple syrup—running and Zumba complement each other enough to make the dance strategy a great cross-training method for runners!



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