Veronica Abdo, 18, of Clearwater, uses a chair on the pool deck at the St. Pete Beach Aquatics Center to demonstrate a suspended aqua zumba move.
ST. PETE BEACH – When Veronica Abdo went to a zumba class with her mom three years ago, teaching the class did not cross her mind. Abdo did not even like to dance at the time, she said.
Now the 18-year-old teaches aqua zumba four times each week, including two classes at the St. Pete Beach Community Aquatics Center.
“I got hooked from the first class,” Abdo said. “I didn’t feel like I was working out; it was fun.”
In her first year of taking two zumba classes each week at the Highland Recreation Center in Largo, Abdo lost 47 pounds and dropped four dress sizes, she said.
“I was not into dance. That’s dancing why would I want to go to Zumba. I think because of my weight. I felt conscientious. Zumba got me out of my box. Threw me out of my comfort zone … I am definitely more outgoing. I was very, shy and quiet,” Abdo said.
Zumba came to Florida around 2001. Beto Perez Alberto Perlman and Alberto Aghion started Zumba Fitness as a company in Miami. Perez was a fitness instructor in his native Colombia. He taught the first-ever zumba class by accident when he forgot his regular workout music and grabbed some salsa and merengue tapes out of his bag, according to his profile page on the zumba website, www.zumba.com.
Now the worldwide Latin-inspired dance programs offer fun-filled fitness options for all ages at more than 140,000 locations in 151 countries, according to the company website.
One popular zumba option is aqua zumba, often described as a “pool party” rather than a workout. It provides a fun way to burn calories in the water.
In 2012, Abdo’s Zumba instructor was overbooked and could not teach the summer session of aqua zumba so she suggested Abdo become an instructor. Although Abdo was reluctant at first, she took the required certification classes and started teaching last summer, she said.
“I was like, I don’t think so. At first it took some getting used to teaching,” Abdo said. “It is so great to see the results of other people. Great to have people come back for months and they are mad when we don’t have class.”
Aqua zumba is not as taxing on the joints, knees, and back, Abdo said.
“We are not doing squats. The resistance of the water adds a toning aspect,” Abdo said.
Abdo teaches in St. Pete Beach and Clearwater. She also goes to school full time at St. Petersburg College, where she plans to pursue coursework for a career in social work, she said.
Abdo loves the flexibility and the interactions with people, she said.
“I love the freedom of it. It’s nice to set my own schedule,” Abdo said. “People need somebody to talk to about so many things.”
Want to try aqua zumba? Classes are about an hour long. Wear a swimsuit. Bring a bottle of water. Water shoes are optional. Wear a smile and bring a good attitude, Abdo said.
“Just give it a shot,” she said. “It’s scary to try something new, but once you try it you are going to love it.”
Through her three-year journey Abdo has learned many valuable life lessons from Zumba.
“You can do anything you put your mind to do. Anything is possible. I never thought I would lose the weight,” she said.
Abdo’s aqua zumba class schedule: St. Pete Beach Community Aquatics Center, 7701 Boca Ciega Drive, Saturdays, 10:15 to 11:15 a.m. (no class Sept. 14 due to special event at pool); Wednesdays, 7 to 8 p.m. (continues through Sept. 25); Mondays, 11 a.m. to noon (starting Sept. 30). Cost per class is $5 for St. Pete Beach residents, $6 for nonresidents. For more information: vabdo.zumba.com.