Omahans are taking the “Zumba party” off dry land and into the pool.
Aqua Zumba features the same Latin-style dancing found in Zumba and adds in extra resistance as participants move through the water, making the workout more intense.
“A lot of people really like Zumba class, but they can't necessarily do it on land, so they come to the water,” said Amy Roux, the group exercise coordinator at the Maple Street YMCA.
Classes are popping up across Omaha, with many gyms in town doubling or tripling the number of classes offered in the past few months.
Since launching the class two years ago, the YMCA at 7502 Maple St. has expanded its Aqua Zumba to four classes per week, eliminating previous water aerobics sessions to free up new time slots to accommodate the need.
Roux, 32, said some of the appeal for Aqua Zumba comes from the higher-intensity workout the water provides. The lessened impact on knees and feet especially appeals to some groups of exercisers, such as pregnant women and seniors, as a way of minimizing wear and tear on the body.
The biggest reason the classes have caught on, driving in people from all demographics, is the atmosphere, she said.
Cassia Rye, a 27-year-old University of Nebraska Medical Center student, danced Zumba before testing the waters and experiencing what Aqua Zumba markets as “the party in the pool.”
Rye attended the first class held at DiVentures Scuba and Swim Center, which added Aqua Zumba in October before more than doubling its classes recently. She was curious how Zumba could translate to the water.
The party atmosphere and the safety she feels in the water left her impressed. Since her first week, she hasn't missed a class.
“Even kicks and jumps, I feel a lot more comfortable in the water,” she said. “Out of the water, I would worry about falling or hurting myself. In the water, you don't have to worry about that as much. You can glide around more. It's like flying.”
In a typical class, participants scatter around the pool, choosing a depth that places the top of the water between their navel and their chest. For a more intense workout, a depth at the collarbone is recommended.
An instructor, often positioned outside the pool to make leg movements more visible, turns on the music, which consists of about 70 percent Latin-based music and 30 percent popular hits. The Latin-based songs include such styles as merengue, dalsa, cumbia and reggaeton, with modified dance moves.
“The way you would do a Salsa in water is totally different from the way you would do Salsa on land,” said Jennifer LaMontagne, a DiVentures Aqua Zumba instructor. “Your moves aren't always going to be as fast as on land.”
LaMontagne, 40, said when need be, she'll encourage exercisers to ramp up their energy and push harder, but her preferred method is to let the music dictate each person's movement and energy level.
“It's fun, but it's something different for everybody,” she said. “For me, it's an emotional experience. The music moves me, I feel free.”
As temperatures plummet and winter approaches, water aerobics classes typically fall in popularity, according to Roux.
For people such as Rye, the 80-plus- degree water at DiVentures makes it more appealing to exercise in the pool than outside it during wintertime.
“Even if it's 14 degrees (outside), I know it's going to be warm and I know the pool is going to feel really good,” Rye said. “It's a workout that can work in the winter.”
Members of most gyms can attend Aqua Zumba classes for free with a paid membership. For non-members, gyms such as the Maple Street YMCA offer punch cards equivalent to $7 per class, while DiVentures offers a drop-in rate of $7, with punch-card discounts available.
Want to try Aqua Zumba?
Here are a few area places that offer it:
24 Hour Fitness Northpark, 2718 N. 118th Circle.
Maple Street YMCA, 7502 Maple St.
DiVentures, 4303 S. 121st Plaza.
Prairie Life Fitness, 8525 Q St.