To me the Seymour YMCA (315 E. Center Ave., Seymour, 417-935-2177) is much more than just a gym. It’s where I had my first job during high school, starting out in child care and later manning the front desk. It’s where I met Nikki Russell, a fellow Y employee who is still one of my closest friends. And it’s where I truly developed a love for exercise, busting out mile after mile on the treadmill every day after school and even after I locked up for the night. I spent many waking hours in that gym, and it almost became a part of me. Just as the halls of Seymour High School felt warm and familiar a dozen years ago, so did the YMCA. It felt like home.
Now that I work in Springfield and live in Rogersville, I rarely make it back to my old stomping grounds. But lately my little old gym has been a hot topic on Facebook, where nearly 100 girls—many who I went to high school with—are members of the “Zumba Seymour Mo” group.
Zumba is absolutely all the rage in my little home town, and these girls are dedicated. They designed custom neon Zumba shirts to wear during their workouts. They have classes three days a week, and sometimes even a bonus class on the weekend. They travel to Zumbathons all around 417-land, and they hashtag every other Facebook post with something about #zumba. They’re the #zumbacrew, and they’re leading a workout trend that’s changing the lives of 100 women. That’s extra impressive when you consider Seymour’s population isn’t even quite 2,000 people. So, why is everyone in Seymour so Zumba-obsessed? I visited a class to find out for myself.
As I stepped into the Y and walked by the same front desk where I once spent countless hours, I looked ahead to the Zumba group gathered in the gym and recognized a dozen familiar faces. The class is led by certified Zumba instructor Tammy Galbraith, a woman who has been a friend of my mom’s since we moved to Missouri some 20 years ago. Some of the class members were girls I went to high school with, and the others were people I met at the Y way back when, either by watching their kids (the moms) or the kids themselves (the daughters). There were women of all ages preparing to workout, and no one seemed to feel intimidated. Many people knew each other, and those who didn’t were quickly welcomed and introduced to the others. The regulars were ecstatic to have guests. It’s like they couldn’t wait to share this wonderful obsession with the rest of us newbies.
I immediately found Brittany Akers, who has been a Zumba-a-holic since January 2015 and my best friend since fourth grade. I was asking her for tips and tricks for surviving my first Zumba class, and she broke it down rather simply. “Just watch Tammy, and do what she does,” Brittany said. “At the beginning of every move, she’ll tap the leg we are starting with. She’ll hold up her fingers to tell you the number of times you repeat the moves.” Easy enough, I thought.
The next thing I knew, “Cheerleader” by OMI was blasting throughout the gym, and all 45 women lined up in single file rows and just started dancing. The class is sometimes in the YMCA’s community room, but they have to move it to the gym when it exceeds 25 for space purposes.
As the girls started dancing in what seemed like perfect unison all around me, I looked to the front of the space and saw Tammy in action, shaking her hips, kicking her legs and leading this group of energized women to their happy place. It was almost like I was an extra in a music video—many of these ladies have practiced these moves so many times that they have them down to a science. It felt pretty natural to just start following Tammy’s lead. Of course, I felt as if my lack of rhythm made me look a bit different than the other girls, but I didn’t feel like anyone was looking at me. Everyone was focused on their own actions.
We continued song after song, and it seemed as if the girls just got more amped up as the minutes ticked by. That’s the one thing about this class that really stood out—there was this intense energy coming from each and every one of the ladies there. At times, someone will get so excited that they randomly let out a scream or a shout, and that seems to just pump the ladies around them up even more. And then there were the times when the whole class yelled, like during high kicks or after we popped our booties. It was okay to scream and shout. It was okay to burst into our own little dance solo. At Galbraith’s Zumba class, anything that works for you works for everyone. It’s all about dancing and having fun with your girlfriends, and it’s all about making a workout you’ll want to come back to. With just one visit, it was obvious while so many ladies are addicted.
The core of Zumba is Latin dance, and this class wraps a lot of aerobics in along with it. Of course, dancing around a jam-packed gym for an hour is guaranteed to work out your entire body and burn a ton of calories, and that’s one of the class’s greatest benefits. “One class can burn anywhere from 800 to 1,000 calories,” Galbraith says.
But even more than the calories I melted away in those 60 minutes, I think the best thing about this class is getting to workout with a group of girls who are truly passionate about what they’re doing. Of course it was great for me since I knew so many people. It was like I was back at a high school dance, but with fewer pimples, no guys and a whole lot less awkwardness.
But knowing everyone wasn’t even the best thing about the class. The energy that took over that gym when the music started playing would be good for anyone.
“We have a very welcoming, energetic group,” Galbraith says. “In fact, I’ve actually had instructors come in and talk about how amazing classes are because the atmosphere is so positive, upbeat and supportive.”
I couldn’t agree more.
If you’re looking to work in a new workout and don’t mind to drive 45 minutes to get there, I highly recommend heading to the Seymour YMCA and trying out Zumba with some of the most passionate girls around. Even if you’re not from Seymour, these girls will welcome you with open arms. They’ll make you feel right at home.