Thanks to the YMCA of Greater New York for sponsoring this post.
OK, we’ve firmly established that I’m uncoordinated and can’t dance and that I steer clear of cardio dance workouts (or really all choreographed group fitness classes) whenever possible, yes? So it’s not a shocker to say that I was terrified to take Soca AFRO-bics with Kiara Ross at the Ridgewood YMCA.
But stepping outside my comfort zone is good for me, right? That’s the whole purpose of this fitness adventure I’m on in partnership with the YMCA of Greater New York – to challenge myself, infuse my workouts with more fun and to keep me motivated during the holiday season.
When I arrived for class on a late Sunday morning, there was a crowd of women (and one man!) waiting for class to start. At first, the room was comfortably crowded but then more and more people kept trickling into the room. In fact, Kiara’s class has become so popular that they may have to move it downstairs to the gym.
The class was not choreographed like Cize, where we learned one routine. It’s not quite like Zumba either. It’s more of a souped up African and Caribbean dance-based cardio class paired with soca music, which comes from the Caribbean, and has a strong, syncopated beat.
And believe me. Kiara takes full advantage of the dynamic music. She draws on her dance background to pair dance-inspired moves and bootcamp-like drills (think shadowboxing, squat combos) to the fast beat, working your hips and lower body and core.
The best part? After a quick warm-up, Kara asked us to each grab a flag, representing different Caribbean nations, and we incorporated them into the movements — making our arm circles above our heads more festive and weaving it in and our of our legs as we squatted deeper and deeper down.
We ended class standing in a circle and each class participant took their turn in the center – dancing, moving, shaking, twirling – whatever you wanted. It was almost enough to make me want to sneak out of class but Kiara reminded us that there was no judgement. I was still skeptical until she grabbed me and pulled me to the middle. While I may have stayed there for 3.2 seconds, it was fun. I was a sweaty mess by the end of class.
One of the things I love the most about living in New York City is the rich mix of people and cultures inhabiting the city. And the thing that continues to strike me about the YMCAs is how each branch reflects the culture of their community and are such a big part of each community.
After class, I had a chance to meet Alyssa, a high school sophomore who is actively involved in programs at the Y. She’s learning about government, policy making and civic engagement through Teens Take the City and about the environmental issues and natural resources through Global Teens.
And these experiences are helping her dream big. Before high school, she wanted to be a movie director but now, she wants to be a doctor so she can help people. As she told me, it’s made her more aware of the world around her and of what she’s capable of achieving — and that she can make a difference.
Are you a member of your local YMCA?
Disclosure: This post is part of a sponsored partnership with the YMCA of Greater New York. Other posts in this series:
- Curious about the PiYo workout? Here’s what you need to know.
- 4 Benefits of Indoor Rowing Classes
- 3 Reasons Why You Need a Cardio Dance Workout
- How to Use Yoga Block Exercises to Increase Your Workout
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