Gym Rat: Zumba toning at Heartbeat House in Atwater Village

At Heartbeat House in Atwater Village, learning that anyone can do Zumba

I have friends who love Zumba; they say it's a workout but not work. I've always feared it was a chance to feel like I have two left feet, a full hour of worrying about moving the wrong way, tripping someone or tripping over someone. I love to dance but haven't had even one lesson. But after finally giving it a try at a friendly little studio in Atwater Village called Heartbeat House, I'd say anyone can do Zumba but perhaps not very well the first time.

Heartbeat House, 3141 Glendale Blvd., Atwater Village, heartbeathouse.com

Aura

Much as I didn't expect to say this, it was really fun. I found myself smiling. The class was a baker's dozen of women of various ages and sizes. One woman in front of me was an obvious Zumba-iac, so I followed her as much as the teacher, Shawnee Rioles. Heartbeat House is a neighborhood studio, not at all fancy but very friendly. Zumba was just one style of class offered there; others include yoga, hip-hop, Afro funk and Latin jam. So, in a sense, I took the easy way out with Zumba.

Effort

This was Zumba toning, one of several variants of an hourlong dance party. So we used weights, and Rioles focused on all the muscle groups. It's a workout, for sure. "Dancers have their bodies," she said, "because they dance." OK, count me in. I spent more time than I'd like figuring out which arm to raise or how to move my feet, but I think that would improve with time. Even with Rioles' expert hand motions indicating what to do next, I was a little awkward. Still, I finished the hour needing a long drink of water to balance all the sweating. Like many classes I've tried lately, this one works you really hard for a short time; unofficial breaks come with changes to the music. Just before the welcome cool-down, there's a pretty taxing series of ab exercises.

Style

Zumba classes are mostly Latin music, with some of whatever else the instructor adds, said Rioles, who has been teaching Zumba since 2007. Her class reflected her dance background. Be ready for loud, lively music.

Cost

$5 a class for your first week; otherwise, most single classes are $16, with a few exceptions. Packages available. Yoga mats provided. Bring your own water.

Tell me about your favorite workout classes by email or on Twitter @mmacvean.

mary.macvean@latimes.com

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