‘WERQ’ from home and Zumba via Zoom: UI Recreational Services transitions classes online

UI Recreational Services fitness instructors are offering their classes via Zoom to adhere to social-distancing guidelines while still providing options for people to stay physically active and connect with their community.


Tate Hildyard

A Zumba class meets online during the Coronavirus Quarantine on Tuesday, April 7th, 2020. UI Recreational Services are offering daily Zumba classes via Zoom.

Marissa Smith, News Reporter

Group-fitness instructors at UI Recreational Services have transitioned their workouts to an online format by hosting daily Zumba classes via Zoom.

The classes help both instructors and students stay physically active as people practice social distancing because of the spread of COVID-19, in an effort to generate a sense of normalcy and create an opportunity for participants to connect with others virtually.

When the UI Campus Recreation and Wellness Center closed its doors because of the novel coronavirus, certified Zumba instructors Becky Bucklin and Rachel Cole began devising a plan to transition their classes online. Their plan involved six instructors to teach classes at 5:30 p.m. daily, a time the pair thought would be easily accessible for their students.

“It’s really great that they decided to do it online and fight for it,” said Eleonora Tsankova, an Iowa City resident and loyal attendee of in-person and online Zumba classes.

The Zumba instructors provide a link to their Zoom classes in a shared Facebook group each day. Participants follow the link, the instructor shares their screen to play music, and everyone in the class dances in synchronization, Bucklin said.

Tsankova said classes moving online have even made it easier for her to attend. She used to attend in-person classes one to two times a week, Tsankova added, but can now attend up to three classes per week.

“It’s slightly more convenient when it’s at home,” Tsankova said.

So far, Buckin and Cole’s plan has been successful. The pair reported an average of 25 to 30 dancers attending each class, with the highest-attended days reaching above 45.

“The first night I taught there were 35 people on, and I was shocked,” Cole said. “I thought it was going to be six of my friends.”

Staying physically active is extremely important, especially in times of social distancing. The Zumba classes can create structure in one’s day and serve as a great energy booster, Cole said. The classes also provide a break between working from home and other activities, as well as creating a sense of community support, Bucklin said.

“It does bring a sense of normalcy to a situation that is not normal,” Bucklin said.

In order to maintain the sense of community that in-person classes offer, the dancers and their instructors take a few minutes to chat with each other before, during, and after class, Bucklin said.

“We’re fortunate we have a supportive community to do this with,” she said. “Community is everything right now.”

Related: UI offers tele-mental health resources with campus closed to contain coronavirus spread

The instructors are also offering classes titled WERQ, BollyX, Zumba Gold, and STRONG by Zumba via Zoom, to diversify the daily Zumba classes, Cole and Bucklin said.

Online workouts will be offered until the end of the semester and as long as the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center is closed, Bucklin said. The Recreation Services website says facilities are closed until at least May 17, though a number of activities are closed through at least June 13.

Cole said she believes now is a great time for anyone to try out Zumba and hopes the online classes will attract students who have been too intimidated to try them before in person.

“Hopefully people can not feel intimidated and just have fun, let loose and not think about everything that’s happening in the world right now,” Cole said.

In addition to the daily, evening class, there are also 10:30 a.m. Saturday and noon Sunday classes. Anyone can access the classes by joining the Facebook group named Zumba, Werq, Pound, and BollyX with the UIowa Rec Instructors, Cole and Bucklin said, or by reaching out to them.

“We really appreciate the fact that these girls have taken initiative and are doing what they are doing instead of doing classes by themselves,” Tsankova said. “They’re keeping the community moving.”

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