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Welcome to another edition of Adventures in Fitness, where I battle the bulge and burn calories while keeping it fun and varied by trying all sorts of new activities.

You heard it hear first.  Afro Belly Boogie is going to be as big as Zumba.  It may take time to get to your area, but mark my words – it’s coming.  And you’re not going to want to miss out on it when it does.

This workout combines high-energy conditioning and rhythmic movements of African dance with the sensuous muscle isolations of Belly Dance to create a low impact, spirit boosting, high cardio workout. The workout features rhythms and sounds from Africa, Caribbean, Middle East and even current club beats. You’ll have fun while you burn calories, tone your core and strengthen your upper and lower body all while dancing to the beat.

That class description was enough to hook me; I had no idea that Afro Belly Boogie, created by Angel Thacker, was born here in the Bay Area. But knowing that the class originated here makes me love it all the more. I’m so thankful that 24 Hour Fitness offers the class!

You guys know that I took a belly dancing class a few months back, and while that class was relaxing, soothing, and empowering and more similar to a hip-shaking yoga class with it’s isolated movements.  Afro Belly Boogie, on the other hand, was nothing like that.

I really didn’t know what to expect when I walked into the class.  As I said, the description drew me in, but beyond that, I had no idea what I was in for.  A few of the ladies had hip scarves on, making me wish I would’ve brought mine, too.  Next time.  We were told that the regular instructor was on vacation and the girl who would be leading class would be here for two weeks.  She seemed friendly enough, and she was encouraging the class to let loose and get into it. She also warned,

This is a tough class.  We have fun, listen to great music, shake our hips, but this isn’t a gentle belly dancing class.  This one will make you MOVE.  This one will make you sore tomorrow.  But don’t get frustrated if you can’t do everything at first.  Keep at it.  Move with the music.  And have fun.”

My first thought was “Uh-oh, am I going to be able to hand this?”  I was the biggest one in the room (yet again), and the only other plus-sized woman in the class didn’t last past the first 10 minutes.  I have to admit, I had moments of wondering whether I should give up and leave, but then I told myself that even if I couldn’t do exactly what they were doing, I was still getting a great workout.  I loved the music, liked the moves, and hoped that I would be able to be more precise with the moves at some point in the future.  Plus, I  can shake my hips and follow a beat, so I knew I wouldn’t look too far off base, as long as I kept moving.  I stayed for the whole class, and I’m glad I did.

The class itself is so hard to describe.  It uses the movement of belly dance, but at a much quicker pace than the SharQui class did.  The music is a combo of a bit of African beats, with lots of Middle Eastern rhythms, and then paired with club favorites like “Like a G6.”  The music was awesome.

The moves on the other hand were difficult because they were so fast.  But just like with Zumba, I have a feeling that once I take the class for a few months I’ll be able to do them better and better each time.  And just like with Zumba, the instructor can make all the difference.  This instructor was sweet and friendly, but she didn’t spend enough time demonstrating the moves, especially since there were 5-6 new people in the class that evening.  She did inspire me to keep going, though, and by the end of the class, I felt proud of myself for sticking to it.  I loved the moves, and I can’t wait until I can do more of them successfully.

(Surprisingly enough, it was the club dance moves that I was the best at.  I’ve always been a good dancer, but since it’s been years since I’ve set foot in a club, this surprised me.  Guess the old girl still has it!).

Here’s a short video that gives you a small taste of some of the moves in the class.  It begins sort of slow, but once the women start moving, you’ll get a better idea.  Most of the class is much more intense that what’s being depicted in this video, but it does give you a little flavor of what the class is like.

In doing a bit of research about the origins of Afro Belly Boogie, I discovered that Angel Thacker was once over 300 pounds.  She developed this dance program to help herself lose weight and enjoy herself while doing it.  That REALLY inspired me.  So while I may not be able to  do all of the moves right now, I’m very confident that if I keep going, I’ll shaking my hips and moving my bootie with the best of them soon.

If you’re able to find an Afro Belly Boogie class near you GO.  You’ll have fun and you’ll burn a ton of calories.  Oh, and you’ll remember how much fun you had again the next day, when you feel your sore muscles.

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