Workout With A Smile

November 28, 2010


Chrystal Ainsworth and Amie Rolland


The three of us were drenched in sweat, yet surprisingly refreshed after our intense, hip-shaking workout. We sat down on the floor of the aerobics room on a Monday evening to interview Abril Rocio Armendariz-Diaz. Abril was grinning ear to ear for 35 minutes as she talked about her passion, the latest workout craze- Zumba. Zumba is an aerobic fitness program designed by choreographer Beto Perez that originated in Columbia during the late 1990s with the slogan, “Ditch the workout and join the party.” Although the craze for Zumba in North America is recent, it is not new. People in South American countries have used Zumba since 2001, which is where Abril originally learned the choreography.


Abril is a native of Mexico and moved to Ruston almost two years ago with her son Braulio, while pregnant with her second son, Leo. Abril’s husband, Ivan, is a graduate student at Louisiana Tech on full scholarship to earn his Ph.D. in civil engineering. When Ivan came to Ruston four years ago he left Abril and Braulio behind in Mexico until they could join him. Abril was a lawyer, working as a homicide and special crimes prosecutor in Mexico, but she could not quit her job without fear of facing a lawsuit. Two and a half years after Ivan’s move, Abril was blessed with the pregnancy of her second child, Leo, which allowed her to quit her job and reunite with Ivan in Ruston. In late March, 2010, Abril e-mailed Ashlynn Shell, recreation supervisor of Ruston Parks and Recreation.


Ashlynn said, “Initially I deleted the e-mail because the English was so broken. Not long after the first e-mail, Ashlynn responded to a second e-mail by meeting with Abril. Shortly after their meeting an extremely successful demonstration class was held on a Saturday morning in early April, by mid April Zumba classes were official, and Abril became the first Zumba instructor in Ruston. Today, 80 plus women can be expected every Tuesday and Thursday evenings at the Bobby James Gym in Ruston. Shell says opening the second e-mail was probably one of her most profound successes. ? Ashlynn Shell said her favorite thing about Zumba is, the instructor.


“She’s been quite a delight,” Shell said that Abril and Zumba have substantially impacted the community physically and socially. Anyone who has ever met, or simply taken a class with Abril knows the positive presence she brings into a room.


Abril said what she most likes about Zumba is the fact that, “Zumba is a fitness class, but you are using a dance technique,” adding, “a Zumba workout is really good for your soul, for your heart, there is a lot of joy in the music.” ? Abril is extremely passionate about Zumba since it has essentially become her life, and she sinks her heart and soul into her classes. Abril has all five Zumba certifications- Zumba, Zumba toning for children, Zumba toning with weights, Zumba Gold (for the disabled) and Aqua Zumba. Aqua Zumba will officially begin in the spring of 2011 at Louisiana Tech University after several demo classes in January. Aqua Zumba is great for unconditioned, injured and average people because it is gentle on the joints, yet, a very hard workout.


Zumba has not only impacted the community but has also changed Abril as an individual. As a lawyer, Abril says she was a very tough person and Zumba helped her loosen up. Teaching Zumba helped Abril learn English because she had to interact with her classes.


Abril told us she is not afraid to try and not afraid to tell her classes, “I don’t know English, but I’m learning.”


Abril admits the she was not in shape when she began instructing Zumba and has seen results in herself along with the people in her classes Abril admits she misses her family in Mexico constantly, but Zumba has helped her find a new family in America.


“I am doing this from the bottom of my heart,” she said. “I’m not hiding anything, what you see is what you get.”


Anyone who has ever been to a Zumba class with Abril has seen her smile and knows how honest and motivational one smile can be.


Abril said, “The more you smile the more calories you burn.”


Abril said she sees a lot of women who undergo change and become like dead flowers because they are out of their comfort zones, and Abril tells them, “OK, make a new one. I did.”