Isamar to celebrate 10 years of dance fitness classes with fundraising Zumba-versary
An immensely popular Zumba teacher who has been running her Latino dance and aerobic classes in Bishop's Stortford for 10 years is throwing a party to celebrate the milestone.
On Saturday, March 16, Isamar Martins will host her 'Zumba-versary', a special fund-raising exercise class which will be packed with favourite routines, fun and a few surprises.
Until recently, I was sceptical that an exercise class could be synonymous with a celebration, so the 48-year-old mother of two teenage children invited me to join one of her Zumba sessions.
The moment I walked through the door of Rhodes' dance studio – where Venezuelan-born Isamar holds her classes seven times a week – I was struck by how warm and welcoming everyone was. I have tried a few fitness classes in the past but stopped going because of how cliquey some of the other women were.
Within moments of Isamar introducing me to her class, women flock to me, eager to tell me how much they love her and her classes.
During her 10 years in Stortford, Isamar has led thousands through the dynamic routines – her youngest student is nine while the eldest is 75. Pop star Charli XCX, a former student of Bishop's Stortford College, has even been along with her mum for a couple of classes.
More than once, I am told by her students that they have tried other Zumba classes but they all tell me that Isamar's are the best.
We begin, and I see why Isamar is so admired. She leads the class with such infectious energy, it's impossible not to have fun.
She put on her playlist of Latin music and led the class through a variety of dances – some routines make you feel as if you are dancing in a nightclub, others as though you are in a salsa bar. Isamar throws in a few high-intensity routines, which are a lot harder than she makes them look.
I'm fairly exhausted by the end of the session. It really is a complete cardio workout, which is said to melt fat, strengthen core muscles and improve flexibility.
Isamar says that she aims to create a positive, vibrant and energetic atmosphere so her students can leave their troubles at the door and have some fun for an hour.
After her class ends and I return to the office, my email inbox is inundated with testimonials from Isamar's students. Word has started to spread that she is going to be featured in the Indie, and so many women are eager to tell me how much they adore her.
Paula Sutton writes: "I discovered Isa’s class at a very stressful point in my life. It was my lifesaver! Apart from the fact that I had finally found an exercise class I loved instead of dreaded, I found something that was an escape, my special time just for me. It was so uplifting – fantastic for the mind, body and soul.
"Isa is inspirational. She packs so much energy and joy into each and every class. I still can’t wait to go every week, and that’s after nine years! I’d be lost without her."
Another one of her Zumba followers, Denise Francis, tells me: "Apart from it being the most fun way for me to keep fit, it allows me to release for that hour and just let go. And a bonus is that I've made lots of new friends who also love to dance."
The messages continue to flood in over the next few days. Isamar's proud husband, Carlos Sanchez, sends an especially lovely endorsement. "I have become a Zumba instructor as well and we teach together," he says. "I have been in so many classes of Zumba, but they are not even close to the pasión of Isamar Martins."
In addition to her Zumba fitness classes, Isamar works at Waitrose in Northgate End and is a midday supervisory assistant at Richard Whittington Primary School.
For her Zumba-versary, Isamar is charging only £5 – her classes are usually £8 when bought individually, though prices come down when they are purchased as a block of five or 10 – and 20% of the proceeds will go to Isabel Hospice.
A couple of years ago, Isamar underwent a preventative double mastectomy as she had a high risk of developing breast cancer. Within weeks, she was back teaching her classes.
In November, at the inaugural Indies – the Bishop's Stortford Independent Community, Business and Sport Awards, Isamar was nominated for the Person of Courage award by Jodie May, one of her Zumba students.
Isamar received a special mention in the category after Jodie composed a glowing testimonial of the tenacity Isamar showed in the face of such a potentially devastating illness.
"She showed such courage and bravery to undergo this surgery, which she undertook to ensure she would be around for her husband and two children," Jodie wrote. "Isamar is a dear friend, a strong woman and a survivor."
She certainly is a strong woman, mentally and physically. She has a figure many would die for – I'm particularly envious of her washboard abs – which she credits to her Zumba lifestyle.