Boomer Zumba instructor Holly Grob is grinning ear-to-ear. Her huge smile lights up the room, as she leads a rip-roaring class of mostly 50+ women to cha-cha, rhumba and belly dance. Peels of laughter melt into girly giggles and wise cracks, as the ladies swing, sway and booty-shake their way to fitness.
Grob’s zany Zumba garb and megawatt smile are infectious. She has the power, personality and passion to inspire woman (and men) to age healthfully, and more importantly, have fun.
“I love to dance, and if you can get the moves going, you’ll want to come back. I promise. Zumba is exercise in disguise. It is my passion,” she says emphatically.
At 61, this former special needs teacher and Army wife spent much of her career teaching overseas in the Department of Defense system, including German-American Schools and a stint at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.
“I was a late bloomer,” she says. “I had my son at 40 and ended up weighing 200 pounds. Before that, I had always been a runner, but I was having problems with my knees,” she explains.
For her 50th birthday, she got a membership to Curves gym. “It was perfect. I couldn’t run any more, and even walking was painful for me at the time.”
That’s when fate stepped in and shined a light on Zumba. A friend approached her and urged her to try a class. “My first class was a Zumba Gold class for active, vintage, beginners who are deconditioned. It just spoke to me. I was smiling so much at that class that my face hurt!”
Grob fell head-over-heels in love with Zumba that day, and continued with classes for two months before she decided to train and become a certified Zumba instructor. Teaching was in her blood. Why not fitness classes, she thought.
But the road to instructor wasn’t easy. “After my first training, I cried all the way home. It was so hard. I said to myself, ‘I can’t do this!’ Oh, it was terrible.” She was resolute in her mission, nonetheless. Practice, practice, practice – made perfect. In January 2010, she got her Zumba license and embarked on her mission to bring happiness to others through dance and fitness. She is currently licensed to teach Zumba, Zumba Gold, Zumba Toning, Zumba Gold Toning and Zumba in the Circuit classes.
Passion for Teaching
“It’s clear to me now that teaching Zumba is my passion. Even though I’m a more vintage Zumba instructor, I often pinch myself because I truly do believe I am indeed living the dream!”
Today, she has quite a following. A loyal tribe of Zumba lovers say they owe their zest for life and their ability to simply move to this petite powerhouse.
“This is a community of commitment and connection,” Grob explains of her followers. “It’s all about them. I try to be a very good listener and build on that. There is so much wisdom in this group.”
Susan Feldkamp, 62, found Grob’s class three years ago. Struggling with obesity, she turned to self-isolation rather than the embarrassment and ridicule of strangers. “If it wasn’t for all these ladies, I would be by myself,” she says. “Holly has brought so much to my life. She’s like my sister in a way. She’s truly caring. She wants the best for me, even more than I wanted it for myself.”
Adele McLaughlin, 63, also tells a story of personal triumph inspired by her Boomer Zumba instructor. “Nobody’s like Holly. She brings out the inner child in us. I married so young. I never was a kid. This gives me a chance to be a kid. We play. We get friendships. It’s all frosting on the cake of life.”
Inspiration and Friendship
The emotional connection of this community runs deep. “Leave whatever it is you are carrying when you come in that door. For one hour it’s all about you. When you walk aback out, maybe that load on your shoulders is a little bit lighter,” Grob says.
Their love for Zumba has transcended into forever friendships, as they make it their collective mission to inspire each other.
Grob tells a story of the dread she felt when she turned 60. “At 60, it seemed like my life was over. It didn’t help when I went to the doctor, and the doctor asked, ‘Are you depressed?’ I thought, are you supposed to be depressed at 60?,” she laughs.
Like many Baby Boomers, Grob openly shares her thoughts on aging and how older people can be vulnerable to negative thinking based on how society views them. “As we age, we become invisible. People don’t see us any longer as contributors. It’s sad.”
Zumba was Grob’s lifeline, thrown to her at the perfect time. “You’re never too old to try something new. Come join the party!”