When the flags fly, hips sway and ponytails start to swing doing the dutty wine, you know somebody’s about to get their sweat on. This is not your average workout.
With alternative exercise classes becoming increasingly popular, more organizations have created unique and upbeat experiences that blur the lines between fitness and fun. And Caribbean trainers are getting in on the action. By combining cardio with elements of popular music like soca, calypso and Afrobeats, some workouts challenge participants without repetitive, boring routines.
Dancing has become a popular form of exercise that includes aerobic and anaerobic movement. Both are necessary for maintaining physical health and, specifically, cardiovascular health. Bonus: Those shakes and shimmies burn more fat than you think! According to research from the University of Brighton and London’s City Academy, 60 minutes of dancing can burn more calories than running or cycling for the same amount of time.
Three unique soca fitness classes offer alternative workouts with a connection to Caribbean culture and mastery in capturing the joy of movement.
Based primarily in Brooklyn, New York, Wukkout! is a soca-inspired dance fitness class founded by Guyanese-Canadian dancer Krista Martins, who sought to bottle that care-free, effervescent feeling of carnival to share in the concrete jungle.
The class is a full body workout incorporating choreographed soca moves, including wining, jumping and wukkin’ up. As you move from one song to the next in a 45- or 60-minute class, a mix of high and low impact moves target the core, glutes, quads and hamstrings while improving agility, flexibility and muscle tone.
Instructors welcome you to move freely around the room as you feel the rhythm. For Martins, it is important for participants to know that “it’s okay to move your body the way that feels good for you.” No one is going to be a professional dancer in their first class, but Wukkout! is a judgment-free zone where “you’re going to walk in and be seen for who you are.”
Wukkout! has become a personal refuge for many attendees seeking a mental release as much as a workout. “My favorite thing is when I have clients who come up to me and say ‘My doctor wanted me to thank you because I no longer need my blood pressure medication,’ or ‘I was able to get through and grieve my mother’s passing because I was coming to this class.’ Those moments really make it worth it for me,” Martins shared.
Because she wants to serve those who don’t typically have access to quality fitness programming, Martins offers online, live and beachside pop-up classes in New York, Florida, Georgia and the Boston, Massachusetts area.
Trinidadian Ayanna Lee-Rivears started her dance career early, performing with her aunt’s Caribbean and African dance group as a girl. Later, she was inspired to create a fitness program simplifying those complex moves. Socacize® Fitness dance classes are full-body cardio and strength training workouts, combining traditional dance techniques with simple fitness routines. “Revelers” work out in a variety of playful segments, including a “Bacchanal Warm Up,” “Soca Jam,” “Weights, Wine and Tone,” and “Groovy Stretch.”
Socacize® Fitness also offers a two-hour bootcamp, a “Socacize® Kidz” class and a session that incorporates structured weight training to further sculpt and tone muscle. “You can burn up to 1,000 calories an hour,” Lee-Rivears said. “(But) our mission is really to provide a positive impact on our members’ mental health through our FLAUNT philosophy.” FLAUNT stands for feel good, look good, attitude, unleash, nice up yourself, and take time for you. Lee-Rivears said this essential goal of the program provides a space for both wellness and self confidence to soar amid an appreciation of Caribbean-African dance.
To become a part of the Socacize® Fitness community, join an online program, attend an in-person class in North York, Canada or apply to become a certified instructor.
Soca Bounce Fitness / Karnival Bounce Crew
Bounce, sweat, fete. This is the tagline and promise of Soca Bounce Fitness, a class started by Carnival-loving twin sisters, Okeemah Henderson and Raakeebah Mann.
Neither sister set out to start a fitness business. After Henderson was introduced to rebound boots at a health expo, she wore them to enhance her own workouts. Often used by athletes for rehabilitation after injury, rebound boots are essentially elevated shoes with shock-absorbing springs that allow users to enjoy safe, efficient workouts that burn up to 20% more calories.
While preparing for Bahamas Carnival, she wondered what it would be like if her mas group all wore the boots at the event. After a trial class with her sister, the duo launched Soca Bounce Fitness with structured classes to prepare participants for Karnival Bounce Crew. “Graduates” take the rebound boots and the moves they’ve learned to the streets of Carnival.
Though not dance based, the Soca Bounce Fitness program incorporates vibrant, high energy Soca, Caribbean infused and Afrobeats music to keep you fully engaged. The focus is high-intensity interval training targeting the arms, legs, glutes and core in a 45-50 minute class that feels like a party. “It’s just so fun… You don’t even realize you’re working out,” Henderson said.
In-person studio classes include boot rental and are currently held in South Florida, Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia, as well as online via the sisters’ YouTube page. Register to become a certified instructor under the Soca Bounce brand on the Karnival Bounce Fitness website.