Working Out From Home: How Utah instructor went viral with her Zumba workout – USA TODAY

Posted: April 17, 2020 at 7:46 pm


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Heather Doney leads her Utah neighbors in a socially-distanced Zumba workout. USA TODAY

Editor's note: Part 15of USA TODAY'sWorking Out From Home(#WOFH) seriesfocuses on getting some exercise while having fun with Zumba. Sign up forGood Sports, our weekly newsletterthat will bring you more home workout tips and the best stories of the good throughout the world of sports:

With a bullhorn in her hand, Heather Doney instructed a group of friends through a Zumba class. They all danced to the music that blared over a boombox. They followed her lead on various stretches and exercises. And they all appeared invigorated with escaping out of the house.

We need to get outside and get some fresh air, Doney said. We need to see each other.

Yet, no one needed to be near each other. Because of social distancing rules stemmed from the novel coronavirus outbreak, Doney hosted a Zumba workout from her friends backporch in her Saratoga Springs neighborhood in Utah on March 17. About 20 neighbors joined the workout through two ways. Some stood on their respective porches or balconies. Others stood in a backyard that is blended together between the 13 houses.

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Heather Doney teaches a Zumba class to her neighbors. A video of her class went viral after it was shared by celebs such as Demi Lovato.(Photo: Courtesy: Heather Doney)

More than just the neighbors viewed and participated in the workout. Doney then edited and posted the workout video on Youtube before sharing it on her Instagram and Facebook accounts. Soon enough, singer Demi Lovato and reality television star Khloe Kardashian shared the video on their social media channels, too. Storyful, a social media distribution agency, contacted Doneys next-door neighbor after seeing it on her Twitter account and worked out a deal with Doney so they could distribute the video as well. That video then appeared on Facebook's NowThis News and ABC's "Good Morning America."

Overall, Doney estimated a combined 30 million people watched the workout video through those various channels. Since then, Doney hosted seven more workouts, including two outside and othersvia live streaming in her basement. She has more planned onTuesdays (10 a.m.MT), Thursdays (10 a.m.) and Saturdays (9 a.m.). Both nearby neighbors and far-away viewers told her how much the classes have invigorated them.

I like to entertain. I like to make people laugh. I like to inspire, Doney said. So to have something go viral like that, its been on my bucket list. But I didnt know it would happen. I didnt think it would be like this.

Doney had taught Zumba and a dance-fitness class for 6 1/2 years with a dance studio and her local church. She stopped teaching two years ago after experiencing undisclosed health issues. She rediscovered her passion again shortly after the NBA suspended it season on March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19.

Erin Stewart, a neighborhood friend, texted Doney and suggested she should teach Zumba classes somewhere outside. Stewart had seen footage of Italian residents singing outside on their balconies, and hoped Doney could bring their neighborhood together in a similar way with her classes.

So, Doney led her neighbors through a 50-minute workout from home. She stood on Stewarts porch because that had a better view of her neighbors houses. She instructed the class with a megaphone she joked her husband regretted buying for her one year for Mothers Day. She started with a warmup that included some light stretching and cardio exercises. With the aid of two speakers, Doney then guided them through choreographed dances to various songs. She mixed in arm and leg workouts. She then ended itwith stretching exercises.

Its nice to be outside and get that fresh air. Just the smiling and seeing each other and then those endorphins, those are pretty much self-made anti-depressants," she said. "It makes us happy when we can move. Theres just something about dancing that gets those endorphins moving. They loved it.

So much that others wanted to join the class. Doney then considered hosting the workout at a parking lot of a nearby church. Each person would follow social-distancing rules by exercising within designated parking stalls. But she nixed the idea.

I was afraid that would get frowned upon by people driving by thinking that people are not really social distancing, Doney said. I didnt want it to turn into something negative and have somebody post something that these people are not social distancing. So I just decided Ill do it in my home.

Doney remains aware that not everyone has the same amount of space to exercise at home. Others might want to work out in their home or apartment, but feel weary of confined space or becoming disruptive to neighbors.

So for her online classes, she has outlined various options to allow them to exercise within a confined space. She has reminded viewers to drink water in between exercises. At the end of the workout, she has encouragedviewers to have a protein-heavy diet.

Thisdefinitely makes me want to keep teachingagain, Doney said. It made me realize how much I missed it.

Follow USA TODAY NBA writer Mark Medina onTwitter, Instagramand Facebook.

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Working Out From Home: How Utah instructor went viral with her Zumba workout - USA TODAY

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April 17th, 2020 at 7:46 pm

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