Teresa Carotenuto, ’19, first discovered Zumba in high school. As a student athlete, she exercised mostly by running, but whenever she went to the gym, she’d see people attending a Zumba class. When she decided to try one out at 15 years old, she was hooked.
Today, Carotenuto teaches Zumba on Wednesdays in the fourth floor studio at Taylor Gym.
Many group exercise programs are available to Lehigh students, faculty and staff. Some of these classes are taught by undergraduates, like Carotenuto, but all instructors have the same certifications, whether they are students or professionals.
Even though Carotenuto received her certification two years ago, she didn’t start teaching Zumba at Lehigh until this past fall. She used to play field hockey, so she couldn’t make the time commitment that is required of being an instructor. Instead, she would teach Zumba to her teammates.
Carotenuto said she loves seeing the diversity of people who attend the class. She doesn’t know the people coming to her class, but over the course of an hour, she gets to see their personalities come out.
“You get to bring joy to people,” Carotenuto said. “It’s kind of cool to see people come into a fitness class and relax and have a good time.”
Rebecca Gjini, ’21, always enjoyed working out, but she didn’t know how to take her passion for exercise further. Genna Albano, the assistant manager for fitness and instructional programs, helped Gjini explore different avenues of certification before ultimately deciding to become a certified personal trainer.
Ashley Paquin, ’21, teaches spin classes at Taylor Gym on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Unlike Gjini, Paquin used to hate working out. She started going to classes because she felt working out in the gym by herself was boring, and she fell in love with spin. She said it was different every week.
“I wanted to start instructing to give that opportunity to people who were like me, who didn’t enjoy working out,” Paquin said. “In a group, you’re accountable for another person.”
Teaching a fitness class requires at least one hour of work outside of the class. Carotenuto designs her Zumba routines over her winter and summer breaks so she doesn’t have to worry about it too much while studying during the semester.
Though they are only students, Carotenuto, Gjini and Paquin are all held to the same standard as the other professional fitness instructors.
“No matter what stage of your life you’re in, whether you’re a student, full-time professional or full-time mom, there’s a lot of life to balance outside of teaching a group exercise class,” Albano said.
Gjini said being an instructor doesn’t feel like a job. She said it’s fun to come up with workouts for her classes and pick songs. Even before she was teaching, she would design workouts for her friends, and still does so today.
“We teach because we love fitness,” Gjini said. “It’s something we’re really passionate about and we want to share that with everybody else.”