The Zumba path to fitness

Steve Floyd/MSR News Nadvia Davis

The “Keep It Movin’ Health Fair,” curated by Sister Spokesman and sponsored by NorthPoint Health & Wellness Center, provided the perfect opportunity to catch up with fitness experts Brandi Phillips and Nadvia Davis, who were showcased at the event.

Davis is the author of children’s book “Grant Practices Math with Manners” and works a full-time job for Best Buy while also helping others stay healthy as a licensed Zumba instructor.

She is an impressive individual by any standards, but she made it clear that you don’t have to be superhuman to accomplish your fitness goals.

As an example, she reflected on her almost decade-long struggle to get her weight under control. She shared how she had always been an active child and participated in basketball, tennis and badminton. But as a young adult, she fell prey to some of the same bad habits most people do at some point in their lives.

In 2011, she hit her heaviest weight at 215 lbs. and got discouraged. The stress of completing her master’s degree and being away from home-cooked meals led her to a sedentary lifestyle and an unhealthy diet.

But all that changed in 2015 when she came across an online post for a Zumba class. Nervous at first, Davis said she would dance in the background of the class while she became comfortable with the new movements. Soon, however, she was attending three-to-four classes a week.

Apparently, practice helped her shed those nerves; that same year she found herself telling a friend, “I think I can teach this.” Davis used the Zumba website to find training on how to be an instructor. It lasted only one day but covered a range of topics from choreography and tempo to audience engagement and overcoming fear.

 “I think the definition they teach you is that Zumba is a Latin and international dance fitness workout,” Davis said. She added that many instructors only used Latin music but some also use hip hop, R&B, and Caribbean music. She has taken a different approach herself. She explained that as well as dance, she focuses heavily on sculpting and toning.

Davis also noted the inclusivity of Zumba. “I think it [Zumba] draws more people [than traditional gyms] because you’re in a group setting,” she said. “So the attention isn’t on you sometimes. It could be spread out between five to 20 people.” She added that people of all skill levels could join and feel supported and inspired by the community.

“I had to develop self-discipline for myself, and it was tough,” she reflected. “But when I started seeing the benefits of it, and the pounds dropping, and me not missing certain unhealthy foods or drinks, that’s when I was like, ‘OK, I can do this for the rest of my life. I can!’”

Davis just concluded an instructing gig at Sabathani Community Center, where she has led Zumba classes since 2015. Now she works with Minneapolis Parks and Recreation at Windom Park in Northeast Minneapolis. She also teaches a class on Tuesday nights at 7 pm at Pillsbury Elementary School.

For more on Nadvia Davis, follow her on Instagram @ndavis17 or get in touch with her through her email at or through the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation website at