cover-storyIssue 14Uncategorized

First Modesto, Then the World



Mia Sandoval was always a dancer. Even as an adult, she tried to stay fit, to stay moving. Just for the joy of it. But as anyone who has ever experienced a reduction in mobility can tell you: it only takes a small change to have a big impact.

That’s how Sandoval looked up a few years back and realized that she had packed more than 60 pounds of extra weight onto her small frame in the course of her pregnancy. “I kind of went too crazy on the Taco Bell,” Sandoval laughs. “I had all this weight to lose, so I went to the gym and was like ‘okay, now what?’ I started playing around with the tools, walking on the treadmill, trying the elliptical. Eventually, someone at the gym got me to a Zumba class.”

For Sandoval, like for around 14 million people worldwide who have discovered the dance-focused workout craze, it was love at first groove. “I only lasted like twenty minutes, and I sat down wheezing, but I loved it. There was nothing else like it.”

Sandoval shed the post-baby weight quickly after she found Zumba. She kept attending classes and eventually started leading classes of her own. But unlike many gymgoers who find a comforting level of fitness and stick with it, Sandoval wanted more. “Eventually, you don’t just want to party anymore. I reached a point where my body was stagnant and needed more. So I started looking at different classes for anything that would challenge me both in cardio and strength.”

In the world of fitness, there are two divergent paths: the cardio path which focuses on putting participants through their paces for half an hour or more at a time—often in group settings like the Zumba classes Sandoval was teaching—and the strength path which eschews aerobic activity in favor of building muscle by working against resistance. Mia found there wasn’t much to bridge that gap. “The classes I saw would either have all strength and no biometrics or cardio, or would be all cardio and none of the rest.”

“So I decided that everything that I needed for my own personal growth, I would just incorporate into my regular Zumba class,” said Sandoval. Within a few months, she had a class that incorporated everything from yoga poses to dance, biometrics to strength training and a lot more, all in a frenetic sixty minutes that left people drained, but also eager to come back. As she developed the new routine, she soon had the most popular class at her home gym (Fitness Evolution, located on Dale Road in Modesto). Eventually, she had scores of people waiting in line, clamoring to experience her creation.

“One day I just came into class and said ‘Okay, we’re now no longer going to be called Zumba. Now we’re MUVZ,’” remembers Sandoval. “I chose MUVZ because it’s everything we do. It’s dance, it’s biometrics, it’s core resistance, balance, using your own body resistance. It’s kind of like a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) program where we keep you at your peak level of endurance.”

The journey started a year and a half ago, and since then MUVZ hasn’t stopped moving.

Sandoval has now certified more than 30 instructors to take MUVZ out into the world—there are now classes in multiple gyms in Sacramento, Concord, Fresno and San Jose—while she continues to refine her system and teach five classes a week at Fitness Evolution. Each class brings yet more people into the MUVZ fold. “It gets crazy packed. Even on Tuesday nights, we get like 80 people in every class!”

MUVZ is on its way to becoming a national phenomenon. “Right now, we’re just in [Central California], but it’s spreading like wildfire. As we gain instructors, I would love for people further away to be able to try it out.”

When asked where she sees MUVZ going, Sandoval’s eyes sparkle. “Overtaking Zumba is dreaming big, but why not? And I think people too often stop their dreams short,” she said, showing the incredible intensity and charisma that make her such a compelling instructor. “I think when you’ve got a dream, when you’ve got a passion, God instilled that in you. So you’ve got to take it as far as you can take it, and beyond that.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION AND TO FIND OUT WHERE YOU CAN CHECK OUT MUVZ YOURSELF, VISIT, or simply stop by Fitness Evolution to catch one of Mia’s classes. But take our advice: be ready to sweat, and definitely come early

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