My name is Russ Welch and I am 35 years young! I’ve been a Zumba instructor for over a year now and still learning as I go. I was born deaf and as a result I am 85% deaf in both ears. My biggest challenge with teaching is, I can only hear the bass on music tracks but this is all I need to feel the beat. I also have a condition called ankylosing spondylitis which affects and can limit the movement in my back. My health has always been at the forefront of my difficulties, but I seem to manage well in my classes now due to Zumba enhancing my flexibility, I am surprisingly 10 cm’s more bendy!


My childhood was a difficult time for me, whilst living with being deaf and being sent to a special needs school ( unnecessarily I might add! ), I had no speech therapy and didn’t get taught to sign or read, and left school with very little qualifications. The school I was sent to let me down badly, I thought I could achieve so much more. My home life was far from happy for me, my father physically and mentally abused me leaving me black and blue with bruises from top to bottom! My confidence as a child growing dropped to the floor and that’s where it stayed for years! Not only did I have the struggles of school life but abuse at home was more than any child living in an isolated world could take.


When I was 19 years old I met my partner and one year after that meeting I decided to start a new life and moved to Norfolk to be with him. We thought a fresh start was what we both needed and left behind Tunbridge Wells in Kent. We never looked back, he’s been my rock, my best friend and now my husband.


I currently work supporting adults with learning disabilities, I find work life hard as I can’t hear what’s going on around me, and so far my work colleagues haven’t been ever so supportive of my deafness, and it sometimes causes real problems in the work place. Once again my confidence drops, I feel they discriminate again me and don’t see me as an equal because of my disability.


Life has been a tough ride so far, after being diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis in 2007 I was then told I had testicular cancer, after treatment and an operation I made a good recovery.


Being so young and not well I decided to get fit and join the gym, good choice I hear you say but it wasn’t that easy! No gym would allow me to register with them as I was high risk because of my ongoing back problems, they said to me get a doctors letter to say you’re fit and we’ll accept you! That’s where the next problem arose all 3 doctors I visited refused point blank as they said I was at risk of damaging my spine and could be un-repairable! Great!


Life stood still for a while until 2 years ago I discovered Zumba! So after investing my time and researching my possibilities I gave Zumba Gold a go as it’s low impact. I was hooked at the first session I attended with Dominique Houghton, she is an amazing instructor, and after 6 months she encouraged me to become an instructor! Let me tell you this was not in my thought process at all!! I decided why not? Let’s try it.


So I signed up to a Zumba course and was successful! I’m now running my own classes each week, my confidence is growing slowly but surely. I signed up for a Zumba gold course and again passed successfully and on my way to keeping fit with great people around me! It’s so much fun and I can honestly say I love it and much better than any gym experience! It’s taken 17 years to find what makes me truly happy! I eat, sleep and breath Zumba and can’t live without it! This has changed my life for the better there is no looking back, only what’s ahead and the opportunities it will bring me. I am thankful of all the support I have received and feel very lucky to have found my new Zumba family, I no longer feel alone my classes are growing all the time, I now offer individual private classes to clients who want them. Without such supportive instructors this wouldn’t have been possible, I am currently working on routines for my new classes as an Aqua Zumba instructor and have recently purchased waterproof covers for my hearing aids to make this possible.


My only regret is not finding Zumba 10 years ago, it’s changed my life for the better, I’m so happy providing a service for others to enjoy and making great friendships along the way! I am thinking of attending the Zumba convention in 2018! Everything looks much brighter these days!



Russ is a Zumba Instructor from Norfolk, he’s really passionate about this sport and staying fit while living with ankylosing spondylitis. He has overcame many obstacles in his life but never gave up until finding what really makes him happy.

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