Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Adrienne on a Mission: Strengthening her Community with Zumba

Adrienne is on a campaign to get new equipment for her community center in Florida. Kudos to her for raising funds and awareness for Zumba in her neighborhood! I thought her commitment to bettering her community was commendable and worth sharing - maybe she'll inspire other campaigns!

If you would like to support her campaign, please email me or send a FB message and I'll put you in touch.

I've been teaching Zumba since November 13, 2011. I love the ability to be free and have fun while working out (even though it doesn't seem like working out!).

I don't think Zumba is effective... I KNOW it's effective!! When I started taking classes I was nearly 230 lbs and I literally had a friend drag me to try a class at our neighborhood Y (after paying for membership for a full year and not going once)... but, that was the BEST day of my life!! Being someone that has... I mean HAD no rhythm I fell in love with Zumba during the first move!! My final tally for losing weight was 142 lbs. over almost four years. I currently weigh 152 lbs., and thanks to teaching Aqua Zumba® and Zumba® Toning I've gained 10 lbs in muscle and couldn't be happier.

So, what am I raising money for? I recently was licensed in Sentao and Step and am looking to purchase chairs and risers for both classes. This new equipment will help the community add to their workout by targeting muscles more than they do now in a more controlled class structure.

Our community is very diverse. When I first started teaching here the area was frowned upon, which limited many from wanting to come. But, "word of mouth" is like wildfire and we couldn't be more intertwined now!! Everyone comes - all sizes and shapes and fitness levels - we are all here for one goal...to better ourselves through Zumba Fitness!!
 
In order to give us the best possible chance for our center to get a grant, I am collecting success stories about people who have lost weight and improved their health through Zumba. I'm also writing to local business leaders to see if we can get there support.
 
Have you ever raised money for Zumba? What strategies did you find successful?

 

Monday, December 29, 2014

ZINspiration Mondays with Krishna

Today's ZINspiration comes from Krishna from upstate New York. After two pregnancies, she lost a ton of weight and inspires others.
 
 
I got my B1 certification in June 2011. I'm Zumba kids & kids jr. certified, as well as Gold, Sentao, and Aqua, and I went to the 2013 & 2014 conventions.
 

I have two beautiful kids but my pregnacies where horrible! With the first pregnancy, I gained over 100 pounds & wasn't able to drive because my legs would fall asleep. The second was 9 months later & put more strain on my body. I was put on bed rest & could hardly move.

After my 2 pregnancies, I was 300 pounds & couldn't walk up stairs - my kness were giving up on me & I felt old. I kept on asking myself how was I going to play & jump with my kids if I had problems tying my shoes.

I needed to do something but I hated treadmills & working out. But, I always loved to dance. I  had been dancing Eastern Island style, which is like Hawaiian dance, since I was little. I also was in a Hispanic folk dance group for most of my life & I used to teach street salsa & cha cha. So, when I saw the infomercial I wanted to do it, but honestly, it was boring at home. I found a class on zumba.com & I was hooked!

I remember saying "you mean to tell me that I can dance salsa, merengue & bachata and lose weight? Sign me up!" (lol). Then I met more instructors & some of them encouraged me to get certified ...& I did.

I went to Florida & got certified with Jani Roberts. I was so happy that she pulled me on stage & made me feel awesome. After I had the taste for it, that was it! I came back & got a job right away. I told them I needed at least a month to get ready I practiced a lot with other instructors because cueing can be so difficult. Little by little, with effort & dedication, everything came together & now this is my career.
 
I started teaching more and more and I lost 110 pounds. I did not do a diet or a balanced meal plan. But, it was hard to lose my last 40 pounds. For my last 40, I had to change the way I ate & get serious about being a real fitness instructor & walk the walk.
 

My whole health journey was hard - I realized that people can judge you a lot. "The big instructor... how is she going to teach me if she cant lose weight?" Even some ZINs can be mean when they see you. But at the end of the day you keep on going & show everybody that you can do it. Always be positive & smile, life is what we make it!!!!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Fitness Blogs to Watch


Happy Sunday! I just published a new page called "Blogroll and Guest Posts". I love reading health and fitness blogs - it's where I get inspired to try new workouts, push through tough days, and stay committed to being healthy. So, I'm sharing some of my favorites with you.




I've been fortunate to write guest posts for some really terrific blogs, including the ones below:

  • A Gift for Me on Carla Birnberg's blog - Carla is the queen of fitness blogging! I especially love her videos.

  • A 10K and a Lesson Learned on RaraX3, where Jamaica King shares her experiences running, traveling, and traveling to go running. :)

  • What you need to know before trying Zumba on Spilling Coffee n' Dropping Things, where Christiana shares her experience of leaving depression behind and trying ALL sorts of workouts and fitness gadgets and tools.


Here are a few other blogs I LOVE and recommend checking out.
     
  • Roni's Weigh: Roni has been at her health and wellness journey for a long time, starting with a focus on weight loss and now spending time getting strong and inspiring others.

  • Runs for Cookies: These days, Katie is a seasoned runner, having come a long way from her days of being overweight and unhealthy. She recently returned to Weight Watchers, and she is honest with her readers about her successes and challenges.



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Holiday Photo Montage!

Happy holidays, everyone! Today I'm going to share some photos from my home holiday d├ęcor to give you a little more insight into who I am. I'll take a short break from posting but will be back by the weekend with regularly scheduled programming. :)

Here's a shot of our mantle. You'll notice a menorah between the stockings... my family celebrates both Christmas and Hanukkah!

Here's a shot of our tree. There aren't too many presents under it because we've cut back - the husband and I don't exchange material gifts anymore, we try to go on a date or a mini vacation to celebrate instead.

We have an ornament for each year that we've been together. I'll share the more interesting ones... like 2011, the year we got married:

The next year, 2012, brought Hurricane Sandy and significant damage to our home. It was a tough year. But, this ornament (a satellite image of the storm) kind of makes me chuckle.

Back in 2008, we said goodbye to the original Yankee Stadium so I got this commemorative ornament.

Unfortunately, I regularly find it buried in the back of the tree, because...

...the husband is both a Mets fan and a Yankees hater. It might be the biggest challenge we face as a couple. :)

Last year, we went on an epic vacation to California, Nevada, and Arizona, and we got this ornament in San Francisco where our road trip started:

We don't have an official ornament for this year yet - I'm still reflecting on the defining moments of 2014! Given that I ran a half marathon and launched this blog, I feel like it should be something fitness related... but I still have a few days to decide.

Does your family have traditional decorations or activities? How are you celebrating?

Monday, December 22, 2014

ZINspiration Mondays with Brenda

Today's ZINspiration comes from Brenda Rivera, who lost almost 50 pounds with the help of Zumba (and was featured in Prevention magazine!).


The Z Beat: When did you get your B1 license?
I got my B1 license in April of 2012. Didn't tell anyone I was going to do it because I honestly did it for me, to give back to what Zumba fitness did for me.

The Z Beat: What was your life like when you felt like you were at your unhealthiest?
Scary. I ended up in the ER three times due to my ankles swelling. Doctors were concerned I had blood clots in my legs. It was my wake up call that I had to do something. My son was young, and I didn't want to die or have anything happen to me.

The Z Beat: How did Zumba change your life?
Zumba fitness changed my life in many ways. Take my confidence as an example. Simply put, I went from the back row to the front row. I wasn't scared to shake it and a lot had to do with my amazing instructor (and now my best friend) Jabari Warfield. He lit up the stage. When he would teach the confidence he showed up on that stage was contagious. I wanted to dance like him. He made everyone no matter what body type feel comfortable in their own skin and people gravitated to that. He made Zumba fitness feel like the party it is supposed to be and that helped my confidence to be who I am.

Once the weight started to drop off, there was no stopping me! I had confidence,  I loved who I was, and I wasn't scared to be in the front row anymore. Becoming an instructor changed all of that.  I made amazing friends and it also got me back into photography. I have shot some amazing events and people including Gina Grant and Kass Martin. Zumba has opened the door of opportunity for me and I am humbled and grateful for it. I now get a chance to inspire others the way Jabari inspired me.

The Z Beat: What was the hardest thing about getting healthy?
Eating is the hardest. I have learned that for me, I have to focus on portion control. And it took a while to figure that out. I love food and I don't believe in diets. Its a lifestyle change. You have to do it for yourself and once you have the balance everything becomes easy. 
 
The Z Beat: What advice do you have for others?
You have to want to change for you, no one else. The word diet cant exist - it's a lifestyle change. You have to find what works for you. Zumba changed my life and now I teach each of my classes with passion and heart because it's about giving back to what saved me.

Believe in yourself, be happy with who you are inside and out and share that with the world. It doesn't matter if you are a tiny size or a plus size, be healthy and be you.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Get Your Group Ex Certification on!

Wow, our recent conversation about respect for Zumba instructors really caused a stir! There are definitely a variety of perspectives out there, but I still feel like we can agree that:
1) we're hard-working, talented fitness instructors who deserve credit for what we do,
2) the not-so-good instructors out there give us a bad rep, and
3) we're committed to continuous improvement through trainings, certifications, and learning from each other.

The whole respect conversation got me thinking about group exercise certification (again). It's not that I feel like I have to get certified in order to be respected, but I do think it would enhance my teaching in a way that more Zumba trainings can't. I also love kickboxing and think it would be super fun to teach other formats. I don't think it's necessary for all instructors, it's a personal decision based on your level of knowledge, goals when it comes to teaching, etc.

Back in October, I did a little comparison of ACE and AFAA certifications. They seem quite similar in terms of price ($299), content, and reputation. But, an anonymous commenter said something that pushed me to do more research:
 

What is this "APEX Event" that you speak of, Anonymous? I looked into it and it's real! In February, AFAA is offering its primary group exercise certification all over the country for just $99. You can get more information here.

As a reminder, the certification builds "competencies needed to design safe and effective group exercise programming for the general healthy population... appropriate for instructors who teach free-form and/or pre-choreographed programs."
Topics include:
  • Basic Anatomy, Kinesiology, Biomechanics and Exercise Physiology
  • Nutrition and Weight Management
  • Group Exercise Program Design
  • Essentials of Teaching (Basic Exercise Standards & Guidelines, Motivation, Choreography, Cueing, etc.)
  • Exercise- selection, technique, alignment and performance with or without equipment
  • Injury Prevention, Emergency Response and Special Populations
  • Other Modalities (Aqua Fitness, Indoor Cycling, Dance Fitness, Step, etc.)
  • Business Skills and Legal Responsibilities (Substitute teaching, Law and Exercise)
So... I think I'm gonna do it! I got some materials on Amazon while I was doing my holiday shopping (you can save some money using prime shipping and/or checking out the used versions!):

Exam Prep and Flashcards


So, anybody else going for certification during February's APEX event?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Getting to Know Zumba Jammers: Kimberly Lazzara

In the next installment of Getting to Know Zumba Jammers, Kimberly Lazzara of New York tells us about herself and how she got started as a Jammer!

The Z Beat: When did you get your B1 license? Other specialty licenses?
I got my B1 December 10, 2011. It was Jump Start Gold with Ali Ramirez. I got Toning and Aqua in January 2012 and then Sentao in June 2012. I've taught all formats. I currently teach Gold and Toning.

The Z Beat: Do you teach Zumba full time? If not, what else do you do?
I do not teach Zumba full time. I am actually a chemist full time. I got my master's degree in chemistry at Stony brook in 2007.

The Z Beat: What got you into Zumba? How has Zumba impacted your life?
I started Zumba because I was a bridesmaid in a wedding that was going to be in January 2012, and I realized that I had gained FIFTY pounds and needed to do something. I accidentally walked into a Zumba class and liked it. After my 3rd class I was hooked, and started following my instructor Tracy Lymus everywhere. Within the first 2 months I lost 20 lbs and I gained confidence and self esteem. I was amazed!
Tracy informed me that she was moving, and that she wanted me to take over teaching her classes, so 3 months after taking my very first class I got licensed, and started teaching immediately.
 
The Z Beat: When did you become a Jammer? What’s the best part of being a Jammer?
I got my contract to be a Reggaeton Jammer in April 2014, and my contract for Choreo Jams in July 2014.

The best part of being a Jammer is seeing other people rock out routines that you've created in their own classes or at a fundraiser. It's very humbling that people like and use something that I worked hard to put together.

The Z Beat: What do you think is the hardest part about being a Zumba instructor?
The hardest part of being a Zumba Instructor is judging the ability of your crowd and changing your playlist on the spot if you realize they are not loving it! My advice? Always have backup songs!

The Z Beat: What else should we know about you?
I am a first generation American. My dad is from Poland and my mom is from Mexico. They've been married 34 years and I am the second of 4 children. My family is tight knit, and I love hanging out with my siblings.
 
I have been with my husband since I was 18. We've been together almost 12 years and married 7 1/2.

The Z Beat: Last thing - when and where are your upcoming Jams?
I don't currently have anything scheduled, but check your ZIN Home page often because Jams are now listed on your welcome screen!

I opened Brickhouse Cardio Club January 5, 2013 so I could teach all my classes in one place!


P.S. If you're a Jammer and would like to be featured, contact me!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Picking the Right Snack (sponsored post)

I've been thinking about writing this post for a while, because I. Love. Snacks. I much prefer to eat small meals and have snacks along the way.

Before I realized this about myself, I would eat meals the way we're "supposed" to - large servings of  protein, carbs, and veggies. Ya know, "square" meals. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, but when you snack between meals regardless of how hungry you are... surprise! You'll struggle to maintain your weight. It's been helpful to accept my snackiness and change how I eat meals.
 
The other thing I've learned about my snack habits is that I pretty much always want something sweet after lunch. So, if I'm still hungry after lunch and reach for some pretzels, it's a mistake - I'm still going to crave something sweet even if the pretzels fill me up.

Everyday I pack my lunch and my post-lunch snack to make sure I don't end up at the coffee shop in my building getting a size-of-your-face cookie. Even a package of 4 low fat cookies can cost ya 200 calories and 40 or more grams of carbs.

At my desk, ready for my post-lunch snack!
Enter Special K snack bars. I've always chosen to use them as my post-lunch sweet treat, and this week Special K asked me to try their new line of chewy bars that will be rolled out next month. They're only 100 calories, or 3 points plus for the WW fans out there.


To steal from Special K's description, these new bars are "made with tasty, wholesome ingredients that you can see – like, rich chocolatey chunks, crunchy salted pretzels, real fruit pieces and chewy rolled oats – that deliver great taste."
They come in 4 flavors:

  • Berry Medley
  • Blueberry Bliss
  • Salted Caramel Chocolate
  • Salted Pretzel Chocolate

The bars are absolutely delicious, with a ton of flavor for minimal calories. They're not quite as big as other granola bars (maybe half an inch shorter), but they're perfect for someone like me who wants a sweet bite to satisfy a craving.
Trying to show actual size, but
note that I have big hands. :)


I only share products on The Z Beat that I think others will really like, and I have to say - these snack bars fit the bill! They are going to be part of how I keep a balanced diet during the holiday season. So, a few take-aways:
  • Know yourself. Following an eating plan that doesn't fit you body doesn't set you up for success. For me, I gotta have my snacks!
  • Before eating a snack, ask yourself - is this what I really want, or will I be reaching for something else in a few minutes?
  • If you have a sweet tooth, shop around until you find something healthy and satisfying. You can do it!

For more info, visit Special K on Facebook or follow them on  Twitter!

The opinions in this post are honest and my own.
This post is sponsored by FitFluential on behalf of Special K Snack Bars.

Monday, December 15, 2014

ZINspiration Mondays with Karen W.

Karen Winspear is a Zumba instructor from the UK with a powerful story to share!


Karen's BEFORE photo
At 35 years old I weighed almost 16 stone (224lbs). Diets, two pregnancies and one miscarriage had all resulted in my body weight yo-yo-ing. One minute,I was 18 stone (252lbs), then down to 12 stone (168lbs). In the summer of 2010 ,I walked up two flights of stairs at my office job and had pains in my chest and shooting pains down both arms. I thought my days were numbered. With a husband and boys ages 3 and 6, I had to change my life and quickly! 

I rang the local college and signed up for an ETM (Exercise to Music) course and qualified January 2011. I'd heard about Zumba and thought I'd try a few classes locally. I was immediately hooked and booked my B1 training in March. Wow, 40 highly-charged fitness professionals in one room... Zumba was to change my life FOREVER! 

I've been a ZIN for almost 4 years now and I've changed both physically and mentally. My class participants have seen me drop weight and dress sizes with them from a UK size 22 to a 12 (US size 20 to a 10) and its staying off for good this time! I've met some amazing instructors, ZESs and even Beto himself in London 2014. 

Karen's AFTER photo!
Zumba isn't a brand its a way of life. It's created steady part time income for my family and created a dream holiday to Florida with my family for my 40th Birthday in 2013. I never wanted to be FAT & FORTY and I wasn't thanks to Zumba. Over the past 4 years I've gone on to get trained in Zumba Toning, Zumba Sentao and B2 TWICE as I love it that much. I may not be as rhythmic as some of the dancers out there but I put my own take on it, bring my own personality to class and have a total party at every lesson. 

I'm also bringing communities together by teaching at local schools and community halls; girls are making friends, socialising and losing weight and gaining confidence in the process. I hear so many stories in class such as "I've reduced my pain killers" and "I'm so much happier." Seeing mums become healthier, which they then take back into their home life. I'm crying whilst writing this as looking back, it's been one hell of a ride and I'm certainly not getting off yet.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

What I actually do...


Photo Credits: freesalsadance.com; Huffington Post, lillegrandpalais.co.uk, Zumba home office, Party In Pink on Pinterest, sandwichjohnfilms.com, grandmashellieteacheszumba.com/

Happy Sunday!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Are Zumba Instructors Respected in the Fitness World?

Anyone can be a Zumba instructor.

Have you heard that before? I have. So I asked this Question of the Week:


Here's what you had to say:
  • Francesca, Kim and Natalie said, well, no. Clare explained, "Until it's a requirement to have a group ex certification, I think we will always be seen as the poor relation. Many don't consider dance fitness to be proper fitness... it's time we started showing them all that we make a difference, and that we actually do rock (well most of us)."
  • Jacqueline and Michelle said that Zumba's reputation for being "fun" overshadows its fitness benefits.
  • Ray, who lives in Japan, shared, "I feel the instructors in Japan receive more respect than in the U.S. Many instructors are full time and you need AFAA Certification... Zumba is still a novelty in Japan. As the number of instructors grow the market will become more saturated to the detriment of instructors like in the U.S."
  • Jill provided a related opinion, saying, "If they acquire national certification (AFAA or ACE--I actually have both) it makes you more knowledgeable of kineseology and form/function of the human body which can help when creating choreography and offering corrections (in a subtle way)... however, I appreciate dance and OF COURSE Zumba instructors!!"
  • Teresa said, "we're not respected by those who hold other certifications and are trained in other fitness areas... but I think we hold our own despite that" and Carly agrees that "the title "Zumba Instructor" doesn't really impress people-it's whatever else you do on top of it or other forms of fitness."
  • Margie says "people who know what Zumba fitness is, have respect for instructors, but people who've never (wanted to) tried it, don't get it." Maureen agreed and said we should get credit for our hard work!
  • Despite all these thoughts, Janet said ,"I am going to be the dissenter here. I think that we are respected as fitness instructors. There are many times I get other fitness instructors who find out that I teach Zumba and they are in awe! ...Not every fitness instructor can be a Zumba instructor."
Most people say Zumba instructors are NOT respected. But, right after I posed this question someone in the ZIN Facebook group suggested there should be a test or assessment before people can become Zumba instructors... and almost everyone agreed!


So, let me try to make sense of all this.
  • We want to be recognized for what it takes to be a good Zumba instructor. We don't just walk in and teach a class - we practice for hours, sort and store just the right music, bring through-the-roof energy to our classes even when we are exhausted, and represent the Zumba brand.
  • We have all been through training and we pay good money to keep up our choreography, music, and continuing education opportunities.
  • We also recognize that (gasp) there are some not-so-great instructors out there. Some of us think they are bringing down our brand, and there should be an assessment to improve our respectability factor. An alternative would be to require a group ex certification.
  • Either way, the good Zumba instructors who follow the model and have solid fitness/dance knowledge are perfectly capable of keeping students safe, engaging them in a super-fun workout, and helping them get results.

Would you agree?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Getting to Know Zumba Jammers: Sarah from New York!

Over the coming months, The Z Beat will feature profiles of Zumba Jammers - these are the folks who worked REALLY hard to become choreography ambassadors for the Zumba home office. Jams come in two forms: choreography sessions and rhythm-specific sessions (salsa, reggaeton, etc.). For more on what to expect, check out my review of the last Jam™ I attended here!

Today's profile is of Sarah Sclafani, a Salsa Jammer from Long Island, NY.

The Z Beat: When did you get licensed? What specialty trainings have you taken?
Sarah: I took my B1 in October 2011 with Jani Roberts. Soon after I also  became licensed to teach Toning, Kids and Kids Jr., Gold, Sentao, Step, and Aqua.

The Z Beat: Do you teach Zumba full-time? If not, what else do you do?
Sarah: Aside from being a Mom to my two amazing kids Gabrielle (7) and Salvatore (4), Zumba is my full time job. I opened up Zone Z Fitness in Bayport NY where I run my classes full time and my local jams.



The Z Beat: What got you into Zumba? How has it impacted your life?
Sarah: Zumba really DID change my life. I was a dancer my entire life and it was my PASSION!!! I grew up dancing and teaching for many years. It wasn't until after I had my daughter that I realized that something inside me was missing. After giving birth, I struggled with severe anxiety and high blood pressure and it was SCARY. I felt as if I was not in control of my body. I decided since I loved dancing so much to take my very first Zumba class and I was HOOKED!!!!!
 
I knew at that very moment that I found ME again and for that one hour all of my problems disappeared.  I needed to teach this!!!! Soon after I took my B1 training and started teaching immediately. I also took my Primary Group Exercise certification from AFAA. Along with dancing, Zumba Fitness and changing people's lives has become my passion. I love what I do everyday.
 
The Z Beat: Tell us about being a Jammer.
Sarah: I became a Zumba Jammer in 2014 and I specialize in Salsa. I think the best part of the job is working and networking with all of the INCREDIBLE ZIN from all over the world. Everyone is so welcoming and embracing and it is so awesome to connect with each of them. 
 
The Z Beat: What do you think is the hardest part about being a Zumba instructor?
Sarah: I feel that the hardest part is how wearing it can be on your body if  you are teaching multiple classes a day or if you are teaching all week long. I know for me it is hard to step back for a moment and remember to care for my body because I am so wrapped up in helping others. It is very important to listen to what your body is telling you it needs and to allow yourself enough time for recovery.

The Z Beat: What else should we know about you?
Sarah: When I am not teaching class or holding a Jam session, I enjoy hanging out with my two awesome kids and my husband Sal. From the very start of this journey my kids and my husband have been so supportive and without them I would be nothing.

The Z Beat: Lastly, when can we see you in action?
Sarah: My next session is on 12/14 at my studio in Bayport, NY!!! Come try a Zumba Jam session if you haven't already!!!
 

To attend a Jam™ session near you, just log in to your ZIN account and search the schedule under ZIN Tools.

P.S. If you're a Jammer and would like to be featured, contact me!

Monday, December 8, 2014

ZINspiration Mondays with Lydia

Did everyone see the Zumba home office (ZHO) post about ZINspiration stories? I'm not sure if we started the ZINspiration movement here on The Z Beat, but it's definitely catching on! Please don't forget to contact me if you have an inspirational story to share. :)

Today I'm sharing Lydia's story. She is from Chicago, passionate about Zumba, and became a licensed instructor to bring the party to her students. Lydia also has a unique way of using her senses to teach. Here's her story.


I received my B1 license last October and was trained in Zumba Gold in July 2014. I was inspired to become a Zumba instructor after attending classes for about 2 years. I was really hooked... I love music and dancing and I always thought of myself as a choreographer. 

So, I decided that Zumba is my true passion and I decided to get my Zumba license. However, there is something that makes teaching Zumba a bit harder for me. I am totally blind in one eye and visually impaired in the other eye. I have difficulties judging distance, and my peripheral vision is pretty bad.

My workaround when teaching Zumba is to use my ears, which compensate for my eyes. This is the way I have maneuvered through my entire life, since I was born this way, and it's especially important when teaching Zumba. It can be difficult, but I learned to overcome most obstacles with my disability that I have as a person who's visually impaired. I am able to manage because I love music and dancing and taking and teaching Zumba classes makes me feel like I do not have a disability at all.

I just started teaching, and so far I only have one person in my class! But, I practice every single day and I have over an hour worth of routines. I watch choreography over and over and added some of my own routines. I found my true passion and I intend to be the best instructor I can.

My advice to other instructors is to be patient, compassionate and understanding with people with disabilities and to give people with disabilities an opportunity to prove that they can do this job. I know I can. I will love my job for the rest of my life because it doesn't feel like work. It's like going to a party for one whole hour and I love the fact that I'm helping other people as well.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Connecting Latin Culture and Fitness

 
Photo credits (clockwise): NY Daily News,
Wallpaperswide.com, ElBoricua.com
I'm proud to be half Puerto Rican, and my Latin roots are a big part of who I am. I've been thinking a lot lately about how much I love that Zumba connects the Latin culture with health and fitness.

Reframing our culture as part of a healthy lifestyle is critical, because the facts about Hispanics and health are startling.





  • Hispanics have a 21% higher obesity rate compared to Caucasians. (CDC)
  • Hispanics have higher rates of type 2 diabetes and some cancers. (NIH)
  • Hispanic immigrants can struggle to adapt to American diets, often moving into communities dominated by fast food. (HuffPo)
  • Unfortunately, poverty and health are connected. Looking at 2012, 25% of Hispanics were living at the poverty level, in comparison to 11% of Caucasian people. (US HHS Office of Minority Health)
I love that Zumba uses the rhythms of Puerto Rico, Columbia, Mexico, and other Latin countries and cultures to empower people to have fun and be fit. I love that being involved with Zumba gives me an opportunity to connect with my culture without being around a tables of fried pastelillos and platanos! (Side note: I did recently make pasteles from scratch - a delicious dish made from root vegetables... read on for a few pics!)

I think it would be great if we all brought a bit of Latin culture into our Zumba classes. It could be as simple as noting where a song or style is from or giving your students a tip about where they can go for live, authentic Latin music.

Let's help reframe what it means to be Latina - our music can drive our healthy lifestyles and our culture can be part of our solution.

To help us get started, here is a list of common rhythms we use and where they come from. Wepa!
  • Axe - Brazil
  • Bomba y Plena - Puerto Rico
  • Boogaloo - Based on Cuban rhythms, but developed in NY
  • Cumbia - Columbia
  • Mariachi - Mexico
  • Mambo - Cuba
  • Merengue - Dominican Republic
  • Rumba - Cuba
  • Salsa - Puerto Rico (with Cuban roots)
  • Samba - Brazil (there's also Jazz Samba and Bossanova, slower versions of this genre born in the US)
  • Soca - Trinidad originally, now popular throughout the Caribbean
  • Tango - Argentina
  • Tejano - Mexico (includes waltz and cumbia rhythms!)

P.S. Here are some pics of making homemade pasteles... it's a SIX HOUR process but I love that it uses fresh vegetables and spices to create a whole meal that's delicious, fresh, and (mostly) healthy!



 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Being a Part-Time ZIN

Today, I find myself feeling a little (gasp) jealous of the ZINs out there who have made a career out of teaching Zumba. I'm just feeling really divided between by 9-5 career and my interest in growing and developing as a fitness instructor. Not to mention, I feel schizophrenic transitioning from my work day to my after-work classes, and am usually way too tired to do anything else when I finally get home.

Things I would like to do if I didn't have a regular 9-5:
  • Get my ACE or AFAA certification
  • Get trained in Zumba Step and add it to my class schedule
  • Start teaching kickboxing classes
  • Teach dance to kids (something I did 10+ years ago and loved!)
  • Choreograph a lot more, so that I could introduce a new song every 7-10 days (currently, I do 1-2 new songs a month)

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my regular job. I work at a non-profit doing important work that I care about, with great colleagues. I'm lucky. I also know that I could, in theory, become a full-time fitness instructor like many of you have. At this point, it's only theoretical because of small things like health insurance and steady income that contributes to slowly trimming my mortgage each month. But, I'm sure you can make sacrifices to make the full-time fitness instructor thing work. I haven't ruled it out as a maybe-someday kind of idea.

To the part-time ZINs, how do you balance it all?
And to the full-time fitness instructors, how do you make it work?

Monday, December 1, 2014

ZINspiration Mondays with Cody

Today's ZINspiration comes from Cody, a lifelong dancer and all around strong woman. Her story is powerful, and I'm so glad she allowed me to share it with all of you. In her words:

Most people know me as Cody O Zumba. I want to share my story, I want to show the world exactly who I am and exactly how this program has changed my life. 

Cody is rockin' out on the right!
Being part of the ZIN movement has made me the woman I am today. Zumba has given me a purpose and it has driven me to have only 1 goal in life and that is to empower others through spreading the Zumba love.  I have been dancing since the age of three, studying styles such as tap, jazz, ballet, hip-hop, contemporary, salsa etc. Dance has always been my life, there is no better place for me than to be on that stage inspiring others to empower themselves through movement and feel confident and beautiful; especially as a woman. I had always felt that way when I was on stage even as a young girl. I felt as if nothing could touch me and I knew exactly who and what I wanted to be. 

When I was 19 years old I found myself in my first year of college. I met a boy who I thought was special, who I thought was the love of my life and who I thought would never disrespect me or hurt me in any way shape or form. It started out normal and I was happy, but as time went by this person took away everything I ever loved. I was no longer allowed to have contact with my family or friends and dancing was no longer a option.

What was I left with? Nothing but myself, I felt broken lost and alone. Due to stress I could no longer eat or keep any food in my body. I found myself bulimic and alone and trapped in a physically and mentally abusive relationship. One day I was extremely upset and I turned on the TV to the shopping channel and what did I see? The woman I now look up to as my biggest inspiration: Miss Kass Martin herself, selling the Zumba Exhilarate DVD set. I said to myself I want to be like her, I can do this, this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing.

The next day I went online and saw that there was a training coming to my province in the following month. I registered immediately and I couldn't wait. As I knew I would likely not be "allowed" to go by myself to take the training, I had to lie to get there. It was an up and back trip and I had to be checking in very frequently so he knew what I was doing. I don't think I even had the chance to enjoy my training because deep down I was so afraid that I was even there.

I began teaching for a few months when I got home; the only reason it was allowed because it was bringing in decent money to our household and it was more "fitness" than "dance".  I realized that I had fallen madly in love with this program and I registered for the 2013 Instructor Conference in LA. I had to lie and say that my work was sending me even though my mom had been gracious enough to make my dream come true and send me to the conference.

I fought tooth and nail in order to make it to this conference, but before I left I was thrown down the stairs, my large and heavy suitcase thrown on top of me and after finally getting in the car I was left on the side of the highway with my suitcase because he was so mad that I was going. He came back for me; but it was not a pleasant drive. I was threatened that if I went he wouldn't be there when I got back and I said ok, and continued on my way. Large parts of me hoped he really wouldn't be there when I got back, but he was.

Bottom line... this conference made me realize my true passion, my true love and my true purpose. It was about a month later things got physical and I was left with a completely smashed in face and a black/purple eye. I loved him with all of my heart, but this was when I got my life back. I moved and started my new life. I was allowed to wear whatever I wanted, put my make up on, and best of all... DANCE.

I now dance and teach Zumba classes for a living and my life could not be better. Who knew a year and a half later I would have started my own company and be on stage with Kass Martin, the woman who made me realize that I still had a dream. I have so much yet to accomplish but I am well on my way. I am so proud to be ZIN, because this program saved my life! 

My goal in life is to spread my message of empowerment, raise awareness of domestic violence and share my love of Zumba fitness for the rest of my life!