Thursday, November 27, 2014

Mega Mix 44: A Review

Did anyone else not know how to react to MM44? I mean, my immediate reaction is always the same when I see the white envelope in the mail - woohoo! When I popped it into my car radio and listened, I was just... Confused. After playing it safe with the last few music collections (see my reviews here and here) that included classic, familiar-sounding music, this mix was very different.

Where are the core rhythms? At first I was very thrown off by that, but then I got to thinking... I have salsas upon salsas and merengues upon merengues sitting in my "songs to choreograph" playlist. It was kind of nice to have a CD of almost all alternative rhythms to try out. So, philosophically, I got on board with MM44 and started to listen.

Despite coming around, I have to say, I don't think I'll use many of these songs. The first song was Just. So. Annoying. And the Big Spender remix was cute (I would totally use it if I was teaching a jazz class) but I don't think it's the right fit for my current students' interests. Some of the songs felt too slow. Tutti Frutti is adorable, but I just added Rockin' Robin to my playlist and they feel too similar. I love love LOVE Come Baby Come (what's up, 1993?) and it's one song I'll definitely use from this mix.

I admit to not knowing what Axé is, but Wikipedia tells me Axé is a popular music genre from Brazil rooted in Afro-Caribbean genres like Reggae and Calypso (two of my favorite rhythms!). The word Axé is a religious greeting that means "soul", "light", or "good vibration." Cool!

I'm issuing a CHALLENGE! If you upload choreography to MM44 songs on YouTube or elsewhere, please send your routines my way! I want to fall in love with these songs and styles, and seeing good material will help. If I get enough submissions, I will write another post so we can share ideas.

P.S. Today is the LAST day to enter the Thanksgiveaway! Don't miss out!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

No Pain, Still Gain: Introducing the Zero Runner (sponsored post)

As runners, dancers, kickboxers, etc., we know how hard our workouts can be on our joints. Ever since my half marathon training, I have a weird ache in my left knee that flares up when I run, when I teach Zumba, and when I sit with my legs crossed for too long (note: I'm 31, and sadly I'm not exaggerating... even sitting makes my knee hurt!).

That's why I was particularly excited to be invited to hang out with Octane Fitness to learn more about the Zero Runner, a new tool for working out that replicates real running motion with ZERO impact to the joints. It's the only "machine" out there that truly mimics running, with bionic legs that allow you to move freely thanks to their unique hip and knee joints. I call it a "machine" because it runs on YOU - no plugs, no electricity.

I got to hear the stories of two amazing guest speakers that really explained why a tool like this could be helpful. First was Carrie Tollefson, Olympic runner and all around superwoman. She shared that her insane training schedule reeked havoc on her body, and when she was injured (and again when she was pregnant), she had to use ellipticals and underwater treadmills to work out. Carrie hated it, because nothing could compare to being out on the road. The Zero Runner, she said, is the closest thing to outdoor running that she's ever tried (so much so that she's become its spokesperson!).

Then we heard from Larry, who (confession) actually made me cry while talking about his love of running and the role it plays in his family; it's been central to his marriage "with his best friend of 38 years" - gulp! After an incredible running career including ultra marathons and ironman races, Larry had to have hip surgery and he could no longer run without experiencing terrible pain. He discovered the Zero Runner while at the Boston Marathon (he was there to cheer his wife on from the sidelines) and was shocked - he could run on the Zero Runner with NO PAIN. It has given him back something he thought he lost forever. Larry and his wife have side-by-side Zero Runners in their living room. :)

There are a few specific things about the Zero Runner that really impressed me. Octane Fitness developed an app that can track your gait and other stats to help improve your workout. Secondly, since it's powered by you, it's completely silent - perfect for an indoor run at any time of day. And lastly but most importantly, it can also be used for "prehab" - that is, easing the impact on joints and bones before you have an injury to completely avoid the need for PT in the future.

The Zero Runner is an investment (around $3K), but if you're a runner or if you're looking for a new way to workout at home, I definitely recommend learning more. You can check out the Zero Runner site or follow Octane Fitness on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

This post is sponsored by FitFluential LLC on behalf of Octane Fitness.

Monday, November 24, 2014

ZINspiration Mondays with Cayla

There's Cayla, on the right!
My name is Cayla, and I've been doing Zumba for nearly two years now.  A couple of times out at a class, and at least once a week using the Wii.

Why is this remarkable, you might ask? I would say that it's really not, except that I'm doing it while dealing with a disability.

I have HSN (Hereditary Sensory Neuropathy).  If you Google it, there are literally dozens upon dozens of pages that will come up in the results.  Basically, this form affects fine motor skills.  Mine was injury onset - starting with spraining my ankle.  Now, when I walk, my feet tend to drop, which can make walking difficult and tiresome.  Without my braces, I have to walk lifting my legs from the hips, which, after a few minutes, becomes really hard.

On May 2, 2011, I went to my first Zumba class.  I went, not knowing if I would be able to do it, if my feet would allow me to make it through that first hour.  (This was before I got the braces I have now). 

It was a basic class, with the first song I ever learned the choreography to being "Que Te Mueve".  I made it through that class, and was hooked.  Some songs I found nearly impossible to do, but I kept going, kept learning new steps.
Cayla's leg braces
After a year, I got some new braces!  They are probably the ugliest things ever, but really, I'm not complaining... much... because they do help me so much.

Zumba has really been my saving grace.  It keeps me active, and that's key in keeping symptoms of this disease at bay.  Since starting Zumba, my core strength and balance has improved so much. There are things in Zumba that I still physically cannot do. Things like pointing my toes - those heel-toe moves are brutal! Samba kicks my butt... again, because of the toes thing. I am the QUEEN of modifying moves!

Since getting those braces, I'm constantly discovering things that I can do, things that I used to do before all of this. Things like jumping.  A simple jump out, jump in.  The first night at Zumba, I nearly cried when it was time in the choreography to do the dreaded jumping jack move, but to my complete and utter astonishment, I did it!

After two years of Zumba, I can stand in line at a store or the bank without having to shuffle (much), or having to have something to lean on. Zumba has given me back some of the things that this disease started to take away.

If you're thinking about trying Zumba, but there's "something" holding you back, an injury, or the inability to move a certain way, please just give it a try.  Zumba is for everyone.  If there's something you can't do, don't, or modify the move so that you can.  I do it all the time.  The thing is, it's all about moving, and most importantly, having fun while you're doing it! 

Zumba is not about losing weight for me.  That's just an added bonus (I have gone down a couple of sizes!).  It's about keeping myself active, and reasonably fit.  Yeah, it's a little harder for me, but I dearly love a challenge! Tell me that I can't, and I'll do my damnedest to make you eat those words.  Someone, a couple of years ago told me that they didn't think that I'd be able to do Zumba, because of my feet.  Look at me now!
When I say it's for everyone, I mean everyone.  My mother, who is in a wheelchair, does Zumba.  No, she's not up doing the merengue or salsa moves, but she IS doing the arm movements...even if there aren't any.  She's doing arm movements for everything.  So, yeah, Zumba is for anyone and everyone.

I love it so much, that it's become a goal to get licensed as an instructor. Why? Because 1) I think I'd be good at it, and 2) I want to show people that physical limitations shouldn't hold you back. (Update: since writing this, Cayla did get licensed!)

If I can inspire just one person out there....whether it be to go to a Zumba class, or just lace up their sneakers to walk to the end of their driveway and not let the physical limitations get in way of being physically active, then job well done.

You can learn more about Cayla on her blog:

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Antonio's First Class

Today, Antonio Quezada from Indiana shares an essay he wrote for school. His assignment: Write about something that makes you happy. His detailed, in-the-moment account of teaching his first Zumba class is priceless.

“That land you ache for, the land that he gives, the land that makes you sigh if you don’t see it often,” sang Gloria Estefan. The lyrics of Gloria Estafan’s song that I can relate to for the very first time since the day I became an instructor. September 6, 2012, was the first time I taught Zumba, and on that day, my life changed forever. I developed an unique connection with the music, the energy, and the participants.

    Months after I got licensed as an instructor, I received a call to do a demo in a gym near my house. I was very nervous during this demo.  In fact, I was able to feel my bones in my knees shaking; I could really hear the tic tock of them touching each other. As soon as I pressed play, words could not describe the feeling that came rushing over me; it was like the type of adrenaline when you ride the rollercoaster at the fair. The music transported me to my hometown, and the rhythm and the beat reminded me of when I used to play drums. The experience was so surreal that I could taste it, as if I was eating a delicious carrot cake that my great grandmother used to bake.  The music brought out feelings that I never felt before while teaching Zumba.

Antonio with ZES Richard Gormley
    During the class, the smile of the people brought to the environment was indescribable and the energy was astonishing. I can actually recall the moment when I pressed play for the first time. A certain type of force came to me that transformed me as some type of super hero. The rush of the music took over me, but their inspiration was a force that allowed me to continue being passionate for what I do no matter of the difficulty of the day.

    Not only was there a connection with the music but also I felt the connection with the people that came to my class for the first time. At the end of the class, the students and I stood talking as if we knew each other for a very long time; I could not imagine the personal stories that they told. Their stories were so incredibly vivid that there were moments where I cried with them and moments that I laughed as well. Their stories were extremely emotional, and they inspired me to continue teaching. At that moment my participants became my personal inspiration to continue teaching Zumba.

    After the day of September 6, 2012, was over, I knew my life was not going to be the same. I can still remember like it was yesterday, sensing the silence of the room as I was stepping into the class for the first time. The feeling of the participants’ the roaring energy that came to my class was amazing. The connection that we had at the moment during the class was powerful. The only way to get a real sense of its power is if you experience Zumba for yourself someday.  

Friday, November 21, 2014

Top 10 Holiday Gifts for Your Favorite ZIN

This is a post you're going to want to share! Tis the season for gift-giving, and the 10 ideas below (in no particular order) are guaranteed to put a smile on any Zumba instructor's face.  Send a subtle hint by forwarding this post to your family and friends. :)

1. Headphones: Walking down the street, on the train, cleaning, at the gym - we need our music. I've tried these Koss fitclips and they're a good choice, since they won't fall out while you're bouncing around!

2. Choreography Coupons: One of the things we value most is time in front of a mirror, listening to the same songs over and over (and over) again. A homemade coupon for uninterrupted choreo hours is like gold! This is a great gift from kids to their ZIN parent.

3. Dance teeleggings, socks, etc.: We love to dance and we want everyone to know it. These are some cute items to consider, but there are lots of options out there.

4. iTunes gift card: We need a lot of music, and one of the best ways to keep up with what's current is to download hit songs from iTunes.

5. ZIN membership: I bet many ZINs' partners/kids/friends have no idea that we actually pay $30/month to do what we do. One month, six months, a year - any amount of time is a thoughtful gesture to show us that you care about our hobby/business/lifestyle.

6. Dancer's Clock: I've seen this in real life, and I just love it!

7. Business cards: Networking is s big part of landing instructor gigs, so a nice set of business cards from Vistaprint or another service is a great, practical gift! ZINs get a discount, so it's best to create your own coupon and then place the order through the Zumba website with your ZIN's permission.

8. Teaching vacation!: Did you know Zumba instructors can sign up to teach classes at an all-inclusive resort? Instructors get to bring a friend; indulge in full food, drinks, and activities; and spend a week in the sun doing what they love - all for about $600 (plus airfare).  For more info, you can read my posts on travel teaching here and here

9. Professional photo shoot: If your favorite ZIN is serious about his or her business, a set of carefully staged Zumba photos could be a big help when creating a professional Facebook page, posters, and other collateral.

10. Zumbawear: Ok, this one is obvious... but, ya know, we can't help ourselves when it comes to Zumba tees, cargo pants, and bracelets.  Hint: shop the sale section of the website for great deals!

P.S. Don't forget to enter for a chance to win a gift for yourself in The Z Beat's Thanksgiveaway!

Note: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. There's no charge to you to click, but if you make a purchase The Z Beat earns a small commission. Thanks for your support!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wearable fitness technology, and a big choice

As you know, I like to run. A week or two ago I ran a 10K and had a personal record; check out my story on Jamaica King's blog here! The punch line is that I ran faster than I thought I could. Hooray.

When I was prepping for the race, I decided to splurge and buy myself a GPS watch. I previously used a great app, RunKeeper, but I'm tired of running with my phone strapped to my arm and decided I really want to be able to see my pace without fumbling around. In case you're wondering, this is not a sponsored post and it's not really about the watch, either. I promise, I'll get to the point!

I had to choose between the $129 Garmin Forerunner 10 and the Forerunner 15 for $169. The difference? In addition to measuring distance, pace, and time while running or walking, the 15 tracks your heart rate, steps, and calories burned - like a FitBit. 

At first, my eye went straight to the 15. I love data. The 15 could give me all sorts of information! But then I realized, the 15 could give me all sorts of information. Not only how many calories I burned, but how few calories I burned. Not only how many steps I took, but how many steps I meant to take but didn't.

As much as I value information, I know myself. I already have to discipline myself to not weigh myself every day. Would I be able to control myself with this thing on my wrist? Would only walking 7,000 steps in a day ruin my mood? It's all too possible that this amount of information could be too much.

Or, can you?
I decided this level of detail could be great for some people, but not for me, not now at least. Some people may be just starting out with fitness, or may be disciplined enough to use the info the right way. For me, working out and eating right have become part of who I am. I don't need to be in competition with myself, beating myself up at the end of each day when my stats aren't ideal (or, what I think is ideal). It took me a long time to come to this place, and I was proud of my decision. I would love to try a fitness tracker at some point, but now just isn't the right time for me to wear one all the time.

Do you wear a fitness tracker? How do you balance using the information productively without obsessing over it?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

ZINspiration Mondays with Cara

Cara’s story takes her from just starting out with Zumba to losing so much weight that she had to have skin removal surgery. She’s an energetic ambassador for Zumba and a major inspiration! Here’s her story.

I started doing Zumba about four years ago. I monitored my eating, of course, but Zumba quickly became my obsession, my lifeline, and my solution to losing the 109 pounds I needed to get rid of. I currently dance 6 days a week and I am a licensed Zumba instructor in B1 and B2.

I came from an Italian family – food was used as reward and punishment. I was never obese as a child, nor super concerned about my chubby body in my teens. I married my high school sweetheart who loved me no matter what I looked like. I danced growing but shied away from team sports. As a young adult, I allowed my weight to fluctuate by a hundred pounds either way through alternating extreme binging years with unhealthy purging, fad dieting, and attempting all things dangerous, illegal, or at the very least unsubstantiated. I had three children, though I cannot honestly attribute my weight gains to my pregnancies – those bouts were all on me.

I will never forget the day I hit rock bottom (and damn I wish it came much sooner). It was not when my physician told me that my yo-yo dieting has caused damage to my heart, my thyroid, and my kidneys and made me prone to diabetes and other dangerous conditions. It was when my son came off the school bus four years ago with a black eye he received from defending my from kids who were mocking me as the “neighborhood fat mom”. I stopped binging THAT day but did not know what to do.

Zumba Zumba Zumba – was it possible that there was an exercise regimen that I would actually enjoy? Is it even an exercise regimen? It seemed too fun to be such. But I couldn’t fathom going to a gym at 230 pounds and 5 feet tall in my snobby neighborhood – so I sought out private dance studios. It took some time, but I was so intrigued by the promise of Latin style, hip music and the chance to dance again. I was instantly hooked.

It changed me emotionally more than physically. I had been isolating for years, and every class I went to, I made friends, true friends, who loved and supported me, and I them. My instructors became my mentors and remain so. I dropped weight slowly but breezily and after a year, nearly 50 pounds was gone. I was among the living again – still about 60 pounds too heavy. My cholesterol was dropping, kidneys doing better and my physician told ne that if I stayed on this track I may make it to 40. I started dancing as often as I could, trying to get to class 5-6 days a week. My kids and hubby even begged me to get to class because I become a cranky wreck if I miss my workout. I lost so much weight, I had to have two major surgeries to remove over 13 inches of skin from around my waist all the way around.
Now, after all this time, it is not a workout – it is a party where I share with friends and move like a fiend. Having put my PhD Dissertation on hold for a bit, I decided to become licensed in Zumba. I wanted to spread my overwhelmingly positive experiences with EVERYONE – and, for almost a year before B1, I was making playlists and choreographing just like a trained dancer would. I was licensed in B1 this May and shortly thereafter, B2. I have been waiting for Zumba step and some other trainings to pop in so that I could get more and more.

The biggest reason I turned to teach (without giving up my own 5 day a week training) is because I was no longer considered the “fat mom” and people turned to me for advice. My advice for those who want to lose weight? Well, NO ONE can tell you to do it. You have to find your own rock-bottom. Sadly it took me over 100 pounds, an extremely poor health prognosis and a roughed up child who was defending his “fat mom” for me to start. But there is NO ONE BETTER THAN ME who understands how it feels when you have to lose an extreme amount of weight. But, I would encourage ANYONE of any size and shape to give an hour of Zumba a try – let go. Take a class where you can dance like no one is watching, let the music move you and meet amazing people – doesn’t that sound SO MUCH LESS PAINFUL than a lonely diet and a treadmill? Zumba is the safest community of people to “get out there” with. No one judges and everyone just LOVES. Lastly, I would offer my info in case anyone wants to speak to the local Zumbaholic who had her life saved by Zumba.

I teach two amazing classes per week that I am growing: Tuesdays at 7pm and Saturdays at 10:30am at Forever Fit in Centerport, Long Island. We are a small group but we have a blast. I am looking actually to teach more so I am reaching out to try to get more instructor opportunities. I'm also an administrator of FB's The Z Factor of Long Island group, where I help people to connect and, hopefully, inspire them!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Z Beat's Thanksgiveaway!

Tis the season! I am so thankful for all of you who read, comment on, and share The Z Beat. To say thanks, I'm giving away a prize pack to one lucky reader! See below for how to enter.


What could you win?
  • A silver Zumba tote
  • Two Z-swag bracelets
  • A Zumba bandana
  • Two books on nutrition from my personal library that I think are chock full of great tips to healthy eating
Enter to win below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The fine print: No purchase necessary. To participate, enter using the form above by 12:00am on 11/28/14. A winner will be selected randomly via Rafflecopter. Winners may live anywhere, but must produce a valid address for shipment. The Z Beat is not responsible for lost or deleted entries, and will make final decisions regarding disputes. Winner will be notified by 11/30/14. Thanks for participating!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Putting the Group in Group Exercise

I asked fellow blogger Jamaica King to tell me a bit about why she loves group exercise classes. Her answers reminded me just how important the social aspect of what we do is, and that it's something I should pay more attention to! Here's what she had to say.

Group exercises are not for everyone. We all have our unique style and approach for living an active lifestyle, but social fitness activities are what works for me. There are many times I workout solo, but ultimately I prefer a “gym buddy” or a group setting.

Before I go into the details, let me give you some context about the types of group exercises I’m involved with. I participate in run groups with my colleagues at work, Nike Run Club, or other local running groups. When my job allows, I’m an occasional member of Nike Training Club Santa Monica, a community fitness group that trains once a week. I attend group classes at CrossFit Sandbox I’m also subscribed to 220 Fitness specifically for their classes (they have a variety of options). Lastly, I’ve partaken in some cool events such as NTC Tour LA, Nike Track Club Ladies Night, and Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego. By now, hopefully it’s apparent that I’m a social fitness junkie.

So… why do I enjoy it?
Meeting new people. A part of experiencing life is seeing what is out there and that includes meeting new people. There are many different types who come from various places across the globe who belong to diverse cultures. As an explorer of the world... I want to experience that.
Friendly competition. Surrounding myself with like-minded individuals who are goal diggers thirsting for results inspire me and motivate me to propel forward. It pushes me to be the best I can be and to redefine "best" whenever I get there.
Fun. Yep. It's as simple as that. I have fun when I'm around other people who are also having fun. Group exercises keep things interesting and different. You never know what to expect and at time it can be surprisingly rewarding.

Do you like group exercises or social fitness activities? What do you like about them?

About Jamaica King
Your resident fitness junkie who travels to run and runs to explore. If she’s not pounding pavements or sweating a river, she’s chatting up a storm on Twitter (@itsrarax3) or blogging on You can also hit her up on Instagram (@rarax3).

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Let's be real: Some days I just don't wanna.

Can I be real? Thanks. Here goes. I mean, I love Zumba. I teach twice a week, go to special events, and I'm going on a teaching vacation. I founded a freakin' Zumba-themed blog, for crying out loud!


Some days, I don't want to teach. Some days, I just don't want to be burdened with setting an alarm, making my playlist, or worrying about everyone's feelings (why are there so many feelings?!). Some days, I just want to go running by myself, or take someone else's class so I can really get lost in it. Some days, I don't want to be the center of attention at the gym.

The first time I felt this way I felt TERRIBLE. How could I think these things? There are so many people who want to teach, and I'm so lucky to have two classes. And, to reiterate, I love Zumba. What was I talking about?

Then I realized... we all burn out occasionally, even from the things we love the most. I've never actually wanted to stop teaching, but I do need a break once in a while. This year, I had gone 6 months teaching two classes a week (in addition to finishing grad school and working my full time job) and only requested a sub once. Any responsibility can become burdensome, and I really need a break to recharge my Zumba batteries every once in a while.

Here are some strategies I came up with to prevent or treat burnout.

 - Get a sub: It's hard to leave your class, and we all know there are students who groan at the first site of a sub. But, in reality, you'll be a better, more energized teacher if you take a break when you need to.

- Switch up your playlist: I love that my students are attached to certain songs in my repertoire. But I've realized that I'm most excited about heading to class when I have something new to offer... even an old song that you retired for a while can breathe new life into a class.

- Jams and master classes: There's nothing like being among other instructors to inspire you. Jams give you plenty of new material to work on all at once, which can be challenging and fun. If you've never been to one, here's what you can expect.

- Try a new specialty: This is a bit of a commitment, but if you're really struggling, it may be time for toning sticks, a step, or a chair. You'll have a chance to recreate your choreo and do something you've never done before.

- Treat yourself: You might just need a new headband, shirt, or book - nothing big or expensive, but just a little something to get you excited to teach. You can also give yourself a manicure or watch brainless TV (hello, Teen Mom 2!) for a while as a free but fun treat for all the time you spend thinking about others.

What do you do when you get overwhelmed or bored to reignite the Zumba love?

Monday, November 10, 2014

ZINspiration Monday with Deborah Currington

Deborah is from the UK, and her story about struggling with self-esteem and dealing with people who didn’t support her is very relatable. She’s overcome quite a few challenges, but through it all Zumba has continued to bring her joy! More importantly, Deborah says the thing she loves most about teaching is making a difference in people’s lives and bringing them happiness. Here is her story.

I developed a real passion for Zumba, which quickly turned into the desire to teach it. In 2011, I joined a budget gym and met an instructor who I became friends with (or so I thought); she invited me to hers and we had a few girls’ nights in.  I was always asking how she got into Zumba and what inspired her, and from our conversations and doing her classes I developed a passion for it. I also got a lot of compliments from people, but I kept thinking to myself that they were just saying it and didn't mean it!  So, I put off doing the B1 course because I allowed myself to think I wasn't good enough.

Anyhoo, I made a group of friends in my class who I stupidly introduced to the instructor that was my “friend,” and it turns out one of the girls I introduced her to had it in for me.  I was still going to this instructor’s classes, but meanwhile the whole time this girl was turning the instructor against me… and it worked!

I was getting ready for the B1 course and I asked for the instructor’s help. She refused to help me, so I decided to go it alone, and it was actually the best decision I ever made. I have always had low confidence and self-esteem as a result of being bullied and abused when I was 13. I overcame that to get to a point in my life where I finally felt I was worth something, and I wasn’t going to let jealousy, rumors, etc. deter me from my goals.

After what I have been through, I will not let something like this get me down. The past few years Zumba has saved my life (along with my boyfriend and good friends) and I am so glad I took the decision to do the course because if I hadn't I don't know where I would be right now.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Question of the Week: Comfortable (a PSA)

You may have seen a link to this video on Facebook, blogs, or even in Time Magazine, over the last week. Comfortable: 50 People, 1 Question was produced by a group called the Jubilee Project that produces PSAs about, well, lots of things.
The concept? Adults and kids are all asked the same question: If you could change ONE thing about yourself, what would it be?
The full video is below, but I'll give you a sneak preview. The adults name a range of features: forehead size, eye shape, height, stretch marks, ears. The kids also name a range of features: mermaid tail, shark mouth, cheetah legs, wings, and - gasp - nothing at all.
The high level take-away is that adults are more likely to focus on what they perceive to be flaws about themselves, and kids are inclined to think of new features or powers that they would like. Adults are jaded and have broken self-esteem, and kids don't.
This video made me ask myself:
  • At what point do we shift from loving our bodies to being able to immediately identify the things we hate about them?
  • Is this just good social marketing? I mean, there's research that kids are more creative than adults. Maybe kids just interpret the question differently.
  • Whatever the reason behind the answers, how do we change them?
So, question of the week: How do we create a society in which more people want a super power rather than a smaller nose?


Friday, November 7, 2014

Try, Try Again! - An Open Letter from a Zumba Skeptic

Today's post comes from fellow fitness blogger Christiana of Spilling Coffee n' Dropping Things. Christiana recently wrote about a difficult experience trying dance fitness, so I knew I had to ask her to answer a few questions for us. As instructors (and, presumably, people who like to dance) it's hard to know what to say to someone who may want to try Zumba but is afraid or uncomfortable. Here's what she had to say.

I e-met Jen from through the Girls Gone Sporty blogging network. She has a fun, energetic blog which totally makes me want to try her Zumba classes one day!
Christiana in a spin class!
I have tried a couple of different fitness-dance classes in my day (different Zumba teachers, dance workout DVDs, and cardio barre, among others).  Of course, trying doesn't mean a perfect run with accurate moves the very first time. 
As a kid in school I was a good, eager-to-please student and would study, but I got test anxiety: the minute I picked up the pencil I would forget everything I studied (as an adult in workout classes I know I can follow the teacher, which helps, but I still get a similar feeling!). I never took a lot of regular dance classes because I think my hypermobile joints along with ADHD just ended up frustrating me, my parents, or the teacher! Looking back, I think I needed a special ballet teacher or a specific trainer to show me poise, posture, focus, and body awareness, but sadly I never really learned. 
In college, I majored in children's theatre so I am familiar with choreography from musical theatre. But, I never felt like a coordinated athlete. I do love to swing dance the basics. I love salsa, too, but haven't had much practice. I've tried line & square dancing but I am not a big country fan. 
Jen told me she laughed when she read my Zico day event post (about taking a dance fitness class) because, from my description, she could imagine me flailing all over the place!  But, flailing is different from failing!:) I am willing to try new things because a) I might just get a good ab workout from laughing at myself, and b) I might find a new song, meet a new friend, or learn a new cultural step or two! I realize with practice anyone can try anything! 
For me, it helps to watch dance videos where they pause to break down each move, which helps. In a gym class there are probably too many people and not enough time to break it all down.  In order to really learn, I would need to study the videos every day then go try someone like Jen. I think Zumba is a fun, fantastic workout (and great for us who love multicultural or world music!) but do I love it enough to go every day? I like trying new things so I don't get bored on one machine, and so my muscles don't just peak and stay at one spot, so maybe Zumba is my answer!

My advice to other people who are unsure of themselves but interested in trying dance fitness: To get the courage up, take a friend or check out blogs like Jen's or YouTube videos first.  I encourage you to give it a go and try several styles (try a piYo class, a rock it workout, a piloxing class, a turbojam class, a different Zumba teacher) and see what you think! Give it a try! If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Reader Request: The Importance of Warming Up and Cooling Down

Thanks to Amy for writing in with a request for this topic!

We all know that the warm up and cool down are critical parts of the Zumba workout (any workout, really!). I'm sure we also all have students who strategically sneak in after the warm up is completed or leave a few minutes early pre-cool down. I hope the information here gives you a few extra tools for your instructor toolkit so you can convince your students of the value of the warm up and cool down!

Why warm up?
According to the Mayo Clinic, "a warm up gradually revs up your cardiovascular system, increases blood flow to your muscles, and raises your body temperature." Warming up reduces your risk of injury and can help reduce post-workout soreness.

What should a warm up consist of?
A warm up should be dynamic and gentle, meaning you're moving all of your major muscle groups without fatiguing yourself and without engaging in deep stretches ("cold" muscles aren't ready for a deep stretch!).

In Zumba, we typically warm up for 5-10 minutes for a 60-minute class. I usually have one official warm up song and then use a Zumba song that is a bit slower with light choreo as a second warm up song (so folks don't feel like we spend too much time warming up).

Why cool down?
The Mayo Clinic says cooling down "allows for a gradual recovery of heart rate and blood pressure... and helps regulate blood flow." The American Heart Association warns, "Stopping [exercise] suddenly can cause light-headedness because your heart rate and blood pressure drop rapidly."

What should a cool down include?
A cool down should start with slow movement and gradually incorporate stretching. Stretching can decrease muscle pain and stiffness, and it sets you up to have a good workout the next time you exercise.

What should you do if students skip the warm up or the cool down?
If you have students who arrive late and leave early, my advice is to add a few words about warming up and cooling down to your pre-class schtick. Not to call anybody out individually, of course, but a gentle reminder about how warming up is critical to safety when working out might change how people think about it.

You can also say a few words before the cool down starts, like "Great class so far everyone. Let's take the next few minutes to take care of ourselves and make sure we recover properly from the great workout we just had."

How do you ensure your students get a good warm up and cool down?

Monday, November 3, 2014

ZINspiration Mondays with Mary Lindemuth Arulanantham

Mary is from San Ramon, CA, and used Zumba to overcome a variety of challenges that would have most people throwing their hands up in the air. Kudos to you, Mary! Here is her story.

Almost 3 years ago, I was struggling with depression, obesity, hormonal issues, and just plain feeling stuck and isolated. I was trying, one step at a time to reconnect with friends and get out more.

My friend dragged me into a Zumba class, telling me I would love this talented and hilarious instructor. She was right; once a week became twice, 3 times, 4. At the end of that year, I had a strong understanding of the moves, some fun new friends, and the beginning of a personal relationship with that quirky, wonderful instructor.

The second year, I had the confidence and support from that wonderful Zumba community to commit to a fitness and weight loss program. I lost 70 pounds, dancing up to 12 times a week (which I don't necessarily recommend, but I was trying to force my metabolism back to life). As the pounds dropped away, I was able to find other kinds of support at the gym to enhance my efforts, hiring a personal trainer to do weight training and working on more effective ways to eat. (I also cared enough to see a doctor for the other issues, not just letting things go.) I ventured out to some non-class Zumba events, and began following my original instructor in earnest at the dance studio he manages. By the end of the year I had scheduled my B1 training and was really on my way.

Now it is close to the end of year 3 since getting started. My health and weight are stable and I feel better at 53 than I did at 40. I have my own class at the dance studio and sub regularly, with new job prospects coming my way. More importantly, I am renewed by my close relationships with my original instructor and others who mentor and support me. I have a whole new outlook. Obviously, my life is not perfect, but I am so grateful for everything that Zumba, and the dynamic people who make up this community, has brought me.

When I asked Mary what advice she would give someone who thinks they can’t get started, she said:

The typical reaction I get from people is "Well, I don't have time for all that." People can be very defensive, even when they are the ones who asked me about the subject, and I make a point of emphasizing that each journey is unique. I think the most uncomfortable thing people must do when they are in that starting place and think they can't do it is to look in the mirror and decide (because it is a choice, whether we want to admit it or not) to love yourself enough to give yourself the gift of commitment. After that, everything else will be an answer to the question, "Can I?"

Zumba works especially well for this because the overall philosophy is welcoming (it's a party!) and nonjudgmental. So, you must love yourself before you can give yourself permission to put yourself first, whether it is going just once or twice a week to a Zumba class, or a nice walk every morning, or yoga. After that, I would add--baby steps, and surround yourself with positive people. I didn't lose any weight at all for a year; I was busy having fun with my new passion!