Friday, January 30, 2015

Studying Up on Group Exercise

If you've been reading for a while, you know that a few months ago I compared ACE and AFAA certifications. Then, a few weeks ago, I told you about AFAA's Apex event and declared that I was going to study and get my group ex certification.

Well, so far, one of those two things is true. I totally studied and learned a bunch of new things! I read Exercise Standards & Guidelines Reference Manual from cover to cover. Here are a few things that I learned:
  • There's a long list of exercises that AFAA says to stay away from in a group ex setting... but they also provide modifications that make the moves safer. 

  • AFAA provides a ton of practical advice for engaging new exercisers and folks who are at a beginner fitness level, including ensuring they know what to wear to be comfortable and safe and checking one's own biases before offering advice and training. I love that they address the psychological side of exercise in addition to the physical.

  • This may not be new information, but AFAA uses a handy acronym to explain training variables that can be manipulated to adapt exercise to be more challenging: FIT(M)

As much as I enjoyed reading this book, I made a tough decision and will NOT be taking the exam this February for two reasons. First, I'm not sure I can commit to the continuing education required to maintain certification over the next few years. Second, I've been crazy busy at work and the thought of studying for a test started to stress me out. Fitness is my outlet, and I want it to stay a fun, healthy habit - not a chore. I haven't ruled out taking the test later in the year, but for now, I'm just studying up to expand my instructor toolkit.

Next book on my reading list: Fitness Theory and Practice. I'll report back!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Portion Control Made Simple

Have you seen this 24 Diagrams to Help you Eat Healthier post floating around on Buzzfeed? It's a super handy collection of infographics about food and nutrition.

Here is one of my favorite diagrams from that post. I think eating the right portions is one of the toughest parts of healthy eating and losing/maintaining one's weight. As I've written in the past, understanding appropriate portions has been critical to my own weight loss.

Especially on a snow day like today in the northeast, I have to be super mindful of how I eat. It would be all too easy to snack my way through a day like today. (Instead, I'll be tracking my calories, running an indoor boot camp for myself, choreographing a new Zumba song, and cooking a healthy dinner!)

Anyway, this Hand Guide to Portion Control makes it SO EASY to know how much to scoop onto your plate. I mean, you have to fuel yourself and listen to your body, but knowing where to start in terms of portions is one of the best lessons we can teach ourselves. I hope you find this as helpful as I did!



Monday, January 26, 2015

ZINspiration Mondays with Claudia

Claudia's account of her experience going from 330 pounds to 160 is honest and raw, and speaks to her incredible strength! Here it is.

I have taken Zumba classes for over 13 years. Zumba was my first step to changing my life. I was close to 330 pounds when I started. I always felt that everyone watched me when I walked by. I felt like everyone at a gym stared at me, not just because of my size but because how I was trying to hide my looks with one extra long shirt on top of another one - even longer - plus my sweater tight up on my waist to cover my booty. Ugh! It did not feel comfortable.  
Zumba was the very first class I felt comfortable doing. No one there cared what I was doing or how was I moving. In fact, they cared about me having a good time. I will never never forget my first Zumba instructor. He made me feel normal, which I was, but not to many others. Zumba took me out of a hole in which I was hiding. I suffered from a severe depression condition that kept me from moving. When depressed, each leg of mine felt like 200 pounds each.  I felt even heavier; I had body pain, and stayed in bed whenever I had the chance.  This is why it is so important for me to stay active and find positive things to do.
One of the reasons of my depression was my body. I was so unhappy with it; yet, I didn’t know how to fix it. I couldn’t go anywhere even if I wanted to because of embarrassment, because putting on clothes was a struggle for me, because I couldn’t fit in a theater chair comfortably, or those smaller chairs to eat outside the restaurant on summer. It was much easier to stay home with comfortable clothes, snacking on chocolates, salted snacks, and eating fast food. Ironically, while eating all that garbage, I would cry my soul out at asking myself why I couldn’t lose weight? I knew I wanted a better me, but I wanted it the easier way.  So many times I dreamed about being skinny that I thought that maybe one day, a miracle would occur and I would wake up skinny.
I never had thought of killing myself, but I had thought of how someone else could end my life either by accident or not. I dreamed about being in a taxi or someone’s car stuck in a middle of a railroad, the train would run over me, just me; I have imagined going to the bank where a robbery occurred while me there and got shot. I have even dreamed about being kidnapped and starved in a room so when someone found me, I was skinny.
Not all my dreams were horrible. I also had nice ones like being on the beach in the best shape ever in the company of a handsome man; or in the disco, dancing my booty off wearing the hottest clothes I couldn’t wear when I was younger. I have been overweight since I was very young and it seemed like I couldn’t find a way to fix it, none of the 20 doctors or “dieticians” I have visited in different countries and states.
Years passed by and I did not get better and I also was not getting any younger. I kind of realized that there were not going to be miracles and that I was going to have to do the work. I went to get a gym membership, tried the treadmill…no, tried bikes…no, tried ellipticals…no. I could only do it for so long and all I cared about was “is someone staring at me?” I didn’t come back.
But a miracle did happen. My roommate asked me to go to a ZUMBA class with her. I said no, because everyone would stare at me and make me feel uncomfortable. She insisted and I ended up going. I have never felt so comfortable in a work-out class before. No one cared about what I was doing; instead, they smiled at me. At one point, I remembered slowing down and looked around the room. Everyone, skinny, not that skinny, overweight was having a blast dancing and singing. I was so happy and sweaty!
After class, the instructor approached me and asked me how I liked it. He made me feel special, because no one approaches big people. Since then, I followed him everywhere, sometimes even twice a day.  A few months later my oversize shirts were extremely big on me. I WAS SHRINKING. I was so motivated that I did not give myself a chance to stop ever. I was adding small changes like cutting bad meals; I did add some weight so my skin would tone while losing the weight. Did I fall off the wagon? Heck yes... but did I give up? Heck no! I never never never gave up! Even in my hardest time of depression and stress, I never gave up.
I had fears. How would my body look once losing the weight? I had thought that maybe I should stay big cause at least my skin was tight. I was afraid I would look worse than I looked.  But then again, I remember how much I wanted to go places I couldn’t because of my weight. I had a lot of fears but I decided to not worry about them until the time to deal with those came.
160 pounds! Reaching my goal was the happiest day of my life! Funny thing was, I had to discover myself all over again. What I thought I liked to do wasn’t quite true. The only reason I was doing it was because my weight permitted it. I became a much stronger person. I am still a very nice person, but now, no one can take advantage of my kindness. For long months I used to wake up in the morning and think of what I was going to wear still picturing myself at 330 pounds.
Shortly after losing all that weight, I got my Zumba license, in June 2012.  I realized there was no better way to stay active than doing what I love. Not just stay active but also to make sure I stay fit to be able to teach all the classes. Most importantly, helping others with their goals; proving them wrong when they say, “it is impossible”.
My advice? Be consistent! Consistency is one of the keys to weight loss success. Have a work out routine a few days a week with a healthy daily eating.  Ask for help or find support! Surround yourself with people with same goals as yours, or active lifestyle.  Make it a priority. If you don’t take care of yourself, eventually, you won't be able to take care of your loved ones. Most importantly, never never never give up! You might trip on your way, but you must get up and try again and again. It may take you longer than you expect, it might cause you tears, you might feel exhausted, but at the end, it is all worth it. I know it is possible because I did it! And so can you!

Want more ZINspiration? Check out more stories here!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Question of the Week: Are You Focused on Fitness or The Entertainer?

I've had something on my mind for a while, so I took to Facebook to ask this Question of the Week:

Personally, as a STUDENT, I know I'm picky about this. I don't want to take a class with a boring instructor who looks like they're just going through the motions. Yawn. But, flip your hair too many times or shake your booty too much, and it feels like you think you're a back up dancer for Beyoncé... I mean, pay some attention to the rest of us! It's a super delicate balance.
As an INSTRUCTOR, I try super hard to be fun without performing. I sing along, emphasize certain moves to get everyone moving more, and freestyle a little during song introductions. I try not to add too much flare (which, I think is intimidating to students without dance backgrounds) and I try to show the group that I'm focused on them - lots of thumbs ups and "You got it!"s.

But, I really wanted to know what you think... and here's what you said:
  • I try to have a balance of both fitness and fun at the same time. - Tiffany, (And many others like Michele, Magda, Guylaine, Joseph, Sam, Angel, Nina and Julie agreed. They also recommend ProSkills training to help strike this balance.)
  • My clients always tell me they come for the "show". - Adam (Tracy is an entertainer, too!)

  • While keeping the Zumba Fitness formula in mind I engage with my classes. While engaging them I make sure their form is correct and I keep an eye on the newbies as well as the seasoned vets. I give a little push when it is due. I work the crowd and work them individually to make sure everyone has that "teachers pet" feel... - Adrienne

  • We are instructors, not performers. We encourage and set the atmosphere of fun and fitness, but it's not a show. Big pet peeve of mine. - Patti (Sheny agreed! So did Tiffany, who said "It's Zumba Fitness, not Zumba Entertainment!")

  • I like to have fun! I smile ALL the time and sing along too! But I keep my moves sharp and cue when necessary. My participants have commented that they love my many expressions during class. It makes them smile, which, to me, makes their workout that much more fun!