Monday, June 29, 2015

Persistence and Tenacity, a Fitness Mantra (and today's ZINspiration)

I'm switching things up for ZINspiration Monday this week. I still want to publish your inspiring stories about overcoming challenges (please, send them to me!!), but today I want to talk about straight up fitness motivation.

There's a lot out there in the fitness world about having "no excuses" and working for what you want. You've already heard my rant on when fitspiration goes bad... ya know, when skinny minny models or uber-buff lifters post selfies with words of "encouragement" that make you feel worse about yourself. Today, I want to bring it back to a simple mantra that can go along way.

Persistence and tenacity.

Persistence (noun): firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition

Tenacity (noun): the quality or fact of being able to grip something firmly

If you know where you want to be, you can figure out how to get there, and persistence is what will keep you on track. It doesn't mean you can't have a freakin' cookie every once in a while... you adjust course and keep it moving.

And with tenacity, you're holding onto your goals tightly. Your fierce loyalty to them won't allow one slip up to abandon what you know you want so badly.

These are the words I plan to keep in mind from now on. I don't need someone else's version of "fit" or "perfection" in my face to keep myself persistent and tenacious. I just need me and confidence in myself to keep going.

What words are part of your fitness mantra?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Current Choreo Obsessions

I'm really enjoying some of my current or soon-to-be added choreo that has been partially or fully borrowed from others. Sharing some of my favorite finds today, and I hope you like them too!

A few weeks ago I asked for your recommendations for a slightly slower song, and Cayla recommended Hey Alicia. I'm not sure how I missed this song on megamix 41, because I went and dug it out and LOVED it. I'm doing mostly this routine by Bartek (which I've seen all over YouTube, not sure if it came from Zumba or some very talented choreographer out there), but I've change a portion at the end...

Instead of doing the salsa with more side-to-side steps toward the end, I do salsa front, salsa back and then a side squat to the right and one to the left - then we take it around the world. Just wanted to add a fitness element!

Just this morning, when I was looking for another video to pull up, I found this SUPER fun choreo to Boracho Se Cae was posted by Iho. It looks easy to learn and I can't wait to incorporate it.


Last but not least, I've loved the song Moombathon ever since it came out from the ZIN music collection, but just haven't had time to learn it and choreograph to it. Well, I found this video and absolutely love this choreo. The instructor, Dovydas, does a great job of building progressions into his cuing, so it's worth watching for that alone!

Lastly, a quick shout out to Traketeo, Atrevete, and My Check from ZIN 56. I almost never take choreo straight from the source, but I fell in love with these three routines. I wonder if it's because I got a sneak preview of 56 at the Home Office Connection event that I went to a few months ago... it was like my subconscious remembered how fun the dances were even though I didn't remember the moves.

Hope you see something you like here! (Totally random that these videos are all done by men, btw.) And, if you haven't seen my latest article for ZLife, you should check it out for a laugh:
10 Thoughts Everyone Has During Zumba.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What Taking (and, um, sticking with) a Spin Class Taught Me

This post is from Melissa, a guest blogger on The Z Beat!

As everyone knows, losing weight is a journey – there are many self-discoveries along the way. That has definitely been the case for me and I wanted to share one that happened to me in the past couple of weeks, when I started taking regular spin classes.

A friend of mine, Aimee, introduced me to spinning when she invited me to join her for a class. I was hesitant at first because my only experience with spin had been about five years ago and, well, it wasn’t exactly pleasant. I felt so uncomfortable and I didn’t even make it halfway through before walking out. I tried once more but never really felt like it was for me so I chalked it up to experience and moved on.

Not wanting to let Aimee down since she was so kind to ask me to join her, I went. I was nursing a calf strain so I was only able to get halfway through the hour-long class before stepping off the bike once again. But instead of simply being left alone to walk out while Aimee finished the class, the gym owners Sherry and Julio came and talked to me. They spent 30 minutes with me, walking and getting to know each other. That walk sparked a friendship that changed me.

That night, I went home and – I am not going to lie – my backside was killing me. Sitting in a chair hurt and when I woke up the next morning, it wasn’t any better. Add to that my calf issue and I thought I would never take another class.

But as luck would have it, another friend was affiliated with the spin gym and encouraged me to go back. For my second class, I was able to stay on the bike the whole time and while I couldn’t get out of the saddle for more than a few seconds at a time, I was able to pedal for 60 minutes at increasing speed and resistance. And while my backside hurt a bit when I got home, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I remembered the first time. Could I be getting better at an activity that I had written off for years?

By my fifth class, I felt like I had been riding forever and I wondered why I was ever afraid of the bike. I was now able to get out of the saddle and keep up with the instructor and the feeling was amazing. I found myself encouraging other people who were only taking their second class and telling them to stick with it. How ironic!

Just a couple of weeks ago, I signed up for a 60-day membership for unlimited classes and it struck me that spinning and my fitness journey was no different than when we, as kids, learned how to ride a real bike. At first, we needed training wheels but when it was time, those training wheels were removed and with a little help we learned how to ride without them. We were wobbly in the beginning and sometimes even fell but we got back up and did it again until we knew what we were doing.

Conquering spinning reminded me that I am going to fall down on this journey but as long as I get back up and keep pedaling, I will eventually ride with no hands. Here’s to keeping at it!

Monday, June 22, 2015

ZINspiration Monday: Zumba Stories!

If you haven't checked out the home office's Zumba Stories page yet, you're missing out! It's an incredible collection of stories about how Zumba has impacted people's lives (perhaps, in part, inspired by our ZINspiration posts here on The Z Beat!). The stories are about weight loss, fighting disease, escaping toxic relationships, overcoming trauma, and more.

I recommend reading them all, but here are a few stories that I highly recommend!

Angelica suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving our country in Iraq; finding Zumba helped relieve some of her symptoms

ZES Sucheta Pal and a team of ZINs from Nepal stepped in to help others after the earthquakes earlier this year

Beth found herself with a Parkinson's diagnosis in her mid-30s, but used dance to keep herself happy and healthy

Vickie lost an incredible 100 pounds with regular Zumba and lots of dedication

Friday, June 19, 2015

Dance Fitness Expose: 'Cize!

If you've been reading for a while, you know I love trying new dance fitness formats. As a reminder, I've tried Bokwa, Doonya, and Piloxing.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to try 'Cize, the new dance fitness format developed by Shaun T's company. 'Cize is a series of choreographed routines designed to make you sweat. You learn 8 counts at a time (repeating each new series of moves 4 times) until you've learned a complete routine.

According to the man himself, people can expect that "Your cardio will skyrocket if you actually really work it out and push yourself. With dancing, you can, like anything else, be lazy or you can go for it. So if you go for it, you’ll lose weight and get toned." He also says that everybody can dance, whether they think the can or not.

Billed as the first 'Cize class in Long Island, Susan LoPicolo was the instructor. She was involved with the year-long development of the program, and she was great! Her dance skills and teaching skills made the class fun and pretty easy to follow.

Here's what I really liked about the class:
  • Great music: 'Cize uses recognizable hip hop and pop hits, which makes for a good time if you like to sing along under your breath like I do.
  • Good workout: You'll definitely get a good sweat (if you dance full out like Shaun T suggests)... I even had some sore muscles the next day!
  • Well-paced: Because the class is founded on learning a choreographed dance, there are natural breaks in between 8 counts to march in place and take a deep breath. Nothing longer than a few seconds, but I liked where my heart rate was throughout the class.
  • Awesome instructor: Susan was terrific, and something tells me that most of the original 'Cize crew is pretty awesome.

Here are some things to consider before deciding if 'Cize is for you:
  • Memorizing choreography: I have mixed feelings about this format. I absolutely love learning new routines, but I also think it can be daunting for non-dancers. The moves don't repeat like they do in Zumba, so you really have to pay attention.
  • Verbal cues: To help you memorize the choreo, the instructor gives verbal cues (again, unlike Zumba where we use mostly visual cues). This just means there's more talking over the music than some of us may be used to (and those verbal cues were VERY helpful!).
  • Asymmetrical moves: This is my own weird pet peeve, but I like to evenly work both sides of my body during every workout. I don't leave "evening out" to chance. So when you're doing a choreographed routine, you may do certain lunges or arm moves in one direction but not the other. Makes for a slammin' routine, but you might want to do some moves on the other side to balance out how you use your muscles. Or, maybe this is just my Type A coming out. :)
Overall, I really enjoyed the class and encourage you to check it out!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

#ZumbaMania - did it happen to you?

This post is by Dana, a guest blogger on The Z Beat!

I actually met someone last weekend that DIDN’T KNOW WHAT ZUMBA WAS. I honestly couldn’t believe my ears. I thought to myself, he must be part of the .0000001% of the population that has never heard of Zumba. After my initial shock and dismay, my face lit up and my eyes started glimmering as I began to tell him what Zumba was. This peculiar person looked at me and said, “Oh so it’s a dance class?” to which I responded, “Oh my gosh no! Well I mean, yes you DO dance, but it is a fitness class”. The more I talked the more confused he looked so I proceeded to tell him that he should try a class; and he laughed.

It is hard to describe Zumba to someone who doesn’t know what it is. It is also just as hard to explain Zumba to people who “know you teach Zumba”, but have NO idea exactly what it means to you in terms of the camaraderie within the Zumba community, the relationships you develop with your Zumba-ers, the passion and devotion that goes into each song and set list and the subsequent endorphins after a class that make you feel unstoppable.

Well, I just explained exactly what Zumba means to me. I have asked a lot of fellow instructors if they could describe how Zumba has impacted their life. There were several overall common denominators whereas Zumba facilitated a lifestyle change, helped with overall happiness and was the source of long term friends.  I concluded that we all share the same love, passion and commitment but perhaps on different levels.
I suspect that some Zumba instructors go to training, enjoy teaching, create set lists, practice, teach great classes, go home and move on with their day.
And then there are those who… take it a few steps further. They go to training. Enjoy teaching. Create set lists. Practice. Teach. And then somewhere along the line, #ZumbaMania sets in and these instructors:

§  Wake up in the morning and can’t WAIT to get to class.

§  Listen to Zumba CDs, the radio and scour iTunes for new music.

§  Have a note pad and a pencil at all times to make choreography notes for new routines.

§  Express themselves by dancing – in class, out on the town, in the grocery store – everywhere!

§  Practice at work, in the bathroom, in the car and frankly anywhere.

§  Lay in bed and think about class from earlier in the day and eagerly prepare for the next class.

§  Start EVERY conversation with something related to Zumba.
What are your #ZumbaMania moments?

Monday, June 15, 2015

ZINspiration Monday with Megan

Megan overcame domestic violence and reclaimed her health. A true inspiration!

My story started 22 years ago at the age of 23. On a cold day in January I almost lost my life to domestic violence. I was a survivor. Somehow, someway I picked myself up off the ground pulled up my boots and strode forward into the world where I would no longer be a victim.

Fast forward five years and I meet the man who saved my life. He is my rock. Funny thing about being happy, married, having children, you start to put on weight. Nothing noticeable at first, just a little every year. Fast forward another fifteen years and OMG one day I look in the mirror and I am huge! Did I mention I was a smoker too? for 29 long years!

My husband continually tried to get me to exercise, and I continually told him I was allergic. I told him if dancing became a exercise program I would exercise. My oldest daughter signed up as a member to a gym and called me that night. "OMG, you have to check out this exercise class called Zumba! You will love it!"

I went to my first class, chunky, pack a day smoker...and couldn't make it through even half the class without being bent over and huffing and puffing. But I loved it, and stuck with it.

Two years later I became an instructor myself. At the time I had lost 60 pounds and gone from a size 14 to a size 6.

Now why did I say anything about the domestic violence? It doesn't really fit? Oh yes but it does. Even 20 years later I still had problems with being myself in front of strangers. I was not outgoing, I was introvert, and very untrusting of people I didn't know. Becoming an instructor and getting in front of a class was one of the scariest things I ever did in my life. Just to smile seemed painful...but then something magical happened...they smiled back and laughed and whooped and danced and had a wonderful time and I realized that I could live outside of myself for the first time in over a decade. Zumba truly changed my life.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Friday Motivation!

Friday Motivation! A few gems from the Interwebs. Happy weekend!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

In Need of Song Recommendations... stat!

Ya know how sometimes you love your current playlist? I've been in one of those moods lately. I loved ZIN 56 so much that I immediately pulled three songs from it (Atrevete, Traketeo, and My Check) and coupled with some other songs I recently choreographed (Zumbalo, Mambo Salsa - an oldie but new to my class), I feel like classes have been a lot of fun lately.

As you may remember,
my method for managing my playlist is to rotate in new songs but to keep some older ones in it too - about 50/50. I find that's the right balance to keep people happy.

My problem right now is that I need some specific types of songs to add to my rotation, and I'm just not sure what songs to pick. In some cases, I feel uninspired, and in other cases I'm just overwhelmed with the choices. So... help!

Current radio hit: I don't spend a ton of time listening to the radio - I commute by train, so no long drives, and at home I tend to listen to Pandora - so I'm a little out of touch. For a while I had a run of pop songs - Problem (Ariana Grande) and Uptown Funk (Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars) were big hits. I know there are popular Nikki Minaj and David Guetta songs right now, but I don't love them. And I LOVE Usher, but his new hit I Don't Mind isn't exactly class material (yikes). What should I try?

Merengue: I feel like there are merengues as far as the eye can see, but I just can't pick one! Old Zumba merengue songs that I've used include Me Va Quema El Cellular, Come on and Dance, Menea la Pera, and Pegate Mas. I really like Las Mamies from ZIN 52, but I found it hard to memorize (I'm all about a fairly predictable verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge kind of format!). Recommendations?

Slower tune: I like to have one slower song in the middle of my playlist for people who need to catch their breath (um, yes, I may be one of those people). I know some instructors will use a tango or bachata, but while I like those styles in general, the choreo to them can be kind of boring. Other slow jams that I've used in the past include Hips Don't Lie (Shakira) and Sexy Movimiento (Zumba). Ideas for fun songs in the slower beats-per-minute family?

Thanks for the advice!

Monday, June 8, 2015

ZINspirational Monday with Sonja

Sonja went from being overweight and unhappy to the instructor with the purple hair, beaming with confidence. Here is her story.

When I walked into my first fitness class - a Zumba class at the Towson (MD) YMCA - 5 years ago, I hadn't a clue as to where my fitness journey would take me. I was simply an overweight, depressed housewife without much going on in my life. I hated my appearance, I hated my life, and I hated myself.

Before Sonja got healthy...

Exercise - first dance fitness, then strength training - changed everything. I dropped the weight... but that's the least of it. I also dropped the sadness that plagued me. I lost the physical pains that came from carrying the excess weight around. I began to like myself.

I never intended to teach. I took instructor training out of curiosity, nothing more. But, four days after my training, our regular Zumba instructor told our class that she was moving out of the area. I stepped up to keep the classes going, figuring at some point a "real" (experienced) instructor would come along.

That didn't happen. Five years later, I'm still going. 

I have gained so much. Strength, confidence, focus, happiness! I have gained some wonderful friends in the fitness world - and I'm certain that I have the BEST students on the planet.


Friday, June 5, 2015

The Zumba Cruise - Yes, for real!

I was SO pumped to be asked to work as a contributing writer for Zumba's very own magazine, ZLife. Me? Really? Awesome.

My first article is about the Zumba Cruise set to sail in January 2016. When I first heard about it I thought it was a joke (sounded too good to be true!), and then when I realized it was an actual trip I could hardly believe it!

Photo credit: Zumba Fitness

I got to learn a lot about it when I wrote this article, and if you're looking for a Caribbean vacation option for this coming winter, I recommend you check it out. This isn't a paid post or sponsored ad... I just really got excited about this trip as I was writing about it! The price is totally reasonable, starting at $842 for a double occupancy room. The price includes meals, entertainment, classes with ZESs from around the world, a fitness concert, and more. For the non-Zumba lovers in your life (we all have a few), they can enjoy everything a cruise would normally offer. Sounds like the perfect vacation to me!

Check out my article here and, if you decide to go on the cruise, have a GREAT time!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

When Students Become Friends

This is an age old question in among instructor groups and message boards. It's easy to become friends with your students - I mean, we do group exercise because we like the social element of working out.

Much of what people love about Zumba, pilates, or other classes is that it brings people together on a regular basis. Your classmates may even see you more than your extended family does! And in some cases, you might have been friends with other students before you became an instructor. Friendship in our classes is inevitable, and it's not a bad thing.

But - there are pitfalls. Here are a few things to consider:
  • A policy on payments: If you teach a class and collect fees yourself, having friends in the group can be tricky. Do you stop charging people at a certain point? What if they help out a little, say prepping equipment? If someone owes you money, when do you put your foot down? These are all good things to have decided ahead of time, maybe even in writing, to stay away from awkward situations down the road.

  • Avoiding special treatment: Everyone who comes to your class wants equal attention, and it's important for everyone to feel like they get it. I'm not saying you would give more attention to your friends, but others could have that perception. I try hard to learn everyone's names and make eye contact across the room so it doesn't feel like there are any favorites.

  • Save the drama for your.. well, for anywhere else: Unfortunately, with friendships can come drama. You have to work hard to be sure any arguments or misunderstandings are handled ASAP, or else that negative energy is sure to follow you into the studio. Others will feel it and the quality of your class can be impacted.

  • Be in agreement on fitness goals: We all like to push our students to work hard and get results. But, if you have a friend in your class you should know what their goals are and if they have any unavoidable limitations. You don't want them to feel like you're pushing them too hard (which can be embarrassing) or like you're going too easy on them (leaving them feeling like everyone else gets more support).
Have you run into any issues with having friends in your classes? How do you avoid them?

Monday, June 1, 2015

ZINspiration Monday with Amy!

Amy went from being nervous to even try Zumba to using it to lose over 100 pounds and becoing an instructor! Here's her story.

I was born and raised in Rockaway, NJ (and now teach all of my classes here!). I began my weight loss journey in 2012 and have lost over 100 pounds through healthy eating, exercise and Zumba Fitness! I lost my first 50 pounds by changing my eating habits, completely, and WALKING.

I was afraid to try Zumba because my confidence was so low. My friends convinced me to go to a class. I stood in the back corner with a lump in my throat and almost left before the music started. I was TERRIFIED! Thirty seconds in, I knew that I would be an instructor some day. I LOVED it! That "really scary," Zumba class changed my life!!! 

My B1 training was in March of 2013 and I've been teaching classes ever since. I teach 11 classes a week, am licensed in Sentao, Toning, Step and just recently, Gold.  I am a Mom, I have 2 sons who are 19 and 20 years old. I left my successful, full-time job about 2 years ago to teach Zumba and I couldn't be happier! My favorite songs to teach as of today (changes all the time) are Metela Sacala, Mueve y Sacude and Delirious.

If someone asked me for advice, I would say to believe in yourself, ALWAYS! You are worth it. You can do anything you want to do. You don't have to be the best, you just have to be passionate! If I can do it, anyone can. I was the girl who ate frosted flakes with heavy cream for breakfast and believed that all food was put on this planet to be a vessel for butter! I had no confidence and zero self- esteem. One day, though, I woke up and realized that I deserve to love me. Zumba changed my life. It made me confident. I LOVE my job and my students and I feel so fortunate to be able to do what I love.