Monday, August 31, 2015

Motivation Monday: What Not to Say, and the Growth Mindset Approach

Guys. Something happened to me on Saturday that had my blood boiling. It went something like this:

Me: [Leaves house in workout clothes on humid late summer day]

Man working on house next door: [Glances over, doesn't say anything]

Me: [Goes for 2 mile jog, slow but steady, arrives home feeling good about self]

Man: "Quittin' time already?"

Me: [Becomes enraged, but keeps it together] "Well, I'm five months pregnant, so, ya know, I think I'm doing pretty well."

Man: "Oh, better drink some water." [Runs inside house]

EXCUSE ME? What gives anyone the right to think they can comment on someone else's workout like that? What if:
  • I had just had a major surgery?
  • I had just made a decision to start working out?
  • I was getting overheated?
People just don't think about what they're saying. I know this all too well, so I got over it pretty quickly. But, after I stopped seeing red I got to thinking about the fine line between motivation and criticism. As fitness instructors, we're constantly encouraging our classes to push harder and perform at an optimal level appropriate for each person. That doesn't mean we want to put anyone down, compare students' effort levels, or discourage them from trying something difficult.

This isn't anything new to you. But, I did want to talk a little bit about growth mindset, which is an evidence-based construct from social psychology. Without getting too technical, it goes something like this: praise the process, not the person. This is worth repeating:


What does this mean? Well, in lots of research studies, psychologists found that when you say something like "You're really good at this" or "You're smart", people not only become complacent with their current ability, but they're reluctant to try harder things because they don't want to go from being perceived as good at something to being perceived as struggling. If you say something like "You clearly worked really hard on this" or "Let's take what you just learned and use it tomorrow" - or anything else where you're focusing on effort level and continued growth - people will become excited about taking on a bigger challenge and are more willing to take risks.

Here are some key take-aways about using a growth mindset over a fixed one:

In a group fitness class, this could mean saying things like:
  • Wow, you've really improved since we first started doing this move!
  • You guys are covered in sweat - you're clearly giving it your all.
  • Today's class was fantastic, and I can't wait to see what you do next time now that you've learned XYZ.
  • I know that routine was tough. Everyone is capable at getting better at anything. Let's keep working at it!
Bottom line: your words mean a lot to students, as you know - try a growth mindset approach and see what happens!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Sharing Beyond Social Media

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

While attending the Zumba convention, I noticed a theme emerging and it got me to thinking about why I became an instructor in the first place.

The theme, as I saw it, had to do with sharing. As someone who has never been afraid to share my vulnerabilities with others, it doesn’t bother me to be open about my journey but I realized that I may be out of the norm.

At ZINCON, there was one session in particular that talked about how to connect with your students to make you a better instructor but also make your students feel welcomed and comfortable. It was there that I realized how difficult some teachers find it to open up and share who they are with their students. What I wondered to myself was, why?
All of us started somewhere and many, probably like me, in the back of the room at our first group exercise class. When I became a Zumba student, I had begun a weight-loss journey and was looking for a fun way to get my cardio in because sitting on a stationary bike or walking on a treadmill got boring really fast. At my gym, there were two instructors who embraced the business of fun that is Zumba and I regularly attended their classes.

After a few months, I was attending an Aqua class with Lilia “Zumbachica” Garza and when I finished one day, I mentioned to her that I was thinking I would like to become certified as an instructor but was worried that I wouldn’t be able to because I still had a lot of weight left to lose and that I may be too large. Nearly four years later, her words of encouragement to me still ring in my ears as if she spoke them yesterday.

“Melissa,” she said, “not everyone has to be tall, blonde and thin to be an instructor. Think of all the people you can inspire by teaching; you should definitely do it!”

I tell you that story to say that I think sometimes, as instructors, we tend to not want to share why or how we became fitness instructors because we fear our students may see us differently or maybe not as “the experts” we like to be in front of them. I believe it is just the opposite though. Sharing your struggles and your journey may have the same affect that Lilia’s words did on me.

We are all guilty of feeling like it is our responsibility to make sure every student or client sees us as the indestructible trainer and instructor we strive to be but sometimes we can send people running in the other direction if we don’t seem human. Starting something new is never easy and there is a balance between showing your students you empathize with them without seeming as if you’re not the expert.

In addition to sharing with students, I think instructors should lean on each other and not fear ridicule or competition. We all have our strengths and just because my style may not work for one person doesn’t mean I fail. None of us are superhuman and we all have down days and moments and who better to lift us up or understand our struggle than another instructor?

And I would encourage you to reach out to an instructor of another brand of group exercise than what you teach. For example, as a Zumba instructor, I would try to find someone who teaches yoga or maybe Pound or something like that so we can have a variety of experiences and classes to keep things fresh.

I guess the bottom line is just reach out and see what happens. Pick a student in the back of the class that you haven’t seen before and ask them how they are and what their goals are. Take that new instructor's class and introduce yourself. Be bold and share your story and don’t fear you’ll lose credibility. After all, you just may change the direction of that person’s life by doing it.

I would love from those who have never tried this to let me know how it goes for you. And it’s OK to share the bad experiences with me, I don’t mind, I’ve had a few myself.
Note from Jennifer: I love that Melissa wrote about this topic, because I'm always telling people about how I hated my first Zumba class! We're all human and it's very important to show our students that.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Remember ZIN Choreo, and Make it Your Own!

This post is by Dana, a guest blogger on The Z Beat!
I just got home from the Zumba Convention in Orlando. It was my first convention and it was such an amazing experience! With it being my first rodeo, I really didn’t have any expectations. I was just hoping that I would enjoy the sessions that I picked, learn a ton of new things and keep up with the non-stop dancing and socializing!

What I didn’t realize as I flew down to Orlando was that for the first time EVER I was going to be joined by six thousand other passionate, die-hard Zumba lovers who felt exactly the same way about Zumba as I did! For the entire week, I wouldn’t have to filter my chatter about Zumba, stifle my excitement about my new choreography, or beg the dog to listen to my new favorite song {again} because every single person in Orlando wanted to talk about Zumba, dance anywhere and everywhere and compare notes on the new Zumba wear!! I learned SO much, met so many amazing people, and want to share a key take-away about choreography that has already helped me!

I signed up for a class called Customized Choreo; Zin Volumes and You. I didn’t know what this class entailed but I breathed a sigh of relief when I walked in and there were only about 25 people standing there (as opposed to the 6,000 ZINs I experienced the kick-off session with). ZIN Volume 57 was playing in the background, and we watched a few of the choreographies that were provided to us as part of our ZIN membership. I have to admit month after month I listen to ALL of the CDs the Home Office sends to us but I have only opened a handful of DVDs over the years. Personally, I didn’t really feel like I could watch DVDs, memorize someone else’s choreography. However, in this session I learned how to make the choreography work for me and reflect my individual style.

Each ZIN DVD has two separate choreographies for each song. There is a 1 on 1 version and a Live class version, and they are different!! You can take advantage of both sets of choreography as you begin to think about how you want to represent the song.

Here’s how to make the choreography your own!
  1. Listen to the song of your choice and become familiar with the flow, sequencing and style.
  2. Watch the ZIN 1-1 version of the choreography.
  3. Watch the ZIN Live version of the choreography.
  4. Listen to the song again and break the song down into sections.
  5. Give each section a title {Usually Intro, A, B, C, D} and jot them down.
  6. Write out the choreography steps for each section that you want to use.
  7. To make it your own, come up with 1-2 variations for each section that either builds on the ZIN choreography OR come up with something that is completely different.
  8. Listen to the song again and read through your list of steps while visualizing the moves in your head.
  9. Write down your final list of sections and moves.
  10. Listen to the song and read your list of steps until you memorize it while listening to the music, and then get up and DANCE {and repeat}.

I left that session feeling great about choreographing routines! I learned about the options to either use the exact choreography from the ZIN DVDs, or modify and add my own flavor! Don’t miss out on using your ZIN DVDs! They are monthly GEMS that can be a helpful tool to build your choreography repertoire….#Howdoyouchoreo?

Monday, August 24, 2015

ZINspiration Monday with Laura Boyd (and, Ashley Judd!)

If you saw Ashley Judd speak and perform at ZINCON, you remember her ZIN Laura Boyd killed it up on stage with her (and Beto, btw). She looked like such a pro! I got to interview Laura, and it turns out not only is she an awesome instructor, but she has an inspiring story that got her into Zumba in the first place. Here's her story.

The Z Beat: Where are you from?
Laura: Well, I was born in Montana, but I grew up in New Zealand. So I'm a Kiwi by upbringing, but proud of my American heritage. I have now lived in Franklin, Tennessee for 11 years with my husband John and 2 children.

The Z Beat: What got you into Zumba? When did you get your B1?
Laura: It sounds cliche, but I have always struggled with my weight and body image. I grew up as an overweight girl, adolescent and young adult, then got into running and healthy eating in my 20's. After my second baby was born 5 years ago, (whose birth was life threatening) I ended up in ICU on life support, and had a long road of recovery ahead of me to health and fitness.

I had seen the Zumba classes at my local YMCA, but had been too scared to try them. After nearly dying during my daughter’s birth, I had a new sense of courage and bravery, so I decided to give it a whirl! The moment I stepped in, I knew it was for me. A light bulb went off in my brain. I had goosebumps, nearly cried, and was immediately addicted to the sense of joy, freedom, fun and connection! I suddenly remembered that I had grown up in dance classes (tap, highland fling, jazz) and theater groups (box step, jazz hands!) and that I truly loved to dance! I'm also a drummer so loved all the different rhythms incorporated in a single class!

I started going nearly every day, and soon began to see changes in my body and fitness. Soon enough I was a front row diva, and my wonderful instructors at the Franklin Family YMCA (Angel Faulk, Lara Brown, Leslie Denham) encouraged me to get licensed.

The effervescent Erick Santana did my B1 training 3 years ago. Then beautiful Adriana Carr did my toning last year, and I just took Proskills with the hugely entertaining Mario Gutierrez at Convention a few weeks ago. All The ZESs I have met are so great!

The Z Beat: How did Ashley start taking your class?
Laura: About 18 months ago I took over the Monday night 6:30pm class at the Franklin Family YMCA, from Javin Bay, who is an incredible instructor, my good friend,  and Ashley’s first instructor! I had heard that she had been going to his classes, but honestly didn't expect her to come to mine, because he is SO good! After a few weeks of my new class, I noticed a woman on the 4th row, who was really trying to get the steps to 'Salsaton'. I remember thinking "Oh, that runner-girl is really trying hard."!! Then gradually during the class this 'runner-girl' made her way up to the front row, RIGHT NEXT to me. And it was then that I recognized her and was blinded by her beauty and the bright light she emits. She really does light up and change the atmosphere in a room.

I honestly had to block her out a bit to begin with, just to remember my choreo! We high-fived after that first class, and she has been coming back ever since. She invited me to teach her private classes in her home, and I'm honored to say that she truly has become a dear friend, confidant and Aunt to my kids who adore her. She is the epitome of grace, generosity, intelligence, humility, openness, silliness, willingness and love. I may have taught her Zumba, but she has taught me so much more. My life has been greatly enriched by her friendship.

I love it that Ashley gets behind and endorses the activities she enjoys, whether it’s Yoga, AcroYoga, Hiking or Zumba Fitness! Having somebody of her caliber and celebrity actually tweeting and saying how much she loves Zumba can only help build and grow this awesome Fitness Empire!
The Z Beat: What was it like to perform on stage at ZINCON?
Laura: Oh Boy. It was incredible! Ashley told me on my birthday in May, that she had been asked to be the keynote speaker at Convention this year. I jokingly said "Oh, well, I have to come with you!". And she said, "Of course!"

We practiced and trained for like 8 weeks. I even got a personal trainer and started lifting some heavy weights!

I hardly slept the night before and was up early going over the 2 songs one more time!

We were walked backstage and greeted by all the ZESs I have seen on the ZIN DVD's over the years. I even got some selfies with Gina, Steve and Kass.

Then finally the man himself, El Jefe, Beto, came over to meet Ashley. She is very generous and kind and made sure I met him too. He gave me a kiss on the cheek, I said 'Mucho Gusto', and he said my Spanish was very good! She talked about me so much that he invited me to take a photo with the two of them. It was all very overwhelming, but so, so much fun!

Then the moment came and suddenly I was onstage with Ashley! There was so much screaming that I even forgot to introduce myself when Ashley gave me the mic, but I was ready to dance!

I didn't know that Beto was going to join us onstage, so when I saw him over my right shoulder I was thrilled and a little nervous, because we had changed the choreo to Popee a little. But he is Beto! Of course, he got it right away.

Everyone at Zumba Fitness HQ was very helpful and great to work with. I even got to meet the 2 other Alberto's, which was wonderful too. It was all amazing and feels like a dream!

The Z Beat: Any advice for other instructors or students?
Laura: One phrase I have recently learned is that EGO can stand for Edge God Out. I know Beto, and the ZESs often say that a Zumba Fitness class is not about me, the instructor. It's not about my individual performance or skill as a dancer. It's about the students and their experience. I often pray on my way to class. That God would use me, work through me, to encourage and bless my students. That we would be safe and healthy and above all have fun while dancing for Him. I see it as a ministry, really. I dance for the Lord Almighty and I hope that this shows and that people can feel and sense that joy and freedom that I felt when I first entered the world of Zumba fitness.

If you'd like to keep in touch with Laura, follow her on Facebook!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Great Apps for Fitness Instructors

I recently came across some helpful tools that I thought were worth sharing. Enjoy!

Lolo: Can't be with your students all the time? Direct them to lolo, a set of apps that takes music from your iPod or iPhone collection and matches the songs to your pace. Moreover, it has voice cues to help keep you motivated. This app allows you to search for music by beats per minute (BPM) and share a playlist - perfect for when students want to know the names of the awesome song you play during class!

Gain Fitness: Gain offers over 2,000 videos on self-guided workouts in 10 different formats (pilates, boot camp, etc.) on its free app.

amSTATZ: This software is an all-in-one system for fitness instructors. It offers tools for scheduling, record keeping, website management, and more. It costs $29/month, or $22/month if you pay annually.

Tempo Magic Pro: This app allows you to speed up or slow down music - perfect for when you want a song that's a little too fast or slow to fit your playlist!

Square: Need to take payments on the go? Get square, with its attachment to your phone or iPad so you can swipe credit cards on the spot.

Lastly, you should check out appcrawler - it's an app search tool and, when filtered by "fitness", links you to tons of resources!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The #ZINCON Experience

Over the course of #ZINCON, I added to this post to try and capture the experience as it happened. If you were there, I hope you enjoy reminiscing with me, and if you weren't there I hope this gives you a good idea of what is was all about!

Pro tip: I stayed at the Days Inn across the street from the convention center. It was totally convenient - about a 10 minute walk from the front door to most sessions - and half the price of the rooms at the Hyatt and Rosen Center. Here's the view from my room.
The kick-off session started with, what else, a dance party! I've never seen more booty-shaking at 8:30 in the morning in my life. Loretta Bates and Steve Boedt hosted the kick-off session, and we heard from Alberto Perlman, Gina Graziani, Beto (obvs), and a bunch of inspiring speakers.
We got to see the Warriors in Pink "get up off of that thang" - such incredible women! More on them to come.
Ashley Judd was the keynote speaker and she was funny, inspiring, and real. She even did two Zumba routines! (Check my instagram page for the video!)
After the keynote, everyone broke off for a wide range of sessions: Latin Pop, Reggaeton Rebellion, Assessing Your Personality, Cueing Tips, Brazilian Carnival. On Friday and Saturday, they offered a bunch of full-day trainings (I took Zumba Kids, which I'll tell you more about later!).

But, there's also dancing everywhere! Here are some folks learning the brand new ZIN 58 moves, while others were at the stage where Jammers and ZESs presented all sorts of Zumba routines, all throughout the convention.
They have these giant sign-in boards, and it was really cool to see what people write is their favorite part of #ZINCON.
Here's mine:

There was also a group of great sponsors giving out information and samples. Since I'm such a Jamba Juice fan, I was particularly excited to run into them! Below is a shot from above of all the sponsor tables.

In addition to the regular sessions, there are a few special events. If I can quote myself from 15 years ago, the fitness concert was off the hook! It's a live class with Beto and a bunch of amazing ZESs, where most of the songs are performed live. Francesca Maria, Dahrio Wonder, Prince Royce, and Yandel were all there, among others. Here's a video of one of my favorite songs to teach in class.

There was also the theme party - Zumba Island - which I didn't make it to but if the pictures even captured 10% of the fun, it looked awesome!

Overall, I didn't really know what I was in store for and everything exceeded my expectations. The classes were really, really good (both in terms of the dancing and the education we got) and the energy was awesome the whole time. Getting to meet some of my online-only Zumba friends was the best part! To those who I didn't get to meet... we'll just have to go back next year. :)

Monday, August 17, 2015

ZINspiration Monday: Audrey Nethery

Ok, so technically she's not a ZIN but I'm pretty sure if you perform at the ZIN convention next to the likes of Richard Gormley, you earn honorary status! Today's ZINspiration comes from Audrey Nethery.

This beautiful six-year-old girl was born with a rare disease called Diamond Blackfan Anemia (DBA). Diamond Blackfan Anemia (“DBA”) is a rare blood disorder, characterized by a failure of the bone marrow (the center of the bone where blood cells are made) to produce red blood cells. This failure causes DBA patients to become severely anemic. Audrey has received numerous blood transfusions and now undergoing steroid treatment.

Audrey loves to sing and dance, and not only is she a regular Zumba student, she KILLS it on stage! Here is a snippet of her awesome performance at #ZINCON:

Audrey knows enough dances to run her own class. Check her out here doing Poppee!

You can learn more about Audrey and how to support her cause on her Facebook page.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Short Break!

Just dropping by to remind you all that The Z Beat is on a short break this week. We'll be back next week with new ideas straight from convention, motivational stories, and a giveaway! Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

#ZINCON is almost here!

Are you ready? #ZINCON is about a week away, and I can hardly believe I'm going. It's an incredible learning opportunity, let alone a chance to network and have a great time. I can't wait.

Did you check out my article for ZLife on how to prepare for the convention? There are some good tips in it, like bringing multiple pairs of sneakers and bringing plenty of snacks. You can read the article here.

For those of you who are going, I would love to meet you! I'll be around all convention-long, but if you want to find me I'll be at Coffee Etcetera in the Hyatt Regency lobby from 8-9am on Saturday, August 15th. I basically look like this and will be wearing a shirt that will let you know it's me. :)

For those of you who have to miss it this year, fear not - there will be lots of tweets and posts to follow. I'll try to bring back as much knowledge to share as possible. You can  alsofollow the action on Zumba's site at

Monday, August 3, 2015

Motivation Monday: Taking time to celebrate

In life, and especially when it comes to fitness, we're constantly pushing toward a deadline or goal. It's easy to overlook an exciting milestone (holy cow, I just ran five miles!) when there's a bigger goal ahead (jeez, how am I ever going to get up to all 13.1 miles?).

It's critical to take time to celebrate steps along the way - it's motivating to recognize how far you've come! In the weight loss community, many people document their "non-scale victories", or NSVs - being able to do a new activity, zipping up an old pair of pants, resisting temptation. It's a great practice to include in your every life.

Today I'd like to celebrate The Z Beat's one-year anniversary! On Saturday, I posted this on Facebook:
Today is the 1-year anniversary of The Z Beat! It's been so fun connecting with you all. Feel free to leave a comment to tell me what you think of the blog.For fun, here's my first post (after the intro):
Posted by Jennifer Lauren on Saturday, August 1, 2015

I've really enjoyed using the blog as an opportunity to build deeper connections with like-minded friends from around the world and to go deeper into the fitness community than I had before. It's definitely helped me stay accountable to my goals and stay connected to my health-related interests. Over the last year, I've run two half marathons, taught Zumba for a week in Jamaica, and maintained a little weight loss (well, until this happened!). It's not often that we stop to acknowledge how far we've come, and we owe it to ourselves to do it more often!

Since I announced that I'm celebrating my blogiversary, a few of you have asked how you can support The Z Beat. Here's how to show the love!
  • Click! The more views the site gets, the more support I'm able to get to keep it going (aka, a few bucks - sometimes cents - here and there from ads and sponsored posts). That support is what allows me to do giveaways and bring you opportunities like discount codes. So, please don't be shy and click through to read posts when you can.
  • Share! If you like a post or topic, please click that share or retweet button. It's a huge help to getting the word out.
  • Chat! Feel free to respond in the comments section of each post or on Facebook. I read EVERY single response and it helps to know I'm not talking to myself. :)
  • Shop! If you're planning to buy something from the Zumba store, use my affiliate code thezbeat to get a 10% discount and to give a small percentage of your purchase cost to The Z Beat. It's a win-win!