Starting the next steps of the ZUMBA Fitness Journey!

So…about a year ago this time, I was quaking in my winter boots and preparing to celebrate my 40th birthday.  Not with friends or family, but mostly – with a jam packed weekend for of fitness nuts at the local spa.  3 days of Zumba.  What WAS I thinking?  I couldn’t even make it through an hour long class!  A two hour master class?  Strip Hop?  Aqua Zumba?  Was I nuts?

Fast forward a few months – and I’ve fallen madly in love with the people in classes, made new friends, and want to learn the modifications and underpinnings of Zumba.  Thanks to Prilosec’s Official Sponsor of Everything You Want to Be grants, I got licensed in Zumba Gold.

I started learning what goes into a good routine…a good class…a good instructor.  It’s not just about dance, it’s not just about fitness.  There are so many more aspects to being a GOOD Zumba instructor.

I’ve created a few routines of my own, and brought them to local Zumbathons raising money for various non-profits. 

And I want to keep challenging myself to grow and learn and teach in this.  Not necessarily as a premanent instructor in a gym, tho.  Maybe subbing for someone on vacation…maybe just songs here and there in a class.  I’ve just completed my background check information and will actually start some classes locally, hopefully this spring.  I need to do additional training to work in the facility, need to do my first aid and CPR…and most importantly, need to work on creating that first set list and getting it down. 

The nerves are kicking in and I’m really excited about trying this.  I’m crossing my work and personal worlds.  In my day-to-day life, I work for Vermont Works for Women, who offer programming inside the Northwest State Correctional Facility.  By night I am a crazy ZUMBA Fitness fanatic. 

This is my chance to pay the Prilosec grant forward. I think it could be great for me, and for the women I’d be working with.  I want to do it well, I want to be able to hold my head high and know that I’ve made me and all the others along the road with me proud. 

The hardest part will not be the choreography, nor learning the music.  I know my challenges – my body and my mind.  Need to work on bringing the best me I can.  To acknowledge the voice in my head that still says, “You’re fat – you can’t do this” and tell it basically – STFU and watch me.  To bring not my size by my joy to the room.  To bring my fear, but more importantly, my heart to the table and DANCE like no one is watching. 

Here’s to the next year and the continuing journey ahead.

Give Love

It’s nearing Christmas, and I’m thankful for so many things in the past year…but most importantly, the face that I really have come to a space that is happier and healthier. 

“What we give is what we get…” sings MC Yogi in his song Give Love.  He’s not talking about the presents under the tree, swapped around a menorah or while celebrating other significant events.  He’s talking about love and giving it away.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have the love and support of my friends and family in both my work and personal life. 

About a year ago, I started working as a temp at Vermont Works for Women.  I’m proud to say that I am now there permanently.  We’re a small, passionate, and I have heard many staff call ourselves “scrappy” organization dedicated to helping women and girls really understand that anything is possible.  They’ve helped me personally and I cannot measure the pride that working here gives me.

During the course of the year, I got a grant from Prilosec to become their Official Zumba Student.  They’ve helped with funding for licensure and training, and with their support I am now licensed to teach ZUMBA and ZUMBA Gold. 

I’m taking the passion for ZUMBA and going to cross it with my love for the work our staff do to help women believe and going to do classes for some of the women we work with.  Who would have thought that this oversized, undertall, used-to-have-to-go-to-Montreal-to-dance soul would ever come to LOVE doing something like this so much that I would be teaching a dance fitness class?? 

I have been given hope and wings by all the folks who have believed in me this year – and I thank you all.

Pay It Forward with Prilosec

A little less than a week ago I got to be a part of a very special Zumba event.  Allison, one of the local Zumba Fitness instructors had put together a “Party In Pink” to raise funds for the Susan B. Komen for the Cure Foundation.  It was a great night with more than 80 people grooving out to help wipe out breast cancer.

It was a special night in many ways.  #1 – we were all dancing for a GREAT cause.  Breast cancer has touched sooo many people’s lives.  Mine too.  Me, I had brought along Sue, my Best Woman from our wedding and herself a survivor.  We danced and danced and got a little funky in honor of the survivors in our lives and in memory of those who were not there to party with us.

I thought of the various women I knew who had fought and won…Sue… Evergreen… Selchie…  And I thought about Midge who passed away this summer.  I’m glad that Zumba has taken this on as something that they would like to make a difference in. 

I’m glad to be able to take my passion and use it for something like this as often as I can. 

Live Free and Zumba

I am still beaming from a conference held earlier this week and it’s feeding my soul tonight as I sit here in New Hampshire.  Vermont Works for Women held it’s 12th annual Women Can Do! conference this Wednesday.  Over 300 young women from across Vermont came together for a day to explore careers that are not considered traditional for women.  To see a high school girl teaching how to use a chain saw…girls using plasma cutters…fixing bikes…changing tires…driving major machinery was such an amazing day.  The sentiment really permeated the air – girls and women really can do anything that they set their mind to.

Tonight, three of friends from Vermont have made the trek to Manchester, NH and will be joined by a fourth in the morning for Zumba instructor training.  Of the four of us, I’m the only one that has done one of the classes previously (Zumba Gold).  I’m just as nervous tonight as I was that night in June. 

The only difference – tonight I know it is just nerves.  In June it was a deep seated fear.  What if I’m not good enough?  You’ve already done it, chimes my brain.  But I can’t do the destroza like Lori.    And? 

I have to remember that this is just another step along the way.  It doesn’t mean I become a master in a day.  That I’m going to rush out and open a studio.  It’s another piece of becoming better at something I love and understanding it (and me) just that much more.

Tomorrow I take Zumba Basic I…and it will be another challenging day physically and emotionally.  But this time, I have something I didn’t in June.  A lot more pride and confidence, and friends who will be there with me.

We’ve Only Just Begun

*phew* It’s Monday night, and sounds football fill the room.  This means I made it through the weekend, and I lived to tell the tale.  Well…really more than just lived.  This weekend was filled with all sorts of excitement for me, and I think that I’ll be trying to let it all sink in for days!

ZUMBATHON For Spectrum Youth and FamiliesThe weekend started with a fundraiser for a local non-profit organization working with teens.  Before this day, I had only led one song in one class.  Sure I had helped on songs with people, but this was totally different.  Knocking knees and all.  This meant standing up.  On a stage.  In front of a group of people.  AND – trying to get them to do what I was doing.  I was nervous as heck.  My mind was pulling out every reason that someone could decide that I was not fit to be up there…I’m not a dancer…who the heck am I to try and choreograph something…  What WAS I thinking.

But, the first song of the event came and went.  I was dancing on the stage following behind someone else leading a routine.  The second third and fourth passed by.  Just before me, Lori kicked her routine out of the park.  It was great to see her smiling, having fun, and people following her cues. 

My music started and my heart briefly just stopped.  And then something happened.  My arms and legs took over and started moving.  “Hey you, you’ve only listened to this song 187 times in the past two weeks…you’ve been doing choreography in your car for just as long…GO!!!!” 

And I did it!  I did not get lost and had an absolute ball.  I could hear people from the classes I regularly take yelling and hooting and hollering along with me…I could see the two people who came from work out there boogying…and to my right I could see Lori and Jess dancing away and smiling. 

Somewhere out there my husband was taking photos…I saw the camera out there and for one of the few times in my life thought “YEAH, this is gonna be on film, wahoo!”

And hour and a half later, lots of dancing, and one shirt change…I was back at it again.  This time with a stronger routine, a tired but totally pumped audience, and a stage FULL of local ZUMBA instructors. 

I had three ladies up there that had learned the routine previously so we just went and knocked it out!  Thank you Jessica for joining me and being part of this journey.  Your grace and presence inspire me to keep putting myself out there…even if I’m not sure I can.

I felt strogner, prouder and just went out there and did the best darned routine I could.  People were singing along and having a ball.  More importantly, so was I.I was so excited and proud to have done it…and done it well.  Oh yeah – the Purple lady was awfully grateful to be able to say and believe, “I did good!”

We raised over $1700 dancing and shaking our tassels for Spectrum. 

MEGA SUPER DUPER MASTER CLASS WITH DIANE F. and REGINA S.

So as if a 2 hour Zumbathon weren’t enough, the next morning, Lori and I hopped in the car and headed almost 4 hours south to Worcester, Massachussetts for a Super Duper Mega Monster Master class with Regina and Diane, two ZUMBA instructors who are amazing women.  They not only teach their own classes, but help teach others how to become better instructors.

When I had heard that Diane was going to be nearby (relatively!) I knew I had to go.  Reading her posts and writings on the Zumba discussion boards, I had gotten soooooo much from her.  My instructor, Allison, told me that I would just adore them both, but that I had to meet Diane. 

She was soooooo right!

I feel like I could try to write a book about what that day held for me.  I will leave it at – we were there in the front row representing Vermont, Allison, and I was flying the Prilosec Official flag on the car and sporting my tshirt with pride!

We did Zumba, we talked, we laughed.  OH HOW WE LAUGHED!  Diane floored me.  She had that room rapt.  From the quietest comments to the BOOMING BASS and “KEEP GOING!”  she had us working up a sweat and smiling and wanting more – all at the same time.  A hallmark of a great class!

Regina rocked it out and I found myself loving her variations on some of the pieces presented.  She just brought it to a level for the “regular folks”  – like me — who aren’t dancers, but want to have fun fun fun while sweating.  As the Zumba motto goes, “Ditch the workout, Join the party!”

Afterwards, we talked for a bit…I had my picture taken with her (I truly felt like I was hanging out with royalty!) and she made me promise to write and share more of my Zumba story and journey than I could then and there. 

As I waited for Lori to come back out from her shower after class, I sat there in the gym…watching people pack up from class and the tears were just rolling down my cheeks.  I just felt so proud and humble and most importantly grateful.  For the friendship with the women I work out with each week…the patience and support of my husband…

I’m not sure what’s next, but I know after this weekend… that even if it is only helping out with fundraisers and Zumbathons…there really is a place for me in the big ole Zumba Fitness family!

Tomorrow is the Big Day!

So this weekend is crazy, crazy fun – and packed with wall to wall excitement. 

Tomorrow morning, I will be leading two songs in the Zumbathon for a local now-profit working with area teens.  I’ve lead one song in a class with choreography I created, but never a group this size.  Tomorrow it’s two songs, both with my own choreo.  I have to keep reminding myself things like it’s dance FITNESS, not “So You Think You Can Dance”  that it’s okay to not be (Allison, Tori, Angel, Maribeth, Bridget, Shannon, Lori, Jess, Meesh or any other Zumba instructor), that  this is not about who’s best…but about doing my best.  Oh yeah – and breathe.  Remember to breathe.  Repeatedly. 

I’ve been working hard with some local folks on creating these two pieces, learning them and getting to where I think I can lead others.  I’m nervous as heck, excited, and in some ways, proud.  It’s been quite the journey to get here…and I know that there is much more ahead!

I think back to a couple of years ago when my husband and I were on a cruise and I made him go up to the salsa instructor as I was to ashamed to dance even in front of strangers…to when we had to drive to Montreal to go dancing cuz I didn’t want anyone I knew locally to see me dance.  Okay – I know that I am NOT Baryshnikov, Bill T. Jones, or even Susan O’kane….and that’s all right.

After the Zumbathon and a quick shower, it’s off to a wedding for photography.  Sunday?  It’s time to get up bright and early and travel south to Worcester, Mass.  Someone who teaches Zumba who I’ve never met, but would so consider a mentor on my journey is going to be teaching a class about 4 hours away.  I have to go take this class, meet her and thank her for the inspiration and knowledge I’ve gotten from her so far. 

It’s not often I am star-struck.  I’ve done rock and roll photography over the years and always have said, “They put on their pants the same way I do…” That’s why I have some awaming shots I’ve taken of performers…and none with me and them together.

And yet somehow, this is different.  While I enjoy the rock and roll – this woman is someone who totally inspires me (and many, many others….)…More over the weekend! 

Photos and video to follow!

Zumbathons and Demos

Lee and Staci 

This past weekend brought a series of fun-filled fundraising events for me.  First I went north to Saint Albans for a Zumbathon to raise funds for a student scholarship for a high schooler looking to enter the field of education and teaching.  The scholarship was created in memory of a local school teacher who was shot a few years ago.  Her family was all there, strutting their Zumba pride throughout the morning and finally to a Zorba number.  The event raised over $2600 for the scholarship. 

My Aunt Lee joined me there, her first experience with Zumba, and she seemed to have a ball!  It was great to see someone fall in love as I had with the music and the people there.

The next day there was a series of dragon boat races happening out on Lake Champlain where funds were going to Camp Ta-Kum-Ta, a camp for children diagnosed with cancer.  A couple of friends from a local Zumba fitness class were paddlers in a Dragonboat and had done some serious fundraising to be there.  I went with a band of students and our instructor, Allison, where we did a 15 minute demo for the athletes, their friends and family.

 

I love being able to give back to the community through this group – for all that Zumba has opened up for me.  It’s a chance to share the joy, passion and support I feel each time I go to class or get to help out with a song.