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Saturday, December 3, 2011

How Zumba Changed My Life

 I was recently asked to be a guest blogger for another website.  What an exciting opportunity that is.  Especially because it is a guest post about Zumba and how it helped to change my life.  Here it is:
Until a few years ago, I never had a problem with my weight.  I was always very thin, with no form, just skinny.  After I got married, I put on a few pounds but I was still considered to be thin.  After I gave birth to my daughter 7 years ago, I was able to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight in a reasonable amount of time.  It wasn't until several months after my son was born that I began to gain and retain the weight.  Initially, I was able to lose the baby weight quickly.  My son was exclusively breastfed during his first 6 months of life as he refused any kind of bottle and formula but since he was such an easy baby to care for, I didn't mind that he just wanted my milk.  But, I soon noticed that I was always hungry and I started to eat more than normal for me. As a result, I started to gain weight.  Now I realize that my body was just trying to keep up with my son's hunger.  After I weaned Ben, I continued to gain weight as I continued to eat junk food and drink soda.
I know my husband was worried about my weight gain.  He would make comments but act like he was just joking.  That only pushed me further away from the idea of getting back into shape.  I became more depressed and anxious.  I ate more.  I became more sedentary than ever.  Finally, soon after Ben turned 2 years old, I realized that I needed to gain control of myself again and get myself back into shape so that I can be healthy for my children as they grow up.  I didn't want my children to suffer all because I wasn't taking care of myself.  So, at the urging of a friend, I checked out the local YMCA.  And I haven't looked back since.
I had heard about Zumba and thought it sounded interesting.  I had no rhythm so I wasn't sure if I would even like it.  I went to my first Zumba class in February 2009 and I was immediately hooked.  And I was so sore the next couple of days but it felt good.  I found out about additional Zumba classes at some of the other YMCA branches and eventually I was doing Zumba 3-4 times a week.  Within a couple of months, I noticed a small difference in how my clothes felt.  I started to feel more confident.  About 5 months after joining the YMCA, I started working with a personal trainer for strength training.  This added another boost to my confidence level as I started to tone up more.  I eventually added running, kickfit, and cross fitness to my fitness routine.  I was feeling so much better than ever, the depression had lifted, I felt more confident.
Living in the Midwest during the cold, darker Winter months caused me to be a bit more depressed than when I lived in the south.  It gets so cold here (at least for this southern girl) and cabin fever starts to set in as I do not enjoy venturing out into the cold.  But going to the Y greatly helped to improve that situation, especially because it allowed me a short break from my high maintenance kids while they played in the children's center at the Y.  I knew my kids were safe there while I took care of myself.
Within a year of joining the YMCA, I had lost 18 pounds and lost 4-6 dress sizes.  At first I was disappointed that I lost just 18 pounds but was back to my pre-marriage size.  At first glance, it doesn't seem like a lot of weight to lose for 4 dress sizes but my doctor reminded me that since I am more muscular than before, I would also weigh a little more. No matter, I still felt much more confident that I was finally back on the right track to health and fitness. And healthier eating.
Over the past nearly 2 years, I have come to enjoy exercise, especially group exercise.  Exercise isn't always fun. In fact, most of the time (except during Zumba) it is hard work and I'm looking at the clock to see how much longer.  It is actually the good feelings that I experience after exercise and the results that help me to enjoy the exercise and to keep going.
Zumba gave me the boost that I needed to start and keep up with my fitness routine.  I was hooked from the beginning.  The beauty of Zumba is that it can be tailored by each participant to whatever level they are comfortable with.  I remember when I first started that I didn't worry about the arm movements. Most of the Zumba movements in each routine are repetitive which makes it much easier to learn the steps.  So after a couple of classes, I quickly learned what to expect with each routine and I was able to confidently add the arm movements. 
Zumba is a great way to lose weight, gain shape, and it is also a great cardio workout.  It is such a fun way to get exercise.  Zumba is good for people of all ages, shapes, weights, and even those with limited mobility.  Zumba Gold is especially good for those with disabilities or limited mobility.
Two years ago, I never thought that I would ever consider becoming a fitness instructor of any kind.  But this Sunday, I am going to take a certification class to become a Zumba instructor!  I am so nervous and excited. My ultimate goal is to teach the special needs and senior/disabled population.  I have a heart for these groups of people and I am excited about the opportunities that I will eventually be able to open up for them.   Eventually, I would like to add other fitness certifications.  I am excited about being an inspiration and encourager to others who are in the same place where I once was.  I am excited about helping others get started on their own weight loss and/or fitness journeys.  And lastly, I am so thankful for the boost of confidence that I received from attending my first Zumba class nearly 2 years ago.