How Zumba changed my life

Submitted by: Christina LaGrega

Michelle's Success Story

Up, down, up, down...a perpetual roller coaster is the best analogy for my life's weight fluctuation. Crazy diets, magic pills, any quick fix out there....I tried them all (or at least most), and some worked for a while, but ultimately, the weight came back with a vengeance and I went back to feeling fat (well...I was) and unhealthy. I was never a big fan of the gym either, and though I played competitive group sports in high school and college, the idea of spending time in the gym working out had about as much appeal as repeatedly poking my eyeballs with dull times I actually would have preferred the latter. Aside from the disinterest and boredom factors, I didn't feel that I fit in with all the cute "fit" girls....strange, I know, nonetheless, I never felt comfortable which made evasive excuses come easier than slipping in lube oil. Unfortunately, my lack of exercise combined with my love for all things sweet earned me some serious girth...which might work for a defensive lineman, but for a five foot female with a small frame...not so much.
I had heard of this dance fitness class called Zumba which peaked my interest enough to put my proverbial cupcake down and head to the gym to check it out. The class was once a week. The music was great, the instructor was upbeat and I liked it enough to get me to the gym every Tuesday evening. My weight, however, did not experience any drastic reductions because I continued to eat copious amounts of sweet treats and other indulgences rather than make healthier choices. I lost here and gained there. I flirted with Weight Watchers on and off but fell off plan and threw in the towel.
By October 2011, fall began to settle in, and reality gathered at my feet like the pants that wouldn't go past my knees....seriously, nothing fit! How can I go to work reflecting some semblance of professionalism without my pants on?!? Thank goodness for leggings and salvation...or temporary solution. Yet, I knew that I was headed in the wrong direction and exceeding the boundaries of my body by a landslide, and I knew what needed to be done to amend the situation....but it was not going to be fun or was going to be hard work, so after such a grueling mental workout contemplating a plan.....I decided to think about it some more....not completely ready to act just yet, even though I was not comfortable in my own skin...I still wasn't ready to commit.
Come November, I had been to a few Zumbathons for various causes with friends and developed a whole new appreciation for Zumba beyond the once a week class I was taking and I found myself more drawn to it.
One day, I came across a Groupon that featured 20 Zumba classes for some minute sum of money. The studio was near the school I worked in, so I figured it was worth a shot.....
I was a touch (well...maybe more like completely) out of shape from exercising on a very conservative basis and mostly in my mind (which is all well and good, but not so effective in calorie burning and body toning- on the outside anyway). Nonetheless, I enjoyed the class, despite being totally winded (I guess lack of exercise will do that to you), and decided to return. The next time I stayed for two classes because the instructors' energy and style were so positive and engaging! Two hours flew by like it was ten minutes. Next thing I knew, I became a regular at the studio taking classes two at a time, feeding off the instructors' incredible energy and encouraging nature and I found myself looking forward to working out....wait, was I sick?!?
By January, the studio began a three month "Biggest Loser" competition. I entered it, but could not bring myself to look at the number on the scale when I was weighed in. Beneath my three layers of Lycra...I knew I wasn't fooling myself, there was a lot to shed. I continued to take double classes, and increased the frequency to at least four days per week which meant at least eight hours of Zumba!!! My instructors pushed, encouraged, motivated, and complimented me on a regular basis. They made me feel great, want to stay and come back for more the next day. Their positive energy and example made me want to push myself harder and strive for success! I began to take more interest in what I was eating and healthier food choices replaced my junk food. I allowed myself "treats" but in smaller portions, and as the results of my efforts became more apparent, I rewarded myself with a new outfit, massage or mani/pedi, but never with food. Food would not be a bargaining tool for me anymore. I also went back to counting my points using my weight watchers mobile app, and I kept on dancing!!! This time, I thought to myself, I will achieve my goal! I will not sabotage myself when I'm almost there, I will not make excuses as to why it won't work this time, I will not "diet", I will make lifestyle changes, become healthy, fit and proud. This time I will succeed.
The contest ended in April and 25 pounds less, I won! I was so excited, but I knew that I still had a long road ahead. I was so motivated by my amazing instructors that I wanted to have the opportunity to inspire others as they did (and continue to do) me....
On April 13, 2012, I had the honor of attending my B1 instructor training taught by the amazing Tanya Beardsley and accompanied by one of my favorite instructors and inspirations.....the day was incredible!!!! Grueling and sweat filled, but beyond phenomenal. I spent the day in a room full of tremendous people of every shape, size, age, and color....yet in that room we were united and danced as Tanya said "your egos are at the door". We repeated this mantra numerous times throughout the day. The experience opened my eyes to see Zumba in a whole new light...beyond the exercise. It brings people together and allows and encourages them to celebrate one another, sweat and laugh together and share a positive energy. It is an experience I will never forget, and I am grateful that I was lucky enough to share it with one of the very people who inspired me :)
In May, I taught my first classes to the teachers I work with at school and as always, my mentors were there to support me. I continued to teach weekly classes through June, increasing my comfort and confidence as an instructor. I even taught an open class for parents and teachers to help unite out school community. Since January, I have lost 53 pounds and my body is the tightest it has been in...well, forever! I emptied my closet of all my old clothes and practically cried when I fit into sizes that I never thought would be more than a reverie, most importantly though, I feel fantastic!!!!
I look forward to expanding my knowledge and adding on to my basic Zumba license, and sharing the Zumba love and experiences I have had with others. The support, motivation and encouragement my instructors showered upon their students was the impetus that helped me to push myself. Their positive energy and kindness made them not only inspirational instructors, but friends :) I am so thankful for that.
At this point, you must be wondering who these incredible mentors are and how you can find them and learn from them....well you're in luck because my mentors are Christina LaGrega and Jennifer Stathes. They were there from the beginning of my journey......and their positivity, encouragement and motivation continue....I could not have asked for better role models.
I am still working toward my goal and I know I will reach it. No matter how crappy a day may have been, as soon as I step into a class with Christina or Jen, the negativity is out the window and I can lose myself in awesome music and positive energy....guaranteed!!! I liked Zumba from the first time I tried it, but wasn't inspired to get licensed and teach it until I met Christina and Jen. I learned that I am capable of more than I give myself credit for sometimes and I think we are all guilty of doubting that. So, instead of resorting to "I can't", give it an honest try and don't give owe that to yourself and you deserve to succeed....just try. I did, and it may not have been easy, but it was worth it! I look forward to offering and sharing with others the gift that these amazing women have given me :)