If you follow me on Instagram @sashaswayblog, you know I’ve been teaching Zumba almost every day for the past two months now. Turns out, everyone wants Zumba while in quarantine! Zumba is a dance-based workout that was popular a few years ago but became less trendy thanks to HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) and other exercise programs. Still, Zumba has a pretty solid audience.*** In addition to teaching online classes for the Rec, I’ve been helping my dance studio and my former skating coach and her students. Who knew Zumba could help small businesses and self-employed individuals? (And even some health-care workers!)
I especially love teaching the ice skaters. Most of them are around nine or twelve, and they’re leagues above where I was at their age. We usually meet in an empty parking lot and start jumping and dancing in the sun (six feet apart, of course!). It’s been amazing to get out of the house and help out this way, but there have been some challenges. There was a point when I was teaching Zumba every day of the week, sometimes twice in one day (my skating coach splits the girls up so I teach the same class twice during one off-ice session). I tried pacing myself while teaching, but it’s hard to inspire your students when they see you “slacking off”. On top of that, I was joining my mom for her weekly ballet lessons and acting as my dad’s personal trainer (he needed some motivation).
In the beginning, I wasn’t fueling my body properly. I consider myself to be a pretty well-rounded eater, but because I was exercising more, I needed to be more intentional about what I put into my body. Pasta? Great! Apples and oranges? Amazing! I’m not a nutritionist, but I’ve learned it’s super important to fuel your body before and after you work out, in reasonable portions (so you don't overeat). All this Zumba wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t give my body the fuel it needed. Some people might reference trends like intermittent fasting and other restrictive programs in order to “lose fat”. Those trends might work for some, but they aren’t for me. I needed plenty of water, pre-workout carbs, and post-workout proteins. Stretching was also critical to relieve stress and keep my muscles from getting sore, especially on days I had Zumba back-to-back.
Something magical happened while I zoomed from one thing to the next (literally):
I "got in shape"
I used to look up workouts for “defined abs” and “toned thighs,” and while those workouts are great for building strength and endurance, limiting your body to one type of exercise doesn’t improve your fitness. Sure, it might help you lose fat and give you that flat belly you’ve always wanted, but when it comes to performing like an athlete, you need more. When I watch those girls jump, fall, and get back up again, I’m inspired to work harder. I should be training to jump and sprint like that again, not to look a certain way.
My body has changed a lot this past year. From gaining and losing the freshman fifteen, getting my splits, and growing another half-inch (seriously… I thought I would be done at 5”8), I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned that “being in shape” is more mental than physical (which is kind of reassuring if you think about it). It’s important to fuel your body and properly relax/rest your muscles, but it’s even more important to affirm your own health and progress and truly, “love the skin you’re in”. I saw a quote on Pinterest the other day:
"Work out to see what your body can do, not to see what it can look like."
I want to dance competitively again, to go through practice and several rounds of dances without feeling exhausted. I want to do an axel off-ice and sprint with the girls the same way I did when I was fourteen. I want to incorporate the splits into my dance routines easily, to do cool moves that I wouldn’t be able to do unless I was both strong and flexible.
I’ve stopped checking to see if I have a six-pack, or if my legs look more defined. Right now, I’m training to reach other goals. I did a Yin-Yoga class this morning and the instructor said something that I completely agree with:
“Your mind is stronger than your body.”
My mind wants to be a dancing beast. Some off-ice axels wouldn’t hurt, either.
I hope this inspires you! Stay healthy (mentally and physically).
***FYI: I got Zumba certified for my job as a Group Fitness Instructor on campus. It was either a Zumba or ACE (American Council of Exercise) certification to teach “Cardio Dance”. I didn’t want to wait three months to study for the ACE exam, so I chose Zumba. Now, I’m in the process of getting ACE certified! (Trying to cram three month’s worth of information in less than a month so I don’t have to pay to extend my license! Yay…) I also skated competitively from ages eight to fifteen and danced competitively (Dancesport). Everything I shared comes from my own experience, so what works for me might not work for you. Listen to your body!