This week we caught up with a regular dancer, Kim! We were so moved by her commitment to a healthier lifestyle. Read about how she’s already lost 30 pounds and how she’s discovered the secret to sticking with it.
When you’re not at the studio shaking it in Zumba, what do you do?
I’m a full-time mom, ages 15 and 12, I’m learning how to care for myself as well as I care for my family, and figuring out what I want to do when I go back to work. To help I’m also taking Continuing Studies classes at Stanford.
What made you decide to make fitness a priority?
I have always struggled with my weight and fitness. A major breakthrough for me was discovering Kelly McGonigal’s wonderful Stanford Continuing Studies psychology classes, long before I knew she’s also an amazing yoga and Zumba teacher. Through Kelly’s Stanford and online classes, I learned a radically different way of thinking about change and relating to myself.
I learned to appreciate and be mindful of the fact that the person I am is largely determined by the choices I make today, and that I can choose actions that will either benefit or harm the future me. I am the one who will be living with the consequences of the decisions I make today.
I also finally figured out that beating myself up really isn’t motivating, and that it’s much more productive to treat myself compassionately.
This shift from a negative perspective of feeling like I had all these problems to fix, to a positive perspective of feeling empowered to make positive choices for myself, inspired me to persevere with exercise and to adopt a vegan diet.
What has been the most difficult part of getting active?
Finding something I enjoyed doing! I knew that was the key to continuing exercise, so I started with things I’d enjoyed before, like horseback riding and Pilates. One day, I just happened to walk past one of Asya’s Zumba classes. I’d always loved world music, but never been a dancer (no sense of rhythm!). The fabulous music and energy of the class drew me in, so I gave it a try.
I was afraid I’d look silly, but everyone (including me) was having too much fun to notice! It helped to hear that “there are no mistakes in Zumba, only unplanned solos.” At first, the class was really hard because I was so out of shape and often felt like I couldn’t follow the choreography to save my life, but the smiles and enthusiasm of Asya and everyone else in the class carried me through and brought me back.
What has been the best part?
Finding uforia! I was surprised and delighted to discover Kelly’s class. The contagious smiles and pure joy Asya, Kelly and Matt bring to their classes are so inspiring and motivating for me, as are all the other joyful dancers in class. Joy definitely wasn’t an emotion I had associated with exercise before. Who knew you could have so much fun getting so sweaty? I’ve discovered that I actually can love and look forward to exercise!
What are your favorite classes and why?
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Asya’s, Kelly’s and Matt’s Zumba classes! I love the music, the choreography, and that the instructors are such talented dancers and skilled teachers. I love the SMILES! I love looking around class and seeing so many smiles on so many joyfully sweaty people. Those smiles really keep me going.
For me, Zumba is as much mental exercise as physical exercise, but I feel like I’m learning to dance! It seems I do have a sense of rhythm after all! I also love that each teacher’s style is different, so you learn different moves and use different muscles.
What physical (and mental) benefits have you noticed from exercising more?
I definitely have more energy and have become stronger, more fit and lighter since I started taking classes regularly. I’ve been surprised to find that Zumba actually can tone core, lower and upper body muscles. I’ve never liked squats, but squatting hip circles to great music? Fun! I feel like I’m more confident, walk taller and have improved my posture. I love starting the day with Zumba because I feel so much happier and sharper after class. I’ve even started dreaming of Zumba!
When did you notice you were getting fitter and stronger?
I suppose I first noticed when I started being able to make it through a whole class while doing most of the choreography. Then I really noticed the difference when my family visited Panama in December. It was incredibly hot and humid, which usually makes me wilt, and we did a lot of steamy rainforest hiking, but I did great! Even my family noticed the difference.
What’s your favorite treat food? What could you eat every night?
It used to be chocolate, but, since going vegan, my taste buds seem to have changed, so now my favorites are really beautiful, juicy strawberries and really plump, sweet blueberries.
What advice do you have for someone who is looking to get more physically active?
Connect with who you want to be in 5, 10, 20 years and make choices to take care of the future you. Be kind to yourself and encourage yourself as you would a dear friend who is trying something new that might be difficult. Then try lots of things until you find something you love to do, or just think you might love to do, and stick with it for a bit to give yourself a chance to get over the initial awkward phase. Be willing to try something just because it looks fun, even if you don’t think you’ll be good at it. I had begun to wonder if it was really true, but I have found it to be almost effortless to stick with something I truly love to do, and I never would have guessed it would be dance.
What’s next for you?
Get smaller pants for Zumba! Since I’ve lost over 30 pounds so far, it takes two safety pins to hold up my pants during class! This weekend, I’m going to try doing back-to-back Zumba classes, and I’ve heard great things about GRIT and Heather’s Zumba classes, so I want to try those soon.
I’m going to keep shrinking and getting more fit by taking as many uforia classes as I can, as well as Kelly’s spring Continuing Studies class. I still have lots more to learn about being a vegan cook. I’m continuing to think about what I’d like to do for work and wonder if I might be able to incorporate some of what I’ve learned on my health and fitness journey.