Why I’m…

…becoming a Zumba Fitness Instructor!! 

That’s right, you read that correctly! I’m excited to announce that I will be adding to my certifications with Zumba Basic 1 Instructor Training on October 4th.  I wanted to make this my first post back from hiatus mainly because I’m so excited about it!! But also to have a platform to express my thoughts and answer the question I know some might to have: why?

Now, I don’t blame the puzzled reactions to my next certification choice.  Trust me. I never in a million, billion, trillion years thought I would even LIKE Zumba, let alone like it enough to consider teaching it, but sometimes things just happen, right?!

I have always loved dance in any form.  I love the expression, the beauty and mostly the freedom it provides individuals in both mind and body. Given my lack of bodily freedom, dance in it’s pure and true form was never something I was able to be a part of.  There are few things that get me “down” in life, but my inability to dance and experience that feeling has always been one of them.  I have found other ways of feeding my soul and feeling free, but that just never seemed to go away.

When I started taking Zumba classes about a year ago, I loved everything about them. I loved that it was FUN, no pressure. I loved the mix of people and personalities in each class I took. I loved that it was both fitness and dance, which meant I could make up for my lack of dance in the more fitness-y ways! But I will be honest, I just looked at it as another class on my schedule, another way to squeeze an hour of work in.

I can tell you the exact moment that it became something more than that for me.  The day I looked in the mirror and saw myself dancing, not just moving, not confined by my walker, though it was still definitely there and definitely getting in the way! I kept up with the choreography. I knew what it was doing and doing it with confidence.  That was when it changed.

The thought of “Hey, maybe I can teach this.” has been in the back of my head for quite some time. As always, it is an internal (and let’s be honest, financial) struggle to figure out if a certification is “worth it” and if I’m actually going to be able to teach a certain program given my limitations.  Yes, even though I like it ignore them most of the time, they are still there. I have been going back and forth for months, knowing that I would need to start thinking about CEUs, between Spinning and Zumba. While Spinning is and always will be my first love in the fitness world, it raised some issues for me.  I still am unable to get on and off the bike without assistance and I want to feel empowered when teaching, not limited.  I also wanted to make sure to add something that would coincide nicely with my program and getting an adaptive or modified spin program started is not something I feel I can conquer right now.

I am a firm believer of signs (as you all know) and I have had many over the past few months pointing me in this direction…a few months ago while roaming YouTube for class ideas, I stumbled upon a girl who teaches Zumba from her wheelchair and has an amazing story! We’ve been in contact a lot and she has really shown me that we can od this.  My friends were able to meet her at Zumba Convention this year and I cannot wait to have the same opportunity next year! There have been many other personal signs for me lately, but the last one came this week when I saw that the ZES (Zumba Edication Specialist) for the training was Jani Roberts.  All last week while at the convention, I was getting texts from a friend talking about how amazing and bad ass she was and I knew this was the last sign I needed.  I signed up without a second thought.

As this post comes to a close, I will say that my number one reason for going Zumba is that it is not the easy road. Don’t get me wrong, in no way would Spinning be easy either, but Zumba is outside of my comfort zone.  It pushes me to go beyond the physical strength I know I possess at this point and step into a world of fun and confidence and a whole new set of learning and skills and choreography. Even just typing that world excites and terrifies me, but I am beyond ready to jump in to something new and become even more of the person I am learning I was meant to be!!

Stay strong, stay confident, and see you on the dance floor…

 

Welcome Back!

A quick post to welcome myself (and all of you!) back to my blog! It’s been quite a while, and boy has life been moving! You’ll see in the upcoming posts glimpses of that, but before I get there I just wanted to say hi and thanks for continuing to stick by me and my writing, even when it’s not the most consistent.

A few quick updates:

-The last post I wrote about the quest for walker wheels: thankfully, Kaye Products was GREAT at getting back to me and I have been using a newer, stronger set of wheels they are piloting for a few months now, which are proving to be a near perfect match!

-I’m officially done with Grad School!! Happy dance!! I have my Masters in Professional and Rehabilitation Counseling and am a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor.  Now comes the job search…

-I am still teaching the Fitness Rehab Movement and LOVING it!! I have about 8 people in class weekly who are so dedicated and truly love the doors the program is opening for them. That’s what it’s all about right? I also subbed my first group cycle class this week (on some very short notice) and it went amazing! Truly an inexplicable connection between mind, body and bike for me. I love the way my fitness instructor career is shaping up…it is a blessing to consider it a career, no matter how small right now, and I cannot wait to keep adding to it! But more on that soon… ;)

A Letter to Kaye Products: The Quest for a Better Walker

Below is a letter that I have written to the assistive device and therapeutic equipment company, Kaye Products.  I have recently discovered some issues with their Posterior Walker that do not meet my mobility needs as a person with a disability who leads a very active lifestyle and also as a group ex instructor.  After seeing the success that 16 year old Matthew Walzer had after writing to Nike to ask them to make him a shoe that he could put on independently, I decided to post my letter to this blog in the hopes that it might catch someone’s eye.  Please read my letter below and feel free to share if you are so moved.  There are so many people out there besides myself that could benefit from these small adjustments.

May 14, 2013

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Molly Carta. I am 24 years old, have Cerebral Palsy and have been a customer of Kaye Products since I was a toddler.  My parents and therapists have purchased many products from your company to assist me throughout daily life.  As an adult, I still use the Posterior Walker for daily mobility.  While this product has been useful and critical to my mobility for years, I am writing to you with a recent concern and request about the walker.

Despite having CP and difficulties with motor control and balance, I am a very active person. I have always understood the importance of staying in motion and taking control of my body and my health, so that I can live the life I want to live and not let my disability hold me back from anything.  This mindset shifted even more when I started working out at a gym after my insurance company stopped covering physical therapy.  In an effort to maintain the hard work and progress I had put into my life thus far, I began taking spinning classes while in college.  I had always wanted to ride a bike, but my balance issues prevented me from doing so.  A stationary bike that kept your feet on the pedals seemed like a perfect fit.  Even though this was challenging for me, I was so proud and excited to be taking part in a fitness class so mainstream that those feelings outweighed the difficulty.

Over the years, I began to take more classes and try new things.  There were few classes on our weekly gym schedule that I didn’t try at least once and my passion for health and fitness grew by the day. This past September, I decided to take this passion to an even greater level when I signed up for a Group Exercise Instructor Certification course through the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America. I didn’t only want to take classes, I wanted to teach them.  I knew that this was going to be a mental and physical challenge for me, but that had never stopped me before.  About a month ago, I began teaching a class geared toward people with disabilities and other limitations.  The class is taught from a chair and focuses on general strength and low impact cardio.  However, I would eventually like to expand the class to be a fully functioning group fitness class.

I am writing to you in the hopes that Kaye Products will be able to provide me with some assistance with the difficulties I have noticed with my Posterior Walker.  One of my main concerns I have been struggling with is the ineffectiveness of the rear brake system.  I currently use silent rear wheels with internal brakes.  Not only do these wheels seem to wear out very quickly (the last pair I had lasted not even a full year), but the brakes do not seem to work on many surfaces.  When I am taking and teaching classes, my walker is constantly sliding backwards both while I am holding on and if I do have to let go for any reason.  You can imagine how difficult this is, and the additional energy it takes, to always make sure I’m not going to slide.  My balance is effected greatly by my CP, and my walker is supposed to aide in me feeling more secure.  Instead, I am constantly worried I am going to fall while standing due to the brakes not working.  This seriously impedes my ability to adequately progress when taking or teaching classes.  I was hoping that Kaye Products might be able to come up with some sort of add-on or block for the brakes in order to keep the walker a safe and secure assistive device. I know that Kaye Products manufactures All-Terrain wheels, but I am concerned that these wheels are too large and would also not address my needs.

In addition to this, the Kaye Products walker frame and setup is not the most easily maneuverable and agile. I understand the need to create a walker out of durable and sturdy material, but with that also comes a very heavy product.  I find it very difficult to fold my walker and lift it in and out of my car when driving. It is also very bulky and gets in the way when I am trying to complete certain exercises or demonstrate them for my class participants.  I am well aware that my needs and concerns are not that of a “typical” person with CP or another disability, if there is such a thing.  However, it is clear that there is no other market for assistive devices or people with disabilities who might be more active or need special modifications in addition to those provided.

Having been a longtime Kaye Products customer, I have always been pleased with your company’s products, customer service, and responsiveness.  It is my hope that you might be able to help me in at least coming up with a solution to the rear wheel brakes so that I may feel more secure when standing briefly.  I also hope that you will be compelled to think of ways to improve your product for those of us who live more active lifestyles.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you to discuss these issues further.

Sincerely,

Molly Carta

BADD 2013: It Starts With Us

It’s Blogging Against Disabilism Day 2013! A day dedicated to speaking out against disability discrimination of any kind, life obstacles of those with disabilities, etc.

I have been absolutely devouring the amazing posts that are flowing through today; there are some great writers with great thoughts and ideas out there in the Blogosphere. I encourage you to check out Dairy of a Goldfish, where all the posts will be listed, or the BADD Facebook Page.

This is my third year participating in the day. Two years ago, I wrote about intelligence and interacting with people with disabilities. Last year, I missed the actual BADD day, but my post about the dance of Cerebral Palsy brought you into my world of living with a disability, if only for a moment.

This year? Well, buckle up. I don’t really know how the idea for this post came to me or how it’s going to work into the theme of this day, but here we go. Knowing that BADD was coming up, I’d been jogging my brain trying to figure out what I wanted to put out in the world as a person with a disability.  My one small voice.

It’s taken me the better part of 24 years to be “okay” with having a disability.   I think some of this is because I tended to live life with blinders on and not even pay attention to it.  I had great friends and family who helped make it a non-factor in my life and, while this was a blessing, it also was a little bit of a curse.  Full disclosure: I hate that cliche, but I couldn’t think of anything else to write.

But then…life hits you. People are often rude or ignorant, situations aren’t ideal, you’re forced to be independent at times when you’d been used to relying on someone by your side. You can no longer wear those blinders, because this is real life. It’s not going to stop while you adjust.

There comes a point in your life when you have to recognize your situation and your limitations.  Being an adult now (arguably anyway-my sisters will tell you I’m still the baby), that point has come hard and fast over the past few years.  Now, trust me. I’m not, in any way, at all, ever, ever, ever (got it?!) saying that you should be defined by your limitations or let them control your life.  Quite the opposite actually. Recognize and understand them so that you can live your life for you and move beyond them, if that is the path you choose.

How does this fit into BADD?! Hold your breath, because some of you might not like what you’re about to read…

If you don’t want to be discriminated against, start by not discriminating against yourself.   

Simple as that, right? No. I’m not naive. I know it’s not that simple, but it’s the initial step on a long journey. Think logically for a second, and this goes for anyone whether you have a physical disability or other obstacle in your life, if you don’t want someone else to judge you, limit you, or assume something about you, why would you do those things to yourself? You tell your best friend that they can do anything they want, but then you tell yourself that you can’t? That doesn’t sound right to me.

I’ve learned something very valuable on my journey, and even more so now being a fitness instructor of a class for people with various limitations, and that is that we as people with disabilities are the role models of how other people with disabilities should be perceived and treated.  Whether we want to be or not.

Want people to believe in you, to give you a chance?

Believe in yourself.

Want people to treat you with respect and dignity?

Respect yourself.

Want people to understand just how strong you are, that you are not to be pitied?

Show your strength, do not pity yourself. 

Want to be heard, to leave something in this world?

Speak up and don’t be afraid to be a little vulnerable. Let people in.

IT STARTS WITH US!

The Movement has begun!

Alright readers, I need to stop making a habit of this two month long hiatus I keep doing with my blog. It’s unfair to both of us; I feel like I’m not getting to share enough with all of you because I’m trying to fit everything into one post and then you are all stuck reading about “that one really awesome thing” that happened months ago. Sorry, I’m really going to try to be better (how many times have you read those words, huh?). I can promise that you’ll get at least two posts from me this week, since tomorrow is Blogging Against Disabilism Day 2013 and I’m signed up to contribute again!

So much has gone on in the past two months. I finished interning and grad school, went to California for Rehabilitation Counseling Conference and…oh yeah, started teaching my group fitness class! You know, that little thing I could not stop talking about. We had a free workshop at the gym for my first class and there were about 40 people there. My energy was all over the place, but I couldn’t have asked for a better welcome into this world surrounded by everyone that has helped me get to this place in my life, and some new faces too! And from what I was told, I did pretty darn good for my first class. It’s only gone up from there. Now that the regular classes have started, I have 9 people coming and they all seem to like what they’re seeing/doing! As with any other class, there are varying levels of fitness, limitations, and goals, so finding the balance has been a challenge, but it’s a challenge that I’ve waited so long to face. I’m still getting a lot of my kinks out with cueing and all that (instructor right and left anyone?! I honestly have to write a little L and R on my hands every week), but it’s getting there. For once in my life I don’t expect something to happen overnight. :) I’ve included some workshop pictures at the end of this post, courtesy of Marisa Pellerin Photography once again. She’s amazing.

I wish I could share more about it all, but it’s so personal and perfect to me that I can’t even access so much of what went on that day, because I felt like I was living in a dream. I don’t praise myself, I don’t let others praise me, but this time I will. This is something that I have worked so hard for. Even at times when I didn’t know it. And now it’s here, and I’m living it. Sure there are pieces of the puzzle still left unturned, but it’s all room for the dream to grow a little bigger!

Check back tomorrow for my BADD post, a good one for sure! And check out the Fitness Rehab Movement on Better CT this past week!!

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My Body

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“Why do you out your body through so much?”
“Be careful. You’re going to hurt yourself.”
“You must be really pissed off at your body.”
“Working out so much does not mean that you’re going to not have to deal with the Cerebral Palsy.”

Yes, all of those statements have been said to me at least once-sone hundreds of times. Yes, each of them has been true at some point in my life. However, they are not my top reasons for being so passionate and invested in my personal fitness journey. In fact, they are not even in my top 100.

Why do I work out and work so hard every day? Because I love my body.

I’ll admit that this wasn’t always the case. In the beginning, I was guilty of taking out my physical frustrations on my body. I was trying to perfect something that didn’t necessarily need perfecting. I was trying to fix something that wasn’t broken, at least not it the way I was thinking.

As time evolved though, so to did my mindset. Fitness became less about perfection and more about growth. Growth on both physical and emotional levels. I wanted to see how far I could get, where I could take my body and my mind, the goals I could accomplish and the boundaries I could healthily push. Even within the past week, that growth has expanded even more.

Fitness, for me, has become about loving myself, loving my body, and being confident in both. Because it is then that my physical strength has the opportunity to shine through and truly push the limits. I know this is my heart and I will not let anyone try to tell me otherwise. I have learned that when my motives are pure, and strong, and for the love of my body and myself, that’s when I feel most physically strong and able. And there is nothing that can beat that feeling.

An Open Letter to New Year’s Resolutioners

It’s January 2nd, which pretty much only means one thing in the fitness world: time to start making sure to use the sign-up system that is pretty non-existent for the rest of the year to sign up for classes because things are about to get crazy. And crowded. I knew what I was walking into tonight when I decided to head to the gym after work. Kickboxing was going to have a few more not-yet-familiar faces, be a bit more crowded. Or at least that’s what I though…what I really witnessed was a packed floor of 36 people!! 36!! And probably only 8 or so of us were Wednesday night regulars.  Statistics tell us that many of these fitness “newbies” were New Years Resolutioners–those resolving to lose weight, get fit/healthy, do something active, etc. in 2013. I got fired up and I got to thinking…

Dear Resolutioners,

I applaud you. Whether you call it a resolution, a goal, or a plan; whether it begins on the first of the new year, your birthday, or the third tuesday after the first friday; we have all been there. We know what it’s like to come into a gym, let alone a group exercise class for the first time. To have no idea what the heck you’re doing. To get stuck next to the girl who thinks she’s seriously in a combat situation right now the way she’s throwing those punches. But you’re here. And that ‘s everything.

Now, please do me one favor. Just one I swear. Stick with it. Come back next week. Better yet, come back the next few weeks. Research shows that it takes three weeks, yes 21 days, to make or break a habit.  That doesn’t mean you have to work at some unrealistic level for the next 21 days, pretending you’re a seasoned group ex’r. That means you work at your pace, at your 100%, for three weeks. Some days will be better than others, as they are everyone.  But at the end of those three weeks, I can promise you that you’ll start to see results.  They might not be the results you expect. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee they won’t be, because life is funny that way. But I can tell you that they will be worthwhile. Happiness, less stress, physical strength, emotional strength, increased energy levels, the  list could go on for days.

If you need a little bigger push to convince you, you should know that in the first group exercise class I ever took (spinning), I barely lasted the entire class, never got out of the saddle, and both of my legs were bleeding when I got off the bike. Had I never gone back, I literally wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t be writing this blog, I wouldn’t be strong enough to do anything I do on a daily basis, I wouldn’t have learned to love myself and my body, and a certified instructor? Ha! That wouldn’t even be on my radar.

So stick with it. You just never know where it will take you. 

Molly

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2012 In Review: Thank You!

I’ve been seeing a lot of review posts in my reader the past day or two and it’s been fun reminiscing over posts from some of my favorite bloggers.  I don’t want to post a year in review for this blog, mainly because I didn’t post from February to May, but I did go back and reread to give you all my top three favorite posts. So, here they are:

1. Coming to a Gym Near You…: Announcing AFAA’s newest Certified Group Ex Instructor; the day that I vowed to stop yearning to sleep to dream, because my dreams have arrived.

2. The Power of the Mind: Validation. Strength. Perseverance. Having people to push you and have your back.

3. Fitness Friday: How Group Fitness Gave Me Life: Acknowledging all that group fitness has brought into my life and has taught me about loving myself. (Note: my WordPress year in review stats tell me this was a highly trafficked post, so thank you all!)

There you have it!  Before I shut down for the year, I want to say thank you to all my readers, commenters, lurkers, and even those of you that just stumbled upon this site by searching my tagline. You have done so much to help me not only make this blog what it is, but also find myself. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

In 2012, every bit of laughter and tears, victories and defeats, brought me here to a happiness I never thought I’d find. In 2012, my dream was realized. There are not enough words to describe what this means to me. It all still feels so amazing and surreal to me that I wake up some mornings and have to look to my wall and see that certificate again before I believe it.

I wish you all happiness and blessings on this last night of 2012, and cannot wait to venture into 2013 with you towards new goals, friendships, and fitness classes to teach! ;)

 

You Are Stronger Than You Think

It seems that many of my posts have focused on the gym and fitness as of late.  I would apologize for this, except I really can’t because it would not be remotely close to sincere. The truth is, this is me. I live fitness. I live health. I live trials and triumphs, moments of weakness and feats of strength, and everything in between. This is my new found love and life force, and I would not trade it for anything.

That said, please come with me on another journey.

Late last night, I finished reading an amazing memoir Waking by Matthew Sanford.  Matthew is a man who, at age 13, was in a car accident that left him with a T4 spinal cord injury.  Matthew writes of learning to navigate life in his now “silent” body, and how his discovery of mind-body relationship led him to physical and emotional healing and his eventual practice as an adaptive yoga instructor in Minnesota.  Fitness friends, family, and all other readers: do yourself a favor, whatever your beliefs and practices, and pick up a copy of this book.

I went to bed feeling deeply touched and satisfied, but more than anything else I felt hopeful.

My alarm went off at 7:15 this morning for Saturday morning gym session. I could have rolled over and gotten a few more hours of sleep. I could have said I’d be going Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday next week because I’m off work. I could have said it was the holidays. I had 1, 000 excuses to choose from. I chose hope.

Today’s class was a challenge from go since I have been dragging it after being sick and making a slow comeback. Interval training followed by TRX training.  For those unfamiliar with TRX, it is a Suspension Training, full body workout system that uses gravity and your bodyweight to perform a variety of exercises.  You are in complete control of the difficulty of your workout simply by changing your body position. This is a confusing explanation, so check out this quick video. 

The class was instructed to do one specific move, that started out holding on to the ropes to do a low row (think pulling your chest up to an imaginary bar from a slightly slanted standing position…or don’t imagine it, I’m doing a horrible job explaining things in this post….just take my word for it!), then drop down into a squat, and pull themselves back up.  I did not have the balance to be able to drop myself into a squat without falling and potentially cracking my head open, so it was time to modify! Yay!

I started the exercise by sitting on the floor slightly leaned back and performed my row. From there I was to lift my body off the ground as dead weight with only my heels as the anchor point. Failed attempt after failed attempt began to leave me more than a little bit frustrated.  At this point, Janice came over and foot blocked me so I wouldn’t completely go sliding and I tried again.

Note: Everything from this point on might sound utterly ridiculous to some, but this is what I believe can happen and this was my experience. I closed my eyes and tried to connect my mind and my body in a way that I had read about only hours before. I needed to feel the energy of my heart, of my will, and somehow transfer that energy into my legs, into my core–to come together and achieve this small goal for the day. I inhaled deeply and I could feel the connection. With what seemed like unimaginable strength, I felt my arms start to strengthen and slowly lift by body. I felt my core muscles engage and noticed that the only physical point of connection I had was at my heels.  This was it. I trusted my mind and it got me through step one. Now it was time to trust my body. A 10 second hold of this position was what was being asked of all of me. Closing my eyes again, I hoped. I pleaded with my body to outlast the time. I know I beg a lot of my body on a daily basis, but I needed this one, because I knew I could.  Janice, standing above me, said “trust your body, you are stronger than you think”. And I believed before those 10 seconds disappeared.

Then I collapsed on the ground and started hysterically laughing because all I wanted to do was cry.  The tears came later on in the day, when my soul processed what occurred in the gym. Today, for the first time, even if for maybe only a total of 30 seconds, I fully trusted my mind and my body. The results were awesome.

Until next time…inhale hope, exhale strength…

What Helps You Face Fears? Getting Back on the Bike…

I’ve been a stranger (again), but my semester is unofficially over at 7pm tonight and I’ll be on the downhill swing of graduate school. Dear God I never thought I’d be able to say those words.

Today I come to all of you loyal readers–family, friends, fitness enthusiasts–looking for a bit of advice.

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About a month and a half or so ago, I went to the gym for a Tuesday night spin class. I set up my bike (the same bike I ride pretty much every class unless it’s already taken), had someone clip in my shoes, and was on my way. Twenty minutes or so into the ride, I noticed my calf was tensing up pretty bad, and eventually my whole leg was so tense I could barely complete a revolution of the pedal. This obviously scared the you-know-what out of me and, not being as comfortable explaining the situation to this particular instructor, I decided to get off the bike. Some of the tension eased once I was off the bike, but it stayed abnormal feeling until the next day. Two weeks later, same thing happened again.  This time I forced myself to fight through and stay on the bike.

Since I couldn’t figure this one out on my own, I went to my PT and asked if he had any ideas.  A few things came to mind: I have generally tight/immobile ankles so if my feet are too pointed it might cause cramping (Solution: try to stretch them more); I might need new shoes because mine are 7 years old and pretty well worn (Solution: bought these); or maybe it’s a bike adjustment issue (Fitness Friends: could this be, when I always ride the same settings? Does my bike fit change over time?).

As you can see, I’ve been making some necessary adjustments; okay maybe I haven’t been stretching quite as much as I should, but I will. Yet I can’t get myself to get back on the bike for the life of me! Spinning was my first fitness love. It will always be my go-to for a heart-pumping, ass-kicking, stress-relieving workout. But this situation has me fearing that it’s going to happen again. I need to get back on the bike for my physical strength and, most importantly, mental sanity, but I’m struggling.

What helps you face your fears and get back on the bike? Any advice from my fellow Spinning fiends or instructors? I appreciate it!!

Photo Credit: FitnessRevolution