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…

 

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!

My Body

483579_487940261270717_303156572_n

“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.

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…

Quote It

I know I said I’d post after my AFAA certification workshop, and I intended to, until WordPress didn’t save my post! So now I’ve decided that since it’s already heading toward 3 weeks post, I’m going to wait until I get the official letter in the mail before I say anything. Don’t want to jinx it!! 🙂

For now, I came across this awesome quote on a friend’s Facebook page and couldn’t help but share it here. It is so true, and makes me hopeful that more people will start to see things from this perspective.

“Beautiful women are strong and powerful. They are athletes, capable of every feat under the sun. They have muscles born of hard work and sweat. They gauge their self-worth through accomplishments, not by the numbers on the bathroom scale. They understand that muscle weighs more than fat and they love the fact that designer jeans don’t fit over their well developed quads.  Beautiful women don’t care if they’re soaked in sweat and covered in dirt, if their nails are chipped or their hair out of place.  They care only about quality of life.  Beautiful women are happy, healthy, and strong, and they’re right there beside me, tossing conventional beauty on the ever-growing flames of what used to be. Be beautiful.” -John Gilson

Shake it off and step up

It’s ridiculously late right now. At least when I was planning to get “a good night’s sleep” and go to bed three hours ago. There was something I wanted to share here first. Look out for a new, deeply strong and honest post for me in the next day or so, but for now, I have to share this story from Jen’s blog–my cousin though not by blood, friend, and honestly, my God-given gift. The author is unknown, but the story is incredibly powerful and something that hit me in exactly the right spot in my heart this morning…

Once upon a time there was a farmer who had an old mule. The mule fell into a deep dry well and began to cry loudly. Hearing his mule cry, the farmer came over and assessed the situation. The well was deep and the mule was heavy. He knew it would be difficult, if not impossible, to lift the animal out.

Because the mule was old and the well was dry, the farmer decided to bury the animal in the well. In this way he could solve two problems: put the old mule out of his misery and have his well filled.

He called upon his neighbors to help him and they agreed to help. To work they went. Shovel full of dirt after shovel full of dirt began to fall on the mule’s back. He became hysterical. Then all of a sudden an idea came to the mule. Each time they would throw a shovel full of dirt on his back he could shake it off and step up. Shovel full after shovel full, the mule would shake it off and step up. Now exhausted and dirty, but quite alive, the mule stepped over the top of the well and walked through the crowd.

A great attitude. A great way to approach life. Shake it off and step up. Too often we hold on to what has happened to us.

We hold on to it for a week, a month, even years. We cannot shake it loose from our memory. It eats away at us and steals our joy, happiness and peace of mind. The past hurt can create feelings of bitterness, resentment, anger and revenge.

We keep allowing these emotions to be thrown on our backs and if we do nothing, we will be buried deep in the well. Walls will be built in our relationships. We will avoid each other and the cold war begins.

But, we have a choice: keep it inside and embrace the hurt or shake it off and step up. Give it a try. Shake it off and step up. Words that have been said or actions that have been done, shake it off and step up. Let it go. Whatever it is: a rude comment, a past mistake, being ignored, we can stew over it all week. It occupies us all the time.

Too often we nurse hurts, we keep them alive inside and go over them time and time again; not only stewing from them, but now chewing them over and over until it gets us sick. Too often we rehearse hurts, tell everyone what has happened to us.

The cure is to accept what has happened, try to make sense out of it, learn from it, then shake it off and step up. When you let it go you feel free and you are no longer buried in the well. Once you are on your feet again you can take some action. You decide where you want to grow in life, the direction you want your life to take. You decide whether you will allow the hurt to make you a bitter or a better person. Learn from it. Emerge stronger.

Make A Difference Monday

A fellow blogger I’ve often talked about, Sarah, occasionally writes “Make A Difference Monday” posts. From what I’ve seen, these posts are generally about some cause, organization, or individual that is doing something to…make a difference! 🙂

An event near and dear to my heart is coming up, so I thought I’d give it a try. I’ve often blogged about what Spinning means to me and how something as “simple”–though the class itself is anything but–as a group exercise class, completely changed my life almost 4 years ago. For those of you that have never read it, please read my post about Spinning here.

Four years ago, the gym I belong to started a charity event called Pedal for a Purpose. The event was a 5 hour spin-athon to benefit various causes important to both the members/staff of the gym, as well as the pediatric physical therapy clinic it is joined with. The first year: Spinal muscular Atrophy (SMA) CT Chapter. The second year: United Cerebral Palsy CT Chapter (and yes, I cried my way through the entire day for so many reasons I don’t have the energy to get into tonight). The Third Year: Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation CT Chapter.

This year: National Multiple Sclerosis Society CT Chapter/Team Jenifer. I don’t know that I would normally publish something like this on the blog, but with this cause I really could not pass up the opportunity. Not only is this cause so important for because of the number of people diagnosed with MS in the state (and country), but Team Jenifer honors one of our own.

Jen is one of the gym members I first met when I joined and also one of the Spin instructors. She also happens to be diagnosed with MS. Jen is one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, and her and I instantly connected because of what our passion for spinning truly means to us as people who have a little extra challenge to overcome getting on the bike everyday. She inspires me in more ways than I can even begin to express, and I am so honored to be riding for her (and more importantly WITH her!!) for this event! In fact, she is so loved by all of us, that they had to add an extra hour in to make sure everyone got a chance to ride! She has already made a huge difference in my life, and continues to make a difference in the lives of all she meets, befriends, and rides with! Jen is someone who constantly reminds us of the importance of HOPE and the strength of the human spirit.

Riders get sponsorships for each minute they are on the bike (rides are 50 minutes in length) and all money raised goes to the CT chapter as well as Team Jenifer! As I’ve said, for more reasons than one, this event is so close to my heart and I couldn’t help but share with all of you who have also become close to my heart.

Pedal for a Purpose will take place on Sunday, March 27, 2011 from 8am-4pm.

If you’d like more info on this event, how to get involved, or how to donate please visit: Team Jenifer, Cheshire Fitness for Women, or contact me via comments and I will e-mail you back!

Thanks for your continued support everyone! 🙂