Zumba For Life

Dear Zumba Fans and Zumba-Phobes,

I’m often hesitant to try new things, super clumsy, shy around strangers, I’ve never taken an aerobics class, I’m not a dancer, and half of me suffers from a lack of coordination. Perfect combination for someone doing Zumba, right? Well, as irony would have it, I think I may just be addicted to Zumba. I’ve been taking a weekly class for the past few months and I can’t imagine my life without it. Oh, and the class is in the morning. I’m not a morning person- especially if it involves any level of physical activity (actually, if it involves anything other than sleep, I’m really not a fan).

Zumba is a Latin-inspired, total body, calorie-burning dance fitness-party™ that incorporates hip-hopsocasambasalsamerenguemambo, and even a few Bollywood and belly dance moves. I first heard about Zumba 3+ years ago and as much as I wanted to try it, I put it off because I was scared. Scared of not catching on to all the faced paced choreography. Scared of tripping and falling over my own feet. Scared of making a fool of myself (yes, scared of a Zumba class. Are you shaking your head? Yeah, me too!).  So I kept making excuses……….. Ever wanted to do something really bad but you allowed fear to talk you out of it? Tisk, tisk to us both! But Zumba has awakened me to a whole new world of fearlessness. And I love it! This class has reinforced seven valuable life lessons for me. Wanna hear ’em? Here they go!

1. Just DO it! There are some things you don’t need to pray about (assuming those things are godly, good, healthy, ethical, legal, wise, etc.). More often than not, Christians use prayer as an excuse for procrastination and/or a cover-up for passivity or paranoia. So, when faced with a tough decision, challenged to change for the better, or even impassioned with pursuing purpose, we say things like “let me pray about it.” You can stand in the back of the class and pray you’ll perfect all the steps; you can even stay home and watch a beginner’s DVD. But until you put the moves in motion you’ll never get the hang of it. Want to try something new or make a change for the better? Just do it! Start somewhere or you’ll go nowhere.

2. Commit to It! I don’t care how physically fit you are or how “easy” the pros say the steps are supposed to be, it takes us amateurs a while to catch on to all the moves. Repetition is key. Each week we have a few new Zumbians in our class. And without fail, most of these new members either leave in the middle of class or stay ’til the end and never return. Happens all the time. I don’t get it. Listen ladies, you’re going to make mistakes. Get over it. The more you practice, the fewer mistakes you’ll make. Just because you mess up doesn’t mean  you should give up. Commit to the process so you can start making progress.

3. Follow the Leader. For me, the best way to learn the choreography is to carefully follow my Zumba instructor. She gives more visual cues than vocal cues (except for the instances where she stops to correct our form. Improper form leads to injury!). So we must follow her lead. Once I perfect the footwork, then I focus on mastering my core and upper body movements. Now that I’ve learned the basics I catch on a lot easier when she adds new routines to the repertoire. Here’s my point: Just because God is sometimes silent doesn’t mean He’s not trying to show us something. Follow His lead. Focus on the steps He’s already ordered and it will be easier to do what He’s destined for you to do- even when the course changes. And you’ll be far less likely to get hurt in the process.

4. Position Yourself. When I first joined the class my favorite spot was in the back corner of the dance studio (which is situated in a large fitness center). That way the folks working out in the gym couldn’t see me thru the large glass wall that separated the two areas (’cause clearly, they were checking to see how well I was doing… NOT!). I felt comfortably invisible. Only problem is that I could barely see the instructor. So I was left to depend on the confusing moves of all the half-stepping sisters in the back of the room. No good! Not to mention the one dude in the class who seemed completely unwilling to follow any of the choreography. Talk about distracting! I have since moved out of my comfort zone towards the front of the class where the Zumbian Queens get it in. Ladies, if you want to go for yours, you must position yourself around others who share the same goals and around those who “dance” better than you. And don’t allow a man to distract you from pursuing your passion. Position yourself for greatness!

5. Humble Yourself. It’s reeeeally easy to start believing your own hype when it seems you’ve mastered all the moves. I was so proud of myself when I finally started catching on to those crazy, fast-paced, high-energy routines. There were several times when I caught myself spending more time in the mirror checking out my fancy footwork instead of keeping my eyes on the trainer. And surprise! I would mess up every time. It’s alright to make sure you’re on point… just don’t make it a point to stop focusing on the One who is always on point. Get the point? 🙂

Brooks PureCadence in Knockout Pink. These shoes are so bright, they glow in the day light! Love ’em!

6. Invest in Yourself. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made during my quest for Zumbaliciousness is not wearing the right shoes. Until recently, it hadn’t dawned on me that the Nike cross-trainers I was wearing to class were not the best shoes for the high-impact moves of Zumba. Amongst other things, they were too heavy and the soles prevented smooth pivoting. My knees were starting to feel it. Upon the recommendation of my instructor, I recently invested in a pair of Brooks PureCadence Running Shoes. Oh what a difference! These shoes are so light, flexible, have great arch support and cushioning, and the soles are perfect for Zumba-ing. The price was much higher than my frugal liking, but hey- investing in the right shoe is a lot cheaper than the cost of knee surgery. (Of course, being the Practical Chick that I am, I still managed to get a lil discount on mine. And you know this, maaa’am! ;-)). Want to pursue your passion? Invest in yourself. It will improve your overall performance, help you produce greater results, and quite possibly keep you from getting injured in the process. What an awesome return on investment!

7. Embrace Change. What a wonderful world it would be if we never experienced change. Right? Wrong! Change is necessary. And so is sweat. Sweat is our body’s way of releasing toxins. Sometimes change is necessary to help rid us of complacency and fear.  If we always rehearsed the same dance moves in class, none of us would ever go to the next level of Zumbadom. Our bodies would grow accustomed to the same boring workout and we would never build and tone our muscles (or our confidence). Given that our flesh is naturally opposed to change, our Heavenly Instructor will often switch up the music and shift the routine to a faster-paced number. He’s trying to take us from the Beginners Class to the Master Class. Don’t hold up your progress by resisting change.

Zumba is sweaty. It’s challenging. It’s good for your body and your self-esteem. And it’s so much fun! That’s probably why I’m addicted/committed to it. Whatever it is that you’re committed to, determine to have fun while you’re doing it. Sure, you’re going to make mistakes- you’re bound to make mistakes. We’ve already established that. Who has a good time focusing on mistakes? No one. So focus on letting loose. Get out of your stuffy little predictable box. You’ll breathe so much easier and you’ll lose so much weight (physically and emotionally) in the process.

Everybody ought to have something they look forward to waking up to (even if they’re not a morning person). We should all strive to be more and do more. We all need something that will burn the fat of fear, build our confidence, confront our pride, and safely soothe our stress. What passion have you procrastinated to pursue? Lookey here, girlfriend… it’s not gonna happen until you make it happen. Time out for standing in the back of the classroom of life, watching everyone else have fun and get in better shape (physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, spiritually, etc.). Get out there and start making some power moves. Pursue it up and do it up! Should you happen to screw it up, don’t give it up- forgive it up! And follow your Faithful Leader so you can live it up!  =D

Zumba for life, baby!

~The Practical Chick

Contending With Conflict

Conflict is a natural part of life. It’s the vehicle that drives us to become persistent in prayer or stubborn in stagnation. It’s the friction that allows us to walk without slipping and the catalyst for change when we’d rather stay the same. The absence of conflict would cause many of us to settle for mediocrity, stunting our own growth. Conflict, when effectively managed, is necessary for our own personal development.

If you’ve ever been fed-up, let down, frustrated, aggravated, humiliated, or devastated by a loved one then you can testify that resolving conflict is often much easier said than done. Left unchecked, unresolved conflict  can lead to a lifetime of misery. It’s like a lethal level of bad cholesterol traveling through the arteries of your emotions, reeking havoc on the health of your heart. It attaches itself to unforgiveness and plagues the progress of intimacy in your relationships. It blocks the path to peace with the plaque of resentment. And often, it’s more damaging to your health than it is to that of your offender.

I’m 5’7″ and barely 120 lbs. So imagine my surprise when I received a call from my doctor’s office last year telling me I needed to lose 10 lbs. Umm, hello lady, I can’t afford to lose 10 lbs! I won’t be here! I thought for sure they got my lab work mixed up with someone else’s. I asked to speak with my doctor and she confirmed the results. Why was this woman telling me to lose weight? Apparently, my cholesterol was borderline high. ‘Scuse me, but I’m too healthy and too young to have cholesterol issues and I’m certainly not overweight. I’m trying to gain weight, not lose it! This was a sho nuff conflict and I needed an explanation.

According to my darling doctor, my borderline cholesterol levels were either hereditary, or the result of obesity, poor eating habits (I once had a dream that I had Krispy Kremes flowing thru my veins. I love Krispy Kremes. With a passion. 🙂 ) or I just wasn’t getting enough exercise. Well, I’m clearly far from obese, but the latter three reasons certainly applied. We agreed that it wasn’t necessary for me to lose weight as long as I committed to exercising at least 3 times/week and eating better. Otherwise, I would eventually have to resort to medication, and I don’t do drugs. So, I opted to just take better care of myself.

The conflict my doctor presented me with was really a blessing in disguise. High cholesterol runs in my family and I don’t want it to run through me. So if I manage it now I won’t have to worry about it running (and ruining) my life later.

When you’re presented with conflict, you can either avoid it or confront it. Avoiding my cholesterol conflict might have been the easier short-term solution. I wouldn’t have to exercise and I could continue to eat all the trans-fatty foods I wanted. I could have folded my arms, rolled my eyes, and sucked my teeth at my mom for passing her family’s genes on to me. I could have screamed and yelled about how unfair my potential diagnosis was. I could have said screw the doctor and opted to never get another check-up. All of that would have been much easier than doing the work necessary to be healthier. And chances are it might just kill me in the long run. I’d only be hurting myself.

Unresolved conflict is dis-easing. Snacking on the “bad fat” of unforgiveness and resentment does more damage to your mental and emotional well-being that it does to the person you are at odds with. Abundant life and deadly strife can not co-exist. It’s like shadow-boxing with yourself and hoping to knock-out your opponent. Pointless. But resolving your conflict and resolving to move past your anger/hurt will reduce your stress and increase the flow of love, peace, and growth in your life. Don’t let it get so bad that you suffer an emotional stroke, a broken-heart attack, or need medication just to function properly. Instead, here’s what you do:

1. Acknowledge your feelings and confront your conflict.

2. Uncover the root of the conflict. After all, most conflict is a result of misunderstanding, not ill-intent.

2. Make every effort to be at peace with everyone (Hebrews 12:14) and confess your    contribution to the problem.

3. Feast on a healthy diet of God’s Word concerning your situation. When negative thoughts begin to growl, feed your appetite with applicable Scripture, not toxic thoughts and feelings.

4. Commit to a daily exercise regimen of forgiveness by submitting to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

What conflict are you avoiding? What bitterness and resentment have you allowed to block your heart from receiving God’s peace? Who are you refusing to forgive? Forgiving your offenders does not excuse their offense(s) or let them off the hook. It does, however, loose you from the chains that hold you captive to the hope that your past could have been any different or the lie that your future will never be complete. Forgiveness is a daily exercise in conflict management. Perhaps that’s why Jesus told Peter to forgive “seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21)… because sometimes it’s a journey and not a destination. Sometimes it’s a process.

Conflict is not avoidable, but it is manageable. Manage yours before it manages you.