Friday, March 5, 2010

Zumba: "Quiere Mas"

Like many of you, exercise is one of my biggest struggles. Getting up super early to go the gym sounds pretty torturous to me, and being lied to by a skinny screamer on an at-home DVD is even worse. Stay in squat for just ten more seconds, you say? I clocked it, you devil-woman, and you lie! 

Enter Zumba, the fitness "craze" that's sweeping the nation! Tae-Bo is soooo 1999, and I'm sorry Richard Simmons, those oldies you're sweatin' to are way past their expiration date.

I recently sat down with Karen Bardales, a Zumba instructor based out of New York City. Check out my interview, and then search for a Zumba Meetup Group in your area!

How would you describe Zumba to someone who has never heard of it?

It’s a cardio-fitness class, and it’s Latin dance. You incorporate different types of Latin dances such as Salsa, Merengue, Samba, Reggaton, at varying levels of intensity. It’s very international, and you do cardio activity for a whole hour.

What makes Zumba different from a traditional exercise class such as sculpting, Pilates, yoga, etc.?

The music. The music drives you, you know? You love the music. It’s really high-energy, and it’s very interactive. It makes people laugh! I remember the first time I did it I started laughing. I felt like even though I’m Latino and I can salsa, and merengue, I just couldn’t stop laughing at myself! You’re having fun and don’t notice that you’re working out. Before you know it you’re sweating and you’re done. You’re actually working out!

Joshua: That’s a big thing I noticed. If I do an exercise DVD at home, I watch the clock like, “Okay, I have ten minutes left, eight minutes…” But with Zumba it’s, “Oh, it’s already over?”

Karen: Yeah, you’re laughing with people, you feel your body, you’re sweating, and you’re just having fun.

What first got you interested in Zumba? How did you hear about it?

I gained a lot of weight, and I decided to lose it. I joined a gym, but I’m not a gym person. I don’t like running. I don’t like going alone. I like to have somebody with me for pressure to go, so I have to take classes. I had the choice between sculpting, step class, or a Zumba class. I didn’t even know what it was, but I figured it was maybe Brazilian, y’know, Samba/Zumba. Okay, let’s go for it. I was a student for probably eight months before I became an instructor.

Some people may be intimidated and think that Zumba is too dance-oriented for them to handle. What would you say to them?

You don’t have to know how to dance, but you have to like high-energy music. A lot of people ask me, “Do you think I can do it?” Yes, I think everybody can do it. If you’re optimistic and you like international music, then it’s a fun class to take. Every time we have a new person I say, “Please, I know today may not be the easiest day, but just focus on your feet. Either right, left, front, or back. Focus on your feet, and then we can incorporate the arms. The second and third time it becomes much easier, and then you start teaching me!”

How do classes vary with different instructors? Do you choose your own music, etc.?

It depends. We get music all the time, and DVDs that teach instructors how to do different routines, but ultimately it’s up to you. Maybe you’re a person that likes Salsa more, so you do that and incorporate more of your own music. That’s one of the things I love: other exercises are set in stone, but with Zumba you can incorporate everything you like to make it your own. That’s another reason why I think people really like it. You can come to my class and find something totally different than someone else. It’s not like a step class where you do the same thing over and over.

Why do you think Zumba has turned into such a phenomenon? It seems to be all over the media, there are Meetup Groups about Zumba, etc. Why?

I think because it’s a different type of workout. You’re not stressed about, “Oh let’s do the cardio activity”, or “Let’s focus just on this…” or that you have to be so good or so skinny. It’s for every age, for women, for guys, for anybody. Also, it makes it fun to lose weight. When you’re losing weight and you’re looking at yourself and you’re dancing, you feel so optimistic. You have a different energy. It changes your life.

How has Zumba changed your life?

Well you don’t even realize, but it really is a change in your lifestyle. Before I even started losing weight, it changed my attitude, which was a big thing. Once I changed my attitude towards how I saw myself, everything changed. Whether you’re 200 pounds, 100 pounds, when you’re dancing and you feel sexy, you’re feeling better about yourself. You’re learning the moves, and you’re getting it, and you look in the mirror and see that you’re changing. It changed not only my weight, but also my attitude and style. I was happier, and I started to know what I wanted, what I was looking for, what Karen was all about. I knew that if it changed me, it could change other people. I have women in my classes that have been through cancer, for example. They’ve come up to me and said “Karen, this helped me through a difficult time. I did your class, and I finished it. After two or three months, I come here not because of the weight, but because of how I feel. It makes me feel good.” It does something to your energy. When I first started doing Zumba, I would go somewhere and people would ask, “What’s up with you? What did you do? What’s different?” Well, I’m happier. I’m doing Zumba. I have so much energy. Believe me, if I go to one class, I’m not going to stop talking for hours because I have all of this energy. My husband can always tell, “Ohhh…you went to Zumba!”

You can visit to learn more, or find an instructor in your area.

"Sube en volumen que esto apenas esta empezando...Dale que dale que z├║mbele que bueno que te mato..."

Sunday, February 28, 2010

"Tiny Dancer"

Okay, a tiny dancer is not what I want to be, but the lyrics work for this entry. I present to you our "Goal Jeans." On the left, my 36 slim boot cut Diesels that I am still in love with after three years. (Yeah, that's right, don't choke on your Diet Coke you skinny bitches reading this, I said one of my goals is to fit a size 36. Keep the "Whoa!" to yourself.) On the right, Fabricio's size 34 straight leg Paper Denims.

Fabricio came up with the idea a few years back, and it worked for him at the time. In reality, these will fit me within about the next 20 pounds, so they aren't my final goal jeans. At some point I'll buy a final pair (in a waist size I haven't worn since middle school!), but for now I've got the next size down covered.

In recent years, I've made a habit of purchasing pieces of clothing that I really love, even when they're a size (or two) too small. I always rationalized that "It will fit soon!", but I can go into my closet right now and find something from 2004 that still has the tag because I have never been able to wear it. Call it the hoarder in me, but I refuse to let it go. I ended up giving away garbage bags full of clothing that still had the tags on them, so I learned my lesson as of about a year ago.

The point of the jeans nailed to the wall are to inspire us each time we see them. Honestly, they've sort of lost their impact as I've gotten used to them, and I now I actually like how they look as a decorative splash of color on the otherwise boring wall, but there are times when I see them and "visualize" how nice it will be to wear them instead of my current less exciting jeans.

Either way, I encourage you to pick out a piece of clothing that you love (that you don't currently fit), and tack it to a wall. You'll get a mini reminder of your goal each time you walk by it. I can't promise that it will make a big difference, but it can't hurt, no?

"Blue jean baby, L.A. lady, Seamstress for the band. Pretty-eyed, pirate smile, you'll marry a music man..."

Saturday, January 30, 2010

"Keep on Pushing"

Quick update: Weight Watchers is going well! The first few weeks had me down 6.6 pounds! I gained a few 'fake' pounds on the third week's weigh-in, but that's only because I did a little cheating on the Sunday before weigh-in. I had lost a bit of weight in November/December, so I'm down approximately 13 pounds since I hit my peak in mid-late 2009!

This time really does feel different, and even though I'm not losing quite as quickly as when I was on the plan in 2007, it's been much easier this time. We're eating a fantastic variety of foods: Mediterranean Lamb Stew, Mango Thai No-Meatballs with Peanut Sauce and Rice, Chicken Marsala, and Shrimp Scampi with Linguine, to name just a few. Anyone who says a "diet" has to be boring is straight up wrong.

One of the most exciting developments in the 'eating habits' area has been the addition of a Blendtec Total Home Blender. To call this thing a blender is to not truly understand the versatility and power of this incredible machine. Dedicated post to follow!

"I've got to keep on pushing, I can't stop now. Move up a little higher, some way, somehow..."

Monday, January 4, 2010

"Let's Get It Started"

Signed up last night! Weighed in and started this morning! Look for another new post later this evening! 

"Step by step, like an infant new kid. Inch by inch with the new solution. Transmit hits, with no delusion. The feeling's irresistible and that's how we movin'..."

Friday, January 1, 2010

"With a Little Help from My Friends"

Well, that didn’t exactly go as planned, did it? Excuses, excuses. I don’t know if it’s even helpful to go through them, to be honest. I started a new job, the holidays made me crazy, I went out of town five times in two months, blah, blah, and blah. What’s the point, really? The fact is that I haven’t posted here since September. That’s a shame, but the past is over and gone. I open my eyes and awaken in the present. That’s where we are, so let’s step forward from here. 2010. It's kind of wild.

Updates on the vitals: I don’t think I gained any weight throughout the autumn, but if I did, I dropped it when I came down with a 10-day case of swine flu. (Pardon me, “Novel Influenza A, H1N1".) I had no appetite for days, and would occasionally hurl in the morning as the daily realization set in that I still wasn’t back to normal. On the upside, it gave me a solid eight-pound loss (which I have kept off, thank you very much), so like Fabricio encouraged each day, I say, “Keep throwin’ up!” Now, now, don't judge me. I’m not bulimic, and I don’t condone bulimia as a healthy way of living. Let’s make that clear to keep the letters from starting when this blog hits the big time. (In my dream, I have a sit-down interview with Jillian Michaels, or she surprises me at my office and gives me an impromptu beat down. Feel free to write and tell her how much I need to experience her amazing brand of psyche-breaking, fix-you-deep-in-your-core, then-build-you-up-to-be-stronger-than-ever skills.)

A few months ago I wasn’t sure if the structure of the Weight Watchers Points System was still the best method for me to monitor my food intake. I did the program in 2007, and then a halfhearted attempt early in 2009. However, I’ve come to realize that (at least right now in the beginning of my loss) it is the easiest and most foolproof plan. Due to my work schedule, I can no longer attend the same weekly meeting that I used to, so I’m going to try their online-only plan that includes the most helpful tool of all, their “Points Tracker”. 

One of my original intents with this blog was to show how anyone could conquer weight loss on their own, and that it wasn’t necessary to use a service that has a monthly fee. Well...sometimes you (read: me) need to accept the fact that you need help.

I won’t have a “leader” to give me a sermon and pep talk each week, so I hope that I can count on all of you to keep me accountable and encouraged! The new plan starts bright and early on Monday, January 4th. I hope you’ll join me. Whether you have 5 pounds to lose, or 100+, let’s make this the start of something big.

Happy New Year! The "New Year, New You" catchphrase for 2009 in the media was “Feelin’ fine in ‘09!” What should we use for 2010? I like cheesy, so hit me with something good!

"Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends. Mmm, gonna try with a little help from my friends..."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Step by Step, Three Choices: Day 4

Thursday, September 24th

1 - I bought a few 'Full Bars' today. Supposedly, they're a healthy snack bar to eat 30 minutes before a meal to make you feel somewhat full so that you eat less. My problem has usually been the types of food I eat, and not as much the quantity or portions. But, I'll give them a try anyhow. I had an "Apple Caramel Crisp" Full Bar for breakfast, and it wasn't too bad. After waking up at 7:30 and eating the bar around 9:30, I wasn't hungry for lunch until about 1:15. Not bad! (Check out for more info. Rest assured, this isn't a paid endorsement. It's not an endorsement at all; I don't know if I even like them yet.) :-)

2 - I spent 20 of my 30 lunch break minutes walking around my new work 'hood (NoHo). I picked up lunch at 'wichcraft. I got the soup & sandwich combo which was TINY. I'm talking supermodel food. The tiny friggin' finger sandwich was delicious. (Multigrain bread with goat cheese, walnut pesto (very little oil), watercress, celery, avocado.) The soup was tiny and average. It was a watery split pea soup with "olive oil croutons". There were 2 little croutons, so I wasn't worried about them being unhealthy. I haven't been able to find calorie counts online anywhere, but I'm fairly sure that these didn't have crazy hidden fats. Even so, the portions were so small that I'm not worried. So to clarify: Today's #2 Choice was a decent walk and mini-sized food portions.

3 - This is harder than I thought. Anyone have any tips to make me reach three healthy choices each day?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Step by Step, Three Choices: Day 3

Wednesday, September 23rd

1 - I had a meeting on the 3rd floor, and to get back to my desk on the 10th floor, I decided to take the stairs. That may not sound like much, but walk seven flights in a large office building, and you'll say otherwise. (That is, after you spend four minutes heaving, gasping for air.)

2 - It was one of my manager's birthday today, so my department had cupcakes. They looked delicious. Whole Foods dark chocolate cupcakes with a butter cream frosting, plus a little smiley face perched atop made from white chocolate. As I stood in the group of folks waiting to grab one, I remembered how it was tough to come up with 'three little steps' yesterday for the blog entry, and I walked away. Let's just hope that next time they don't test my strength with jumbo crispy chocolate chip walnut cookies. Mmmm-mmm!

3 -I had Japanese food for dinner tonight. Normally when I get take-out from my favorite place (Kodama, for all the New Yorkers reading this), I get one roll and the 'Kodama Chicken' box. The box has chicken, rice, steamed broccoli/carrots, and two tiny shrimp shumais. I'm usually able to finish the entire box, but tonight I stopped myself halfway through. I could have eaten more, but I was also okay with stopping. The leftovers won't be enough for another meal, but certainly it'll be a fairly healthy snack in a day or two. We're getting somewhere!