How I Simply Leaped

This was written as part of my colleague, Lauree Ostrofsky’s series How I Simply Leaped.

Ok, well maybe not SUPERstar– but I’m pretty darn happy.

My story begins one evening while I was at the gym working out trying to lose some “baby weight”.  Yes,  I gained over 50 lbs with each of my two pregnancies and I wasn’t petite to begin with! I was in pretty good shape (good enough shape to  push  two healthy babies out naturally) and I sure did enjoy me some food while I was pregnant.

Anyway, a YMCA member casually mentioned,  Have you tried the new class yet? I wasn’t too into group fitness, especially since our resident diva-instructor had defected to another gym.  Out of curiosity, I walk up to the fitness studio and lo and behold they are playing Latin music!

I took one class and was immediately hooked. The class went by so quickly–  it didn’t even feel like a workout (I sound like an infomercial, don’t I?).  My younger cousin who witnessed my eagerness and enthusiasm joked how I “need to get out more!”.   I certainly didn’t make it to any nightclubs after having  two kids and this was my chance to “cut a rug”.

So for six months I fully committed myself to these classes (aka hot-mama parties).  After a while I am afraid I started to get a lil’ bored.  One Monday night a random thought entered my mind, “I could totally do this!”  But I resisted the urge to always play the role of  “teacher lady”, it was fun being a student.

Later, the self-doubt crept in disguised first as humility:  My instructors are so great I couldn’t do what they do. Then disguised as honesty:  I’m overweight, not a fitness person, I’m shy.  It turns out, this is all true and more.

Around that six month mark I started working with a coach.  My work with her was deep and profound– totally unrelated to anything having to do with the Y, or so I thought…

During one session she asked me a powerful question, What’s your one secret wish, wild ambition, outrageous goal? Guess what my answer was:  To teach dance fitness! It was difficult for me to even say it out loud, but that was my fantasy.And then her next question,  Why not?

With my coach’s encouragement, I made a commitment to simply leap. I didn’t announce it.  I didn’t tell many people.  I didn’t have a specific goal. I just signed up for an instructor training in August 2008 in Queens, NY. I didn’t know what to expect or if  I’d do anything with it, ever have the courage to teach a class, or worse, if I’d be the chubbiest one there. My head chattered away about why I would fail at this and I leaped anyway. 

Now, two years later, I teach well-attended classes at two local gyms and I love it.

Leaping has given me countless opportunities.

  • The opportunity to share artistic gifts that were difficult for me to claim.
  • The opportunity to build community with other women.
  • The opportunity to move my body every single week.
  • Even the opportunity  to organize a charity event harnessing the enthusiasm people have for dance.

What happened between the big leap and now?   I continued taking a series of smaller leaps:  my first song, subbing for the first time, my own class…  I slowly built up a following just being me.

I’m  still a lil’ chubby.  I get nervous and shy when teaching a new group of people.  And I am not a exactly a “fitness gal”.  Some people complain, comparing me to other instructors.    Some people try my class and sometimes they walk out.  And still many others share how much they appreciate my style and choice in music.

I continue showing up on days when I feel inadequate, tired or grumpy. I continue choosing music that strongly resonates with me (and occasionally throwing in an extra reggaeton to make certain members happy).  And I continue to design classes that I myself would want to take.

Even now that I have greater confidence, I find myself down-playing my strengths–  stressing it’s just a hobby or that I only do it for the prized free membership to my community YMCA.

What I don’t stress enough is  how leaping has been a blessing.  I get to be creative, move my body, introduce great music to a (mostly) warmhearted group of women (and occasionally a man or two).

Nowadays, Y members see me running in five minutes before class, my three and four year olds in tow– they get to be reminded I am not much different from them.  And it’s still true I don’t get out much!

Looking back, it seems I’ve been preparing my whole life to do this.  Do what? Be myself.

As I’ve written about before, I am not everyone’s cup of tea (click to read about how I suck).  What I am is imperfect, open-hearted, humble and skilled.  How could I have ever doubted I could contribute something meaningful to the world through my passion?

11 thoughts on “How I Simply Leaped

  1. Good stuff Euloiza. Thank you for your honesty. See! Told you we’d meet again in the blogosphere! :) It was a pleasure meeting you face to face.

  2. Elo,
    I’ve been reading your blogs religiously, and just haven’t gotten around to commenting….I am so inspired by the work you’re doing, and the honest reflection that you put out there. You are a wonder! It is such a gift to not only read this, but to have known you at such a formative time in our lives. Much, much love to you. I want to take Zumba from you!!!
    xoxox Shannon

  3. Zumba superstar! I LOVE this posting — IDing a passion and then creating a forum and space to explore and share it with others — what an amazing example you are! I wish you were teaching zumba in Brooklyn — I hope those NJ folks who are taking your classes know how lucky they are – I’m sure they do which is why they come back — your musical tastes and knowledge is a gift in and of itself, mix in your smiles, accepting energy and some fun choreography and there you go… a zumba superstar.

  4. Your zumba class makes me look forward to the week. I’ve been sick, but your class lifts my spirits and helps me to feel well. You really were born to do this Eloiza. I love the way you dance; I love all the different types of dances you bring to the class, all the different cultures that are represented and honored. And your music is THE BEST. Keep being the zumba superstar that you are!

  5. wow! thanks for the “bloggy love”. shannon, dara and belinda: your words mean so much… my next post is probably going to be about how hard it is to really take in affirmations and praise- especially when it is so beautiful and heartfelt. in love and gratitude, -E

  6. Thank you so much for sharing. I could see so many things that I could definitely relate to. It was so good it made me sign up! lol
    I have a dream that I am pursuing and some goals for other things I would like to make part of my life and I think this blog will be a useful tool in my process :)

  7. Thanks for this! I’m going to training in three weeks and have been struggling with what my classes will look like. I’ve been pulled in many directions lately, told to tone down my vision, no one wants that much energy, that much intensity, in a class. You’ll just turn people away, they tell me. But after reading this, I believe that I could do what I want to do, and people will love it. I liked how you said to make it a class YOU would want to come to. That was really nice. I just stumbled upon this, and it was really what I needed to hear. Thanks again and thanks for spreading the Zumba Love! :)

  8. I just love your Zumba class! The International music and the dance routines are so much fun that I loose track of time while I am exercising. That is a first in my lifetime. Wish you had more than two classes per week at the Montclair Y. You are the best!!!

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