How Zumba changed my life

How Zumba changed me  – by Theresa, 55

 Having struggled with my weight for nearly 30 years, I had tried everything – Weightwatchers, Slimming World, Cambridge Diet, Cabbage Diet, all started enthusiastically, failed and then I somehow ended up even bigger than when I had started. I had joined gyms and swimming clubs but, as with so many people after a first few enthusiastic months, I had given up, And the cycle of lack of weight loss and no exercise went on.

But sometimes it’s not just one thing that finally makes you decide to go for it and lose the weight. For me it was January 2011 and at 17 ½ stone, and facing my 55th year, I was sent a picture from a party, when I thought I looked OK but realised I looked like a sparkly elephant. There was a competitive diet with colleagues at work, and my sister told me about this new exercise called Zumba. With no sense of rhythm, and with a consistent inability to pick up dance steps, I really struggled at the one class I tried with her in Hertfordshire. But then my sister told me about a great family that had covered one of her Zumba classes, whilst her instructor was on holiday. She said that the Dad – Harold – showed an easier, version and really signposted the moves well, while his daughter – Louise – did the high impact aerobic version, and mum – Esther – was somewhere in between the two (I now know the family was shorttfitness). I was jealous – until I found that Harold and Louise actually operated out of the Barnet area where I lived, and did a class on Monday evening at St Paul’s Church Hall in Mill Hill.

So I persuaded my competitive dieting friend and turned up for my first class. And what was so good was that there was such a huge age range, fitness range and weight range, so I didn’t feel totally out of place. At the end of an hour (that felt so much longer), I was bright red and sweating from every pore, but I had enjoyed it. — Like everyone who had watched Strictly , the thing I always remembered was the contestants saying that they had never been so fit, nor lost so much weight. So within a month or so I had started two classes a week, going to the Thursday evening class at St Peter’s in New Barnet as well. At first I would only go if my friends were going, but you soon meet people at the classes and I started to feel confident about going on my own if necessary. Unlike the gym or swimming pool, it’s not about pounding on a treadmill or swimming the lengths on your own, it’s sociable, fun, and with great music, but undoubtedly very effective.

As I exercised, I did calorie counting I used an IPhone app “My Fitness Pal” which made me think about what I was eating, I could see the benefits of the exercise as I added the calories to let me have a bit more flexibility in what I ate. From all my many previous experiences of dieting I knew that, if you thought you couldn’t have something, you would want it more than anything and this way if I had something I wanted I knew how much exercise I had to do to have it and still lose weight. And so rather than calling it a diet I called it a different way of eating and living. It really is just about eating less and exercising more. And across 2011 I lost an average of 1½ lbs a week, with the constant support and encouragement from the Shorttfitness team. Every few weeks they would comment and praise the weight loss, encourage me and tell me that it didn’t matter if I didn’t always get the steps right, but what mattered was to be moving energetically.

So now in March 2012 I am nearly 6 ½ stone lighter. I wear size 10-12 not 22-24. I am fitter than I have ever been and no longer hide at the back of the class, but confidently jump up and down in the front row – even if I still have no rhythm. I am in training to do a power walk marathon in May, something I could never have imagined myself doing. The one real difference from every diet that I have ever done is the exercise. I have found a rhythm to my eating that works for me (and everyone is different), which is 4 days very good, 3 days more relaxed. But the essential element is the exercise. 15 months since I first started, I feel like a completely different person. I don’t hide behind people in photographs, I am the first on the dance floor and cannot believe I can buy my clothes from every shop ( except Evans) on the high street. I still do Zumba twice a week – three times sometimes (including Saturday morning at Lyonsdown Hall) if I think I have been pushing it on the calories….

So I would say to anyone who is looking to change the way they live for the better, you cannot get a more effective or more enjoyable start than Zumba, and you can’t get a more supportive, helpful, experience than joining Esther and her shorttfitness family team.

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