Thursday, January 27, 2011

Figuring out what I want to be when I grow up...Zumba and writing

I've always been a person to have diverse interests...just look at my educational background.  In college at Marshall University, I began studying fashion merchandising, before moving on to accounting, which I found daunting.  I completed a couple of semesters in accounting and decided that marketing would be the way to go instead and so I went.  And, off I went into the world with my handy little bachelor's degree more confused than ever about what it was I wanted to do.  So, I was an official college degree holder, but I still didn't come out of college knowing anything about anything that I was interested in, so I went to graduate school at Marshall University to study criminal justice, but not before I spent a summer in Madrid studying Spanish.  So, yes, you can see my background is diverse. 

It's not just my studies that have been broad, my employment history has as well.  In high school, I worked in the Kroger salad bar and was deemed the "Salad Bar Queen" by my family while also assisting a gymnastics teacher.  In college and grad school, I worked as a CSR at a hotel, a CPA's assistant, a graduate assistant delivering presentations on the dangers of underage drinking (this job didn't go very well considering I ran into many of the students whom I was preaching the dangers of drinking to at a few of the local college bars and yes, I was of the legal drinking age), and a supportive counselor for at-risk youth--a job I kept until I was well out of grad school.  Then, I moved on to my current place of employment, working in community and economic development. 

So, there I was in a more settled job, but I still wasn't satisfied.  I mean, my needs were being met, but I still was not doing what I thought I wanted to do.  And, to be honest, I really had no idea what I wanted to do.  Not that I know now, but I definitely feel more content now.

And the reason for that content feeling is because I discovered something I really loved...Zumba and writing.  I took my first Zumba class nearly three years ago and was hooked instantly and after meeting my husband, I was inspired to write a book.  I decided to become a licensed Zumba instructor in June of 2010 and got my contemorary romance novel published in November 2010. 

So I suppose this is where the rest of this blog post comes in now.  I wanted to provide a little history on my diverse background which I just did before launching into a piece I wrote, called How writing has made me a better Zumba instructor.  I think it makes me feel better when I can connect the pieces of my vast range of studies and careers so that they make sense and they tie together as well as complement each other.  And, you know what?  I think I've done it...yes, I have.  Zumba and writing go together, at least I've made them go together in my own mind.  So sit back, relax and take a peek as I explain how writing has influenced my Zumba instruction.

How writing has made me a better Zumba instructor

I am a Zumba fanatic. Not only has it helped me drop close to sixty pounds, it has helped my creativity flourish. Not to mention, Zumba is fun…like, seriously fun. My love of Zumba, since taking my first class nearly three years ago, pushed me to become a licensed instructor in June of 2010, even though I wasn’t quite busy enough (note the hint of sarcasm). I was planning my wedding and honeymoon, working on my first book, Coincidence, which was published in November of 2010, and planning on a huge international move to Ireland, my husband’s homeland, with my two cats. Oh, and I had a full-time job.

But, this article isn’t about how busy I am, it’s about my story as an instructor and how my first hobby, writing, has made me a better instructor. With the Zumba craze reaching all over the world, it is important to always better yourself as an instructor. The first way to do this would be with creative and fun Zumba choreography.

Writing has definitely helped me develop my Zumba creativity. How, you ask? Well, the process to writing and developing new Zumba choreography is often the same, aside from the fact that when you are writing, you are sitting and typing and while you are Zumba-ing (I think I’ve just created a new word there, but we’ll go with it), you are most definitely not sitting. The creativity that I encounter when I write, especially with my book, pushes my mind and helps me explore and move past the limits I put on myself and allows me to open my thoughts and mind to things I never thought possible. A lot of this rings true when you are developing new Zumba choreography for your class, well, for me, anyway. Once I begin Zumba-ing, I find myself, while listening to the music (at a high volume, of course), moving in ways I never thought possible. The feeling and state of mind I encounter while writing, has flowed over and is experienced while I’m preparing my Zumba classes.

Creativity as an instructor may seem like an obvious thing. You have to be creative to be a successful instructor. Your students crave new routines, new music and new moves. And, I guarantee, not only do your students crave it, you as an instructor do, too. I mean, you do these routines more than your students, so it’s important to keep things fresh because you don’t want to be bored while you’re up there teaching. Trust me, the same ‘ol songs over and over, do get boring. Your students will see it and will feel your lack of enthusiasm. And, that’s not what Zumba is about!

The Zumba Corporation does an incredible job of supplying their ZIN (Zumba Instructor Network) members with new choreography and music, but I also enjoy just turning the music on and seeing what I can come up with on my own. For me, this is one of the most fun parts of being an instructor. And, this process is very similar to my writing process. While writing, when I’m not sure where I want to take my story, I’ll sit at the computer and just type. Something always develops. Yes, it may take some time, but something is always churned out (and yes, sometimes it is bad and needs to be deleted). It is the same process with Zumba. Even if I don’t know the steps and moves I want to do, I turn on the music and just move. Something always develops! And yes, sometimes it can be bad, too. Just move on and keep going. This doesn’t develop over night. Yes, sometimes it can take days, even weeks to put the perfect choreography together for any given song. But, just as the words have always been there begging to get out, so have the Zumba moves.

I take Zumba and writing seriously, but in a fun way. When I’m not teaching a Zumba class, I’m doing Zumba at home in my apartment (much to the chagrin of my neighbors I have gathered after having a “please turn your music down” note taped to my door one time) simply because I love it and I so much enjoy developing new choreography, or I’m looking at what other instructors are doing thanks to YouTube, or listening to new music to incorporate in my class. In fact, I can almost come up with a Zumba routine to any song on the radio. I even Zumba in my head while driving and listening to the radio!

So, using the same process I use for writing had significantly improved my ability as an instructor by opening my mind and I have found myself moving, shimmying and gyrating in ways I never thought possible.

So, how can you take this information and relate it to you? I guess the best way is to take your passion (the passion you have other than Zumba), whether it be knitting or just watching television, examine that passion to see how you express yourself when you are participating in it and the state of mind you have while doing it. Then, see if it’s transferable to your Zumba class, if you are an instructor, or if not, to whatever other part of your life requires a little inspiration and passion.

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