Thursday, January 30, 2014

The relentless winter
Satellite photo from Tuesday January 28, 2014
In the last six days, four different Zumba things that I'd planned to go to have either been cancelled and/or postponed, or I've had to miss it because my own driveway was impassable.

The Zumbathon for Diabetes was the first one. I wrote a whole post about it because I was so excited to go, having had to miss the previous three that I'd been invited to. Me and Zumbathons...something about that combination just seems to be unlucky, sad as that is to say.

Well, with Saturday's Zumbathon cancelled, I thought I'd console myself with a bellydance workshop that was happening at a local fitness studio on Sunday. The studio owner had invited a Zumba Jammer to come all the way from New Jersey to do this special class. I thought great, I can use the tips and knowledge because bellydance is one style my own class seems to struggle with and maybe this can help. I'm sure it probably would have if our driveway hadn't been covered in snow drifts making impossible to get a car out. Or worse, out but not back in...

Tuesday rolls around and I have to cancel my own class. Monday had been a snow day for most (if not all) of our county and Tuesday turned out the same way.

Unfortunately, so did Wednesday...which meant Jae had to cancel her class too.

Who's going crazy inside her own house? This girl! Yes, it was pretty bad out. Yes, it was safer all around for everyone to just stay home. The logical part of my brain knows and understands that. That part of my brain also would hate for my own students, or classmates, or good friends to be in auto accidents because they ventured out in conditions like that. The crazy Zumba part of my brain says, "It's just a little snow...surely if I drive slowly enough...?" No. Safety trumps Zumba.
A plow ran off the road in Allegan County. (Courtesy Ken Darby via ReportIt - Jan. 28, 2014)
Case in point? What you see in the above photo happened in a neighboring county. So again, safety trumps Zumba.

But that doesn't mean I'm happy about it! Okay, here's the deal with me. I've never been one to get the "January blah's" or "winter blues" or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). In fact, because of my eyes' extreme sensitivity to sunlight, the cloudy winter days that Michigan is known for are a relief. Bright sun glaring off of snow is painful and those are the days that I'd much rather stay in. It's a bit backwards from most people, I know, but there you have it. This winter seems to be different though, or at least the last week of it has been. I've just been in a blah kind of mood. Yesterday, Jae's class being cancelled because of the third snow day in a row (four if you count Friday of last week) felt like the last straw.

Bry works from home and for that I am truly grateful. We needed groceries and the temperature was truly frigid. I would have been loathe to take our boys out in that, even briefly, and thankfully I didn't have to. I waited until the little one's nap time and put a movie on to keep the big one entertained and went to Meijer solo. The trip there and back took a little over two hours and just getting out of my house for a little while seemed to lift my mood a bit. On my way back with the groceries, I got the van stuck in a snow drift...10 feet from my own garage! Seriously? I called Bry on my phone and he bundled up and came out and hopped in the van and had that sucker back in the garage in five minutes. He's brilliant with that whole "rock the car back and forth" thing that I have never quite perfected.

So it was in a slightly better mood that I decided that I'd spend the evening working on some brand new stuff. Practice was a given. I dance on Wednesdays nights and that's just that. How I was going to use that time though? Well, for one thing, I put on one of my Zumba tank tops - no reason not get in the right mood... And for another, I figured if I made my brain focus on the challenge of something completely new and different, that it might help me out of the funk I'd been in these last few days. Well, it just so happens that there has been a song knocking around inside my head since the moment I first heard it... Que Viva La Vida by Wisin. If you take the time to watch the video, let yourself get past the slightly cheesy opening, the actual song is worth it.

I love Wisin y Yandel, I don't think I've ever heard anything by them that I didn't like, and they've proven to be excellent solo artists as well. This song became my little project last night and by 10pm I had choreography that I was well pleased with. I love when I can take what I see in my head and make it work with the actual song. All that's left is to get it "class-ready". I don't have good cuing for it yet, and I need to make choreography notes, but all that is going to be a project for the weekend. As it turns out, the challenge of something new was just exactly what I needed.

Best advice: Challenging your brain and exercising are two great ways to beat the winter blah's. Put them together, and they are a winning combination. So here's a question for those of you out there who get house-bound because of weather from time to time: how do you beat back the cabin fever?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Flex Classic - my review {UPDATED}

About two and a half weeks ago, I did post on the latest Zumba shoes. In the time since, I have acquired myself a pair of Flex Classic's. In black. The neon pink ones that I was originally going to get were sold out in my size...and all but three other sizes too...sigh.
I posted both of the images you see above to my Facebook and asked my friends and family which one they thought I should get. The vote was 11-Pink, 1-Black. Well, in the time it took me to gather opinions and make my decision, the pink ones were gone. Black it is! The only reason I was even considering black was out of nostalgia since my first pair of shoes was a black pair and I've never had another black pair since....until now... Lousy nostalgia! Oh well, at least the black pair came with a set of pink shoelaces. I bought the Flex Classic's because the description proclaimed that the shoes were created with "Z-slide", something that would allow them to glide on all surfaces including carpet.
This is what the bottom of the shoe looks like. That green circle is the pivot ball, and it and the green zig-zag are made out of something that I'd describe as "fuzzy". I can feel that there is definitely less drag when that part of the shoe moves across carpet. However... Less drag is not zero drag. I wound up having to tape the bottom of these too, just like any other shoe that I'd wear while dancing on a carpeted floor. I feel like the "glide zone", is too low by maybe half an inch. If it were up just a little more, I think it would work much better for me.

So, my plan to put these shoes and their "Z-slide" to work teaching my class at the church has fallen a bit flat. Which is kind of a bummer because honestly, that's the only reason I bought them. So far, I have worn these on carpet as is, on carpet taped up, and on a hard floor in a school cafeteria. They have worked the best by far on the floor, but I suppose that's no big surprise.

Here's what I really like about these shoes:
1) The top is all nylon and extremely breathable.
2) The support in the shoe is really good. I can tell because my ankle hasn't been bothered at all from wearing these. If anything, it's actually better.
3) They don't weigh me down. Each of these shoes weighs 8.1 ounces which is more than half an ounce heavier per shoe than I'm used to with my Z-Kickz II's.
4) Very good shock absorption.
5) They are available in half sizes

So, what I'll probably wind up doing is saving my new Flex Classic's for my regular class with Jae and any other Zumba related events (ahem, ZIN Jam...) and continuing to tape my Z-Kickz II's and just use those to teach in.

Best advice: You snooze, you lose. I've said before that when you're shopping from Zumba's online shop, it's good to stop and consider carefully your purchases because what you're buying is very specialized and likely not something you're going to use everyday. However, you snooze, you lose is a caveat to that because once something is sold out, it's sold out. It was suggested that I wait for the shoes to be back in stock. Back in stock? This is Zumba, there is no "back in stock" there's only "the next new thing".

UPDATE: It's March 14th and it's been almost two months since I originally wrote this. I've been wearing my Flex Classics to class and my Z-Kickz II's to teach in. That has been working out well, but for an entire month after I wrote this, I kept getting blisters on both of my baby toes while wearing the Flex Classics. After a while, I started planning for this eventuality and I would wrap my toes in band-aids before I ever put those shoes on. That let the existing blisters heal and kept new ones from forming. If you're wondering why I kept wearing them, well the fact is that I couldn't return them. Zumba doesn't take back shoes once they've been worn; "tried on" and "worn" are two different things. I needed to figure out a way to make them work or they were just a waste of money. No way was I going to let that happen!
On February 23rd, exactly one month after I first wrote this post, I wore the Flex Classics to a ZIN Jam. It was my first Jam and it was an intense experience, 3.75 hours of dance with a five minute break; a lot of work but a lot of fun too. The first class I went to after the Jam, I forgot to wrap my toes. Guess what blisters. Funny how a 3+ hour Jam will break in a pair of shoes... So, the moral of this particular story is that the Flex Classics need a lot of breaking in. Although even then, it's not a sure thing. Last Wednesday Jae's class got bumped from its usual place, apparently it was needed for a PTO meeting. The place we were moved to for this one night had a very different floor and by the end of class I was wishing I had put some band-aids in my dance bag. I had a pretty bad blister on my left baby toe (just the left, the right was perfectly fine). I'm not going to stop using these though. One, I spent too much on them to just let collect dust in a closet. And two, after all this time, they are almost just right...can't give up now can I?

I am neither affiliated with or endorsed by Zumba Fitness (aside from being a licensed instructor) - Just an interested shopper with an opinion!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The food allergy accommodations one's a "mommy post" dear readers, so brace yourselves. I've talked about pediatric food allergies in a past post, but I recently ran across an article from The National Post (a Canadian newspaper) by Sarah Boesveld that has inspired me to write another. The full article can be found here if any of you are interested. The summary is this: a mother of a food-allergic child (shown on the right) in Hamilton, Ontario is presently suing her daughter's school because she feels they have not made sufficient accommodations in dealing with her daughter's egg and dairy allergies.

The article is a little over a week old now, and I've found myself contemplating this family's situation since I first read about it, feeling compelled to write something but trying to feel out what the tone should be. Discussions about allergies and what should be done, and to what extent, can get quite heated at times. Being an allergy mom myself, I always find that I sympathize with the other allergy parents more than I do the institutions (usually schools). Both of our sons have food allergies, and the oldest one is, like the little girl in the article, allergic to eggs and dairy. Having read about this family and their lawsuit and the circumstances which brought it about, I count my blessings. I do! I count them and then I start again. Our son is in kindergarten and he is lucky enough to be attending a school which has been willing to listen and to make the necessary accommodations since the very beginning of the school year. And I mean really -listen-, not just nod politely at me and then brush off my concerns.

1. The office staff:
I left a bottle of our son's allergy medication with them as well as an action plan with detailed instructions. I really felt like they took me seriously and I felt like they were capable AND willing to follow the plan should it become necessary.

2. The food services manager:
This lady met with me personally on the first day of school to discuss my concerns about school-provided lunches. She then went out of her way to check ingredients in certain foods to find out if they would be safe for my son to eat. Some were, some turned out to not be much to her surprise. She also let me inspect the snack cart to see what safe options were there. Ultimately, we decided together, based on my son's needs and dietary restrictions, that I would provide him with a lunch and snacks from home. That he would only eat what I sent, and that the school would not provide him with any non-approved food. Interestingly enough, the food services manager has a child with a banana allergy.

3. The classroom teacher:
Someone I also had a discussion with on the first day of school. We agreed that for classroom parties, I would just be the mom who provided the cupcakes. Simple as that. She also agreed to keep a bag of safe chocolate on hand (that I provided for her) for our son for when classmates came in with birthday treats. And finally, she sends me emails well in advance of her doing any food-related activities at school. For example: the class made mini English muffin pizzas and with plenty of advanced warning, I was able to send to school the necessary ingredients for our son to have a safe pizza. Further, when the teacher showed the Polar Express right before Christmas break and was serving hot chocolate, she let me know a few days in advance so that I could again send in safe ingredients.

These are my blessings, 1, 2, 3. I am so thankful that this is the situation at our son's school. Because I know how bad it can get. The article I'm referencing sounds extreme, and the truth is, food allergy awareness is often like this. No one pays attention until circumstances get really bad, at which point it makes the news and then poor parent comes across looking overprotective, to put it mildly. I scrolled down and read some of the comments too, and I was dismayed, but not all that shocked, to see the poor mother villainized. This situation is not unique either. I personally know of a mother, a friend, one whose son is a good friend to my own. Her boy goes to a preschool program in a different school in another district, and the situation she found herself in was appalling. Not all that different from the one discussed in the article from The National Post except for that my friend was able to come to a reasonable agreement with the school.

But the push-back she received from her son's classroom teacher and the aide... Okay, yes the teacher may have 15 students, but between her and her aide, I think they can find the time for one boy to wash his hands upon returning to the classroom from the gym. That was IT, that was all my friend wanted. Not for the school to start banning foods, just for her boy to be allowed to wash his hands upon return any time the class left their room. And the ignorance she encountered in the school nurse... Okay, not everyone is an expert on allergies, but a nurse who deals with children in schools should know better than to suggest that hand sanitizer is acceptable for removing allergens from hands, it -needs- to be soap and water; hand sanitizer removes germs, that's it.

As it happened, when my friend told me about her situation, I had just read an article from Allergic Living written by doctor and allergist Scott Sicherer that addressed the issue of hand sanitizers and allergens. I sent the link to my friend and she printed it out in quadruplicate. She gave copies to the teacher & aide, to the nurse, to the principal, and to the superintendent because by then that's how far things had gotten; the administration had become involved.
The principal was on her side and insisted that the teacher let the little boy wash his hands. Interestingly enough, the principal has a child with multiple food allergies. Truthfully, most food allergy parents aren't asking for the moon. They are asking for acceptable and reasonable accommodations. In many places, allergies are covered under "persons with disabilities". The difference is that food allergies are invisible until the worst happens and a reaction occurs, so a lot people feel as though they can ignore them or choose to believe they aren't there at all. That's fallacy.

Best advice: Take food allergies seriously because they are real. If you have the luxury of choosing not to believe that they are, or that they don't need to be accommodated, then be grateful for that ignorance because it means you've never seen a reaction and what that can do a child.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The inaugural class

So...Tuesday night. My first ever class as an instructor. I would say it went really well.

Monday afternoon, I stopped off at the church to deal with some logistics.

1) Picking up a key so I could actually get me and my class inside the building.

2) Coordinating with the church so that they received a copy of my liability insurance policy (an absolute necessity when your venue is a non-profit).

3) Arranging a payment schedule with the church for their portion of what I earn. there, I learned that the room I was supposed to use for class currently had a tent set up inside as well as a large ark. Yeah, I said "large ark". Hey, it's a church... I was promised that those items would be moved out of the room before I arrived the following evening and they were. I was very pleased, as well as grateful that I didn't have to move it on my own as it sounded kind of heavy. There were some other things in the room that I did not move out, but may move temporarily into the hall next week. A coat rack with costumes on it, and a stack of paper grocery bags (I imagine these are part of some craft project). Having left them in the room the first night, I can now see their potential to become tripping hazards. Initially, I thought I'd be able to squeeze twenty people in there if it ever came to that. I'm wrong, it's more like twelve. Should I ever exceed that number, we're going to be having class in the lobby I think! People need room to move and dance and the lobby is enormous.

The room is carpeted, but I brought three rolls of plastic packing tape with me and had my lovely ladies tape their shoes (if you want to see what that looks, like click here). You all know, dear readers, that I have a Costco membership, so buying a handy 8-pack of packing tape is no big deal for me.
They thought it was a fantastic idea once they tried it, and then we made jokes about the constant crinkling noise as we walked around. Incidentally though, you don't hear that over the music once you get started. So, the bottom line is that carpet, while not ideal, is totally doable.

Aside from some rolls of tape, I also packed:
* scissors to cut the tape
* my own speakers and sub-woofer (so that I would have a place to plug in my phone)
* my shoes and a tensor roll (yes, I still wrap that ankle)
* my drink
* some business cards and punch cards
* something to write with and on so my ladies would have a way to put down contact info
* a cosmetics bag with some extras inside: hair clips and elastics, a tensor roll and clips, etc.
Added to all that was my wallet and phone. I packed all of this into my black and pink utility tote, that's the same bag that I took to B1 certification. That bag may look huge, but it fills up really fast!

I arrived 15 minutes early so I'd have time to set up. I unlocked the door and let myself in but then no matter what I did, I couldn't get it to -stay- unlocked. I wound up propping it open with a bucket of rock salt. Luckily for me, one of my students had seen someone work that door before and knew the trick to getting it to stay open; she showed me so I'd know for next week.

The weather on Tuesday night was kind of crummy, a little sleet-y. I believe it kept some people away who had otherwise planned to come. I had four ladies for my first class, and it was a good time. Small and intimate, but lots of fun. Of my four students, three had never taken a Zumba class before. Frankly, I was honored that they chose to start with me. How one starts Zumba can make a huge impact one how one continues. If it's not a good experience, it really puts people off. One of my long-term goals for this class is to create a positive atmosphere in which people can learn, exercise, and just have fun with it.

My class did amazing. They were enthusiastic and energetic, and really, that's the foundation right there. When a participant has energy and enthusiasm, technical skill will eventually come. They're excellent clappers already.'d clap, and they'd clap with me, and it was one clap in unison; I was impressed. When I first started Zumba four years ago, I was that one in class who always clapped an half-beat behind everyone else. I also thought that they really nailed the grapevine step (a sideways travel step). Is there room for improvement? Always, and that includes myself.

Some feedback that they gave me:
* That I made the experience non-threatening - I loved hearing that, that's what I was going for!
* That my smile was infectious - High praise indeed!
* Could I reverse one of the turns in one of the songs so that we weren't always turning in the same direction - An excellent observation that I hadn't thought of, it's good to balance the sides as much as possible.

I am so very pleased by how Tuesday night went and I can't wait to go back next Tuesday and do it again. FYI: playlist will be the same.

I normally end with best advice and before I get to that, I want to talk about some really good advice I received when preparing myself to teach.

From Jae: Make lots of eye contact and smile -- The smiling part turned out to be spot on! The eye contact too, but I really need to work on that more. I found myself watching their feet a lot.

From Rae: Make a playlist and a plan, and then be prepared to change it -- Yep! I had songs I didn't use because I thought it was more important to spend time on teaching steps. Step breakdowns are always useful in my opinion, because what good are 15 songs that nobody can follow? It's far better to have 11 that your class can actually do. Quality over quantity folks.

Best advice: Listen to the voices of experience! (Jae and Rae: Thanks for the advice)

I am neither affiliated with or endorsed by either Zumba Fitness (beyond being a simple instructor) or Scotch 3M - Just an interested shopper with an opinion!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The big day

Well folks, it's finally arrived: the big day. Today, or rather this evening, I am teaching my first ever Zumba class. I am really excited about it and nowhere near as nervous as I would have predicted a few months ago. Back at the end of October, when I went to East Lansing for B1 training, I was filled with excitement yes, but also a lot (and by that I mean A LOT) of nervous energy; almost bordering on anxiety. The night before, I felt like I couldn't really settle. I packed my stuff for the next day, but once that task was completed, I felt at loose ends.

To be honest with you, I expected to feel the same way last night, but...surprise! I did not. I sat and watched DVR'ed TV with Bry and did Sudoku after the kids were in bed. I did not feel the compulsion to dart around my house collecting what I'll need for tonight and laying out my clothes. Frankly, I haven't yet decided on an outfit for tonight. I'll walk in to the closet this afternoon and just see what mood I'm in. I feel confident today. I'll have a post for you, either tomorrow or the day after about how it all actually went.
Food for thought: The person that this describes... I've been lucky enough to meet her, more than one of her actually. Now I get to try to be her.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The conept of "gymtimidation": what it means and 4 ways to overcome it

This week I read an article from Women's Health Magazine by Esther Crain entitled "Do You Feel 'Gymtimidation'?". The title is what caught my attention. "Gymtimidation"? What is that? Excatly what you think it is: feeling intimidated by gyms. This is the time of year where people, determined by resolutions they have made, join gyms. Which is great, I applaud that, because there's never a bad time to start getting active and fit. Apparently though, many people feel intimidated once they actually get in door of the gym and if they give into this fear, they likely will not achieve their fitness goals. The article list some statistics, but I'll let you read those for yourself if you're interested. Even though this author is discussing gyms specifically, it got me thinking about my Zumba classes. Not just the one I'm going to be teaching starting less than a week from now (wow!), but the original ones with Rae, and all the ones with Jae since.

I think it isn't just gyms where people experience "gymtimidation". I'm pretty sure the same concept applies to group exercise classes too. A lot of the time, when talking about Zumba with people who haven't tried it, I hear, "Isn't that hard?" or some variation on that theme. And what I have come to realize is that while they truly are concerned about the difficulty of the class in terms of the technical aspects (can I follow the steps, will I get winded, etc.), they are also concerned about the difficulty of the class in terms of the embarrassment factor (can I keep up with the other participants? will I look silly?). Most people lump all of that together and just call it "hard". And I suppose it is, I'm not saying concerns like that aren't legitimate. I know I certainly had a few of my own before I ever showed up to my first class with Rae. Which by the way was about four years ago. I use the first Saturday in January to mark my "Zumbaversary" and that would have been Jan. 4th this year.

Here's an excerpt from my very first ever blog post: "So the first Saturday in January (this was back in 2010) I decided to give this a try. Was it hard? Yeah, a little bit actually because at the time I couldn't dance very well. Okay, being totally honest, I couldn't even clap my hands to a beat and I got my foot stepped on by the next student over because I used the right foot when everyone else was using the left. In short, I looked like a dancing windmill with arms and legs all over the place."

Follow the steps? Nope
Get winded? Yep
Keep up? Nope
Look silly? You betcha!

All of that was true for me. I tell people all the time, if -I- can do Zumba, -anyone- can. One of the things I love about Zumba is that it truly is a dance format for everyone. So, overcoming concerns. How does that happen? How does one go from being an awkward new Zumba student to celebrating four years at it?

     1) Showing up in the first place is the hardest part - For me, mustering up the courage to go to my first Zumba class and just try it wasn't easy. It took some encouraging from my friend Don, she owns the yoga studio where I used to go for class on Saturday mornings. It took some encouraging from my husband, who said he'd take care of our oldest son while I was gone. Basically, I had supportive people who stole my excuses.

     2) Researching the topic can set your mind at ease - After deciding to give Zumba a try, I went and looked it up online. They have their own website and I read some information about class descriptions. Reading is great, but with something like Zumba, "show" is sometimes better than "tell". YouTube to the rescue! There are all kind of videos out there made by instructors for promotional purposes. Check a few out.

     3) Meeting the instructor can reassure you that you're in good hands - When I say meeting, I don't just mean that you identify who the teacher is and wave. I mean arrive a little early, go over and introduce yourself, talk to her (or him) and tell her that you're new. Striking up a conversation with the teacher is a great way to find out if she (or he) has any advice or tips for new students.

This is what I did. And, if I'm being honest, I can't take all the credit. Rae as well as the Zumba concept kind of met me half-way, if you will. I just found class way too much fun to not come back. Not come back? Unthinkable! Inconceivable! I had such a good time that my concerns (can I follow the steps, will I get winded, can I keep up with the other participants? will I look silly? etc.) seemed irrelevant.

Here's one more way to overcome "gymtimidation" for you:

     4) Buddying up - Get yourself a "fit friend" (I wrote a whole post on this) and make the commitment together. I happen to know that two of my would-be Zumba students have made a plan together to attend my class and basically hold each other accountable. 

Best advice: If you are new to Zumba, don't worry! Just keep moving and have fun with it. Don't take it, or yourself, too seriously. And remember, even the best person in class had to start out somewhere.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The spring color palette, what do you think of it?

Whenever Zumba releases new clothing, I usually get really excited. This month we're seeing some new items, and I'm finding that's not especially true this time. The new clothing items were launched without much fanfare along side the brand new shoes which garnered most of the attention. While Zumba hasn't come right out and labeled it as such, my hunch, based on the styles and color palette, is that were looking at a spring collection; and likely a first installment at that.

I collected the colors to make it easier to see what I'm talking about. There's an almost "pastel quality" to a few of these, most notably "Move Me Mango" and "The Fog Prince". So, to sum up: we have black...we have three shades of grey...we have two shades of white...and four colors...only two of which are bright. Hrmm. I think this is a large part of why nothing in the new line is really grabbing me. The color scheme feels muted. I think this is especially noticeable when these clothes are compared to the shoes they were released with. Every pair of shoes is a bright, vibrant color with shine and sparkle. Even the black ones somehow...

Okay, so let's look at some clothes!
Here is a prime example of what I am talking about. This is the Print Perfect Romper in "Thunderin Grey" (also available in "Zumba Green" and "Off The Chain White"). Clearly this is meant for the warmer months, and what I find interesting is that it appears to be intended more as every-day wear. I mean, can you picture yourself doing Zumba wearing this? I can't. If you can...well then I just don't know what to say that. I will say this for the new clothes overall though, I like that Zumba has included more every-day wear pieces, even if I'm not personally crazy about any of them. the left is the Long Asymetrical Tunic in "Off The Chain White" (also available in "The Fog Prince"). Again, I'm going to go ahead and guess every-day wear based on the length. If you're wondering where the Zumba logo is though, it's on the back. Above is the Asymetrical Short Sleeve Tee. Looks a great deal like the tunic doesn't it? This one is in "Thunderin Grey", but it too comes in "Off The Chain White".

Enough white, black, and grey? Yeah, I agree. Let's look at some colors. the left is the Pretty In Print Raglan Tee and on the right is the Pretty In Print 3/4 Sleeve Top. The short sleeve shirt is in "The Fog Prince" (also available in "Wear It Out White" and "Smoke") and the long sleeve shirt is in "Move Me Mango" (also available in "Wear It Out White" and "The Fog Prince"). You can see what I mean can't you, about the colors feeling muted? 

Alright, moving on to the two brighter colors... Here are the green and the other shade of blue. the left is the So Shaded Loose Racerback in "Zumba Green" and on the right is the Print Perfect Boatneck Sweater in "Bangin Blue". Even the green, which has been a constant color in Zumba's arsenal, looks strangely muted. And is it just me, or does this loose racerback look a little bit -too- loose? And long... Doesn't it look oddly long to you? It does to me, making it look a little like a racerback dress. The more I look at it, the more I wonder if maybe they put the wrong size shirt on the model... As for the blue sweater, while I do like the color a lot, I am not crazy about that print or that wide neckline.

Enough tops. Ready for some pants? On the left are the So Shaded Capri Leggings in "Smoke" and on the right are the Print Perfect Cargo Capri in "Wear It Out White" (also available in "Have A Nice Grey"). Leggings... Sigh. I don't personally care for leggings as a general rule...and these are no exception. I just wanted you to see an example of the color "Smoke", so let's move along to the cargoes. If these were available in the green, and -not- as a print, I might consider them. Zumba finally put long ribbons back on the pockets! Hooray! Here's a better view with the grey pair:
The ribbons have stripes! That I love! But what I don't love is the pattern on these. Plus, I already own three pairs of black cargo pants and I just feel like these are too similar to what I already own. As for the white pair, I will never (as in never ever) buy white cargoes. Everyone knows what happens to white fabric when it gets wet and sweaty.

These are just some examples from the new collection. I chose not go over every piece this time, like I did when the Gold Collection was launched. By comparison, I personally find this collection a tad boring and thus I felt I would have bored myself (and probably you too my dear readers) with this post if I had to go on much longer about it all. But if you want to see the complete line, click here. Spoiler alert: there aren't any new cargo pants.

Best advice: Let's look forward to spring. If you live in the Midwest (or any cold weather place), you're probably as sick to death of winter as I am. Unless you're one of the "crazy types" who loves winter sports. Heh. Do they really exist or are they just the stuff of legend?
Zumba's looking ahead to spring and so am I. I don't know about you dear readers, but I'm more than ready for a little warmth and renewal.

I am neither affiliated with or endorsed by Zumba Fitness (beyond being a simple instructor) - Just an interested shopper with an opinion!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The perfect solemate - which one is yours?

Just before Christmas, Zumba released (into an actual store no less) some new styles of Zumba shoes. They did a whole write-up about them in their magazine, ZLife, but just prior to that issue, I found some pictures floating around the internet that were taken in a Lady Foot Locker. Upon seeing the photos, I immediately went to Lady Foot Locker's website to find out if the shoes were available online as well. They are not. Boo hoo! I was really disappointed by that. It leaves me hoping that at least one of the following two things will happen:
1) After lady Foot Locker has "tested the waters" of the Zumba market, they'll begin carrying the shoes online as well as in-store.
2) Zumba will soon begin selling these same shoes through their own website.

Not that I don't love my Z-Kickz II's, but shoes don't last forever. When I bought them, the Z-Kickz II's were on sale for 50% off which was a really great deal. Zumba just happened to be having a shoe sale the exact week that I was looking for a replacement pair of Puma's. Truthfully, I almost didn't buy the Zumba brand shoe. Not because I thought it was a bad shoe, but because I thought I might become spoiled by the shoe and then never see the same kind of bargain from Zumba again. Basically, I am just waiting for the right sale to come along and I am going to pounce on it whether I need new shoes that week or not. What I know is that at some point I eventually, definitely, -will- need new shoes.

And now, a little disclaimer: please note that with regard to these photos I am not the photographer and don't claim to be. These are not my photos and as much as I would love to include a photo credit in this post, I can't because I could not find out who the original poster of these photos was. To whomever these photos belong to, thank you for taking them!

These photos were taken in one of the Lady Foot Locker locations that is currently selling the new Zumba shoes (I don't know which one). As of right now, Zumba is only selling their new shoe styles in select locations across the USA (with one location in San Juan, PR). Sorry people who don't live in the U.S. (or Puerto Rico), but if it's any consolation, not one of these store locations is near me, so I'm in essentially the same boat. The chart below lists 17 locations where these shoes are presently being sold but I realize that it might be hard to read so here's a list:

     - Glendale Galleria in Glendale
     - Westfield Culver City in Culver City
     - San Francisco Centre in San Francisco
     - Stamford Town Center in Stamford

Zumba shoes sold in these select Lady Foot Locker locations

     - Bayside Marketplace in Miami
     - Miami International in Doral
     - Brandon Town Center in Brandon
     - Florida Mall in Orlando
New Jersey:
     - Willowbrook Mall in Wayne
     - Garden State Plaza in Paramus
     - Jersey Gardens Mall in Elizabeth
New York:
     - 120 West 34th Street in New York
     - 523 Broadway in New York
     - Easton Town Center in Columbus
Peurto Rico:
     - Plaza Las Americas in San Juan
     - Northpark Center in Dallas
     - North Star Mall in San Antonio

If you are lucky enough to live near one of these stores, then I am very jealous of you.

In the photos, the Lady Foot Locker has on display two of the three new styles Zumba has introduced: the Flex Classic and the Impact Max. Why they don't have the third style, the Energy Push, is a mystery to me but I'll I talk about it nevertheless. ZLife magazine has an excellent article with descriptions of all three styles and what kind of Zumba girl they're each intended for. Interesting no? Yes, so let's start with the Flex Classic!

According to ZLife, the Flex Classic is intended for, and I quote, "the Zumba fanatic". Here's an excerpt:
     "The Flex is specifically designed for the hardcore Zumba student who takes her workouts seriously, goes to class several times a week, and has a dance background."
Photo Credit: ZLife magazine

Does that sound like anyone you know? Heh. Well, with the exception of that dance background part... The Flex is a split-sole shoe. That style is usually found only in professional dance shoes. Zumba has taken that concept and added arch support. According to the description, these are supposed to be incredibly flexible, will minimize fatigue to your foot, and enhance your balance.

These sound amazing! The idea of being able to go to a Lady Foot Locker and actually try on the shoes was really exciting until I found out the nearest location to me is in Ohio. Not being able to try them on makes me wish that Zumba had included their weight in ounces (and for the other styles too) when they wrote up the descriptions. That's kind of a deal-breaker for me. I don't like a heavy shoe for Zumba. My Z-Kickz II's weigh in at 7.5oz and my favorite Puma Soleil's are 7.8oz. When I bought my Z-Kickz II's online, the weight was included in the product description. I'm hoping that if these styles start selling online, that information will be made available.

Okay, onto the Impact Max! Once again I quote: "for the everyday Zumba enthusiast". ZLife says,
     "The Impact is wonderful for the beginner to moderate-level Zumba fan who wants maximum comfort and style all while minimizing shock to your joints."
Photo credit: ZLife Magazine

If I were buying shoes for the very first time, and these were available, I'd probably be looking at these. I remember what I was like back then and you'll notice in the pictures, they come in grey and they come in black. My first pair of shoes was black, I know I would have gravitated towards this particular pair without even reading the description. I'll admit to liking the overall design and style of the Impact Max better than the Flex Classic. The Impact Max has the feature of a brace inside the shoe to keep your foot from sliding around inside it, and the sole is supposed to have superior shock absorption.

Lastly, the Energy Push, "for the laidback Zumba lover".
     "This style is for the woman who wants to dance for the longest amount of time without pushing herself too hard or compromising her form."
Photo credit: ZLife magazine

The third style is so not me, though I have no doubt that it will be fairly popular. The description says that it has a lightweight cushioning and extra support in the heel. This shoe is for the person whose Zumba shoes might also double as everyday shoes. I always arrive to class in street shoes and change into my Zumba shoes; and back again when class is over. But I am actually in the minority in that respect. Most (sometimes all) of my classmates do not change shoes, which is why I'm pretty sure that a lot of ladies will like the Energy Push.

According to the article in ZLife, all of these shoes have something called "Z-slide technology" and this allows the shoe to "safely and easily slide across any surface - hardwood floor, carpet, tiles". As if they didn't sound great already? The room where I am going to be teaching my class (in just a little over a week!) is carpeted. I cannot wait for these shoes to be more widely available. Rumor has it that we might see some new shoes for sale on Zumba's site this week. I'll definitely be keep my eye on the if I don't already just because? Heh, yeah I do, best kind of window shopping there is.

Best advice: Find what moves your soul. Today's tidbit comes from the tag off my pair of Z-Kickz II's. I thought it was à propos given the topic of the post. And before you ask...yes, I bought those shoes back in June...and yes, I have saved this tag all this time. Yes, I have a tag stash. Zumba makes the best tags afterall... Anyways...

Movement for the sole. I love the play on words here because to me, Zumba truly is movement for my soul. So find what moves -your- soul. If it's Zumba, like me, that's great! If it's something else entirely, that's also great! Everyone needs something. If you don't...well...this is a brand new year isn't it?

I am neither affiliated with or endorsed by either Zumba Fitness or Lady Foot Locker - Just an interested shopper with an opinion!

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Zumbathon - Find a cure for Type 1 Diabetes

Twice this week I've been put in the position to benefit a cause. The same cause both times! The universe is telling me something because in both cases, because the way in which I can be of help is through Zumba. The cause is Type 1 Diabetes. If you aren't familiar with Type 1 (and how it differs from Type 2), here is a snippet from the American Diabetes Association website:

More Than Numbers
The first instance this week was when my practice buddy, Rae-Mae, approached me about coming to her diabetic support group, More Than Numbers, and doing a short Zumba demonstration. By short, I mean about a half an hour, so roughly five songs. My response? "Sure. When and where?" and she put me in touch with the group's moderator. I didn't even have to think about whether or not I'd do it. More than one member of my family has (or had) Type 2 Diabetes (aka: adult onset) and has become insulin dependent. Like heart disease, this is something that runs in my family. My long in forever and ever...exercise goals lean towards not developing either of these things. So I am to happy help when and where I can. The group moderator told me that she wants the group to focus on activity for January. She happens to be a fan of Zumba herself and thought it would a good idea to introduce it to the whole group. I wholeheartedly agree!

As for the second instance... Well, within two days of Rae-Mae asking me to come to her group, I received an invitation to a Zumbathon from a different friend. 

This is what I saw on my Facebook this morning. A Zumbathon? Goody! I've had to turn down the last three invitations to Zumbathons. Three! (I know right?) One was a scheduling conflict, but the most recent two were back when our youngest son was still nursing at night and I couldn't leave him. He was a baby (like his brother before him) who would not take a bottle much to my dismay; but there is the word "mommy" in Zumbamommy and sometimes Zumba has to come second. Now though, Bry can put the kids to bed solo (he is a champ at it by the way...) and I was not about to let this Zumbathon go by. Then, I took a look at was it was a Zumbathon for. Finding a cure for Type 1 Diabetes?? What a weird coincidence....but wait there's more! The Zumbathon event is on Jan. 25th, and I am doing my demo for More Than Numbers on the 20th. Coincidence indeed. I immediately posted about the event to the More Than Numbers group. I also issued a few invitations to friends I thought would be interested in attending. Hey, it's a Zumbathon, the more the merrier!

Best advice: Support the cause. Zumbathons are for good causes. I've seen them for breast cancer, heart disease, ALS, diabetes, and even food drives. So support the cause!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The new year

Happy 2014 one and all!
The month of December has been long and stressful. Or at least it has felt that way at times. I'm not saying it didn't have its highlights because it did, but on top of the general busy-ness that just seems to naturally come with the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we've been dealing with a revolving door of family illness. If it hasn't been me or Bryan, it's been one or both of our boys. And if the four of us are going through a healthy patch, then we have other family who are sick. If you read my Black Friday post, you may remember that our Thanksgiving (also my father-in-law's birthday party) had to be moved to Dec. 7 due to our oldest son coming down with something. Well, it was deja vu all over again this Christmas. Bry was sick and I was sick, and we were supposed to host his family for Christmas Eve. So we moved Christmas Eve to the following weekend, but by then we learned that several of our guests were either already fighting some bug or coming down with some bug. So Christmas Eve got moved once again to New Year's Day. But alas, t'was not be. Both our boys went on antibiotics two days before that, so we just cancelled it altogether. At this point, we don't know when we're going to celebrate with family. I guess we're all just going to play it by ear. I had plans for a New Year's Eve blog post, a little like a "year in review" if you will, but just like most of our other December plans, it just didn't happen with everything going on. In fact, through all of December, I only managed to make four blog posts. Sigh.The best laid plans of mice and the Zumbamommy...

So how did I spend my New Year's Eve? Two ways. Late in the evening, Bry and I just spent some quiet time together watching Duke lose their bowl game. No, neither of us went to Duke (or to Texas A&M) we just like watching interesting bowl games. Yes, "we". I've spent the past 12.5 years married to an ESPN-watching-sports-lover so I'm at the point where Capital One Bowl Week, which incidentally lasts 16 days, is a fun time. Poor Duke, they haven't won a bowl game since the 1960's...stick to basketball guys... So, dear readers, anyone out there want to guess how I spent the earlier part of the night on New Year's Eve? If you guessed "Doing Zumba!" you'd be spot on.

Since I went to B1 training in October, I've had a friend coming over every second Tuesday night to do Zumba with. My friend Rae-Mae graciously agreed to be my test subject practice buddy while I work out some of the kinks of instructing a live person. Last night was our last Tuesday practice before my class at my church begins. Having a practice buddy has been invaluable to me. She acts like I'm doing her this great big favor by letting her come over to do Zumba, but in reality it's the reverse. Rae-Mae has all the enthusiasm and energy any instructor could want in a student and she asks great questions too. You see, I've been doing Zumba long enough that at this point, most of the really basic stuff is as normal to me as walking is. Bully for me right? Well, I didn't start out that way by any stretch of the imagination, but it's been long enough that I don't really think about the "how's" of it too much any more. When she asks me how am I doing    X   , I have to stop and figure out an answer. I have to slow myself down and really think about what I'm doing. This is good practice for me as a would-be instructor because chances are, that if she has these questions as a new-ish student, other people will too. I've heard it said that one of the best compliments that a Zumba instructor can receive is "You're easy to follow." so it stands to reason that the opposite (you're too hard to follow) is really bad thing. Hrmm, which column do I want to be in? That's a no-brainer.

***Side note: Jae and Rae, you are both easy to follow!***
My class starts on Jan. 14 and I'm pretty excited about it but a little nervous too. Just this past Sunday, I put up my Zumba poster in the lobby of my church and set my postcards out on the reception desk for people to take. The logical part of me knows that it just makes good sense to start a new class at the start of a new year, but the Zumba-crazy part of me wishes I'd offered to start sooner.

I'm not the only one excited about my class. Rae-Mae is planning to come too and she's been talking about it to people she knows, trying to get them to come with her. It's New Year's Day and what do I see on my Facebook this morning?
My practice buddy posting about my class!

Best advice: A New Year's Eve party for two is often times much more special than one for two hundred.

Question: What's your New Year's resolution? Mine is to learn a bachata song before the summer.