How I Leaped: Becoming a Zumba Superstar

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Ok, well maybe not SUPERstar—but I'm pretty darn happy.

By Eloiza Jorge, with Deepening Wisdom.

My story begins while I was at the gym 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.

A YMCA member casually mentioned: Have you tried the new class yet? Out of curiosity, I walked up to the fitness studio and lo and behold they were playing Latin music! I took one Zumba 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 Zumba 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 also started working with a coach. My work with her was deep and profound—totally unrelated to anything having to do with Zumba, 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 Zumba 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 leap. I didn't announce it. I didn't tell many people. I didn't have a specific goal. I just signed up for a Zumba 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:

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

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 by just being me.

I'm still a li'l chubby. I get nervous and shy when teaching a new group of people. And I am not 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 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 are 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.

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?