Zumba Convention 2013 {Day 2} – Brazilian Carnival & Hip Hop

The vibrant colors of pink, red, green, and purple pop against the long trail of white. Neons and other bright colors bounce step by step as thousands of Zumba instructors pass between the Hilton and Peabody hotels in Orlando, FL. As if the rainbow of fun workout gear isn’t enough, the air is practically electrified with the positive energy emanating from the cheerful group. This is the scene for four days straight every year at Zumba Convention. A covered pathway (that I’ve nicknamed the “white mile” because of the white floor, safety rails, columns, and cover….and because it’s almost a mile in distance) stretches between the three main buildings for the ZCon events: the two aforementioned hotels and the Convention Center, which sits conveniently in between both. The walk isn’t short, but in the Florida heat and with the daily Florida rain storms, I’m thankful for the covered path to get from one event to another so you get some relief from the heat and protection from the rain.

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This year, ZCon added inspiring quotes related to the conferences theme, “Dreams”, throughout the white mile. Pictured above is one of my favorite quote snippets: “Explore. Dream. Discover.” by Mark Twain.

Here’s the full quote that I love so much:

“Life is short, break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that made you smile. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

― Mark Twain

As a big fan of quotes, I loved seeing the positive messages as I walked from one session to another.

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{Sea of neon, slashed tops, mesh clothing, crazy patterns – Zumba lovers from all around the world!}

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My first session of Day 2 of my 2013 Zumba Convention experience was a repeat from last year – Brazilian Carnival.

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These ladies really helped me get my samba down last time, and this year, I wanted to re-learn how they broke it down (to help teach my participants) and pay better attention to the other Brazilian dance styles they review. I really wanted to learn some new moves to add some more diverse International rhythms to my Zumba classes. Plus, I’d love to have more samba songs in addition to more of the other styles on my playlist.

We learned a few moves of four different styles of Brazilian dance before doing a master class using the moves we had just broken down. The class was super high energy and a total blast!

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Almost every session ends with cameras – those taking photos of the playlist, contact info, or notes…

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…and cameras to get a quick photo with the session presenters. Here I am with the beautiful presenters of Brazilian Carnival.

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The ladies of the Brazilian Carnival gave each of us a gift this year – a small ribbon they brought from Brazil. I didn’t 100% hear what they said about the ribbon, but I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to tie it around your wrist, and they say when the ribbon falls off, your dreams will come true. Update: Actually, a quick google search found more info – the ribbon is called a Bahia Band! Click here for the history of these Bahia Bands.

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After the morning session, I headed back to the hotel for a quick lunch and then back to the Peabody for my afternoon session.

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I did Hip Hop: The Zumba Remix – another repeat from last year.

Those of you who know me well may know that I’m a big fan of hip hop…more so the music than the dancing. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to be a great hip hop dancer, but it’s much easier to enjoy the music – that doesn’t require practice. I’ve been on the lookout for an adult hip hop class that fits with my schedule for the last couple years, but I haven’t found anything…yet.

I really could use lessons. Of all the sessions, Hip Hop may strike the most fear in me. I’m not the fastest at learning choreo, and learning fast-changing moves eight-count after eight-count does not come naturally to me. I much prefer the repetitive moves in the traditional Zumba song format (the same move for the verse, chorus, etc.). Luckily, the Zumba Conference provides an environment that is naturally low (or even no?) judgement. It’s not a competition. We’re all there to learn and enjoy the sessions and the presenters’ various styles, lessons, and techniques.

Speaking of ZESes, one of my favorites, George Iu (who usually co-teaches the Hip Hop session) almost didn’t make it to convention. It was so tight, they actually had to find a replacement for him – Eric Aglia. George got to present a couple songs, but he had to pass his hip hop torch to Eric. Though I missed seeing more of George, they found a great co-teacher for the class. I thought Eric did a great job stepping up into the big shoes he had to fill. Michael was his usual, fabulous self. He even did one whole song in heels! I don’t know how he did that – there’s no way I could dance in heels like that!

In this session, we learned some basic moves for a three different hip hop styles: Old Skool, Girlie, and Music Video. And then we did a master class with a warm-up, simple choreo (Zumba format songs) and then more choreographed songs. Not gonna lie, I didn’t get all the steps down, but I did have fun trying!

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I waited in the long photo line to get a picture with all three of presenters.

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{Michael, George, me, Eric}

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After the sessions were done for the day, Sarah and I hit up the Zumba shop. I hadn’t planned to buy any new Zumba wear, but I found some cute stuff and bought some anyways. Who’s not surprised?

I pretty much reserve most, if not all, of my Zumbawear shopping to ZCon because it’s the only time you can try things on before you buy them and see the materials, etc. in person. Plus, you guys know I like putting outfits together. Besides new choreo ideas, I love bringing back new clothes from convention! I remember before I was a Zumba instructor how I loved seeing the new workout wear the instructors would sport in class during the weeks after ZCon. Now, that’s me!

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After shopping, we headed back to the room to get ready for a dinner out! More on our eating adventure next time!

Zumba Convention 2013 {Day 1} – Burlesque & Fitness Concert

Every year, I think I’ll be able to blog about Zumba Convention while I’m actually at ZCon, but the conference is so jam-packed, I never quite seem to have the time. I’m too busy dancing, hanging with friends, making new friends, and enjoying the moment…well, all the moments. Zumba Convention is hands down one of my favorite things to do every year, so I really try to make the most of it while I’m there. So, it’s a bit later than I wanted, but here we go with my first ZCon post for 2013…

After our short beach adventure, my friend Sarah and I took a (pretty) quick two hour drive into Orlando, FL to check into our hotel. A quick change later, and we were headed off for our respective first events. We missed the kick-off, but not our first sessions.

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I started things off with Gina Grant’s Burlesque. The format of the dances we learned were a bit different than traditional Zumba dances. Instead of lots of repetitive moves, we learned (I believe) four songs that were more routines, with various 8 counts broken down and then strung together. The first song was even choreographed with a chair, which was different and fun. The songs included Burlesque and Fever. The dances were flirty and girly and had some cute moves I may try to work into some Zumba songs in the future.

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Some of you guys have been asking for workout outfits, so I’ve been trying to post them on Instagram. Does that work or do you prefer to see them here on the blog? Anywho, here’s my outfit for Burlesque – harem dance pants, high tops, and a studded bra top.

Oh, and don’t mind that shopping bag in the background. I may or may not have gone ahead and done some shopping on day 1. What? The clothes sell out like hot cakes! You gotta get in there early to get what you want! There’s still one top I didn’t pounce on that sold out that I’m considering getting from zumba.com. Hmm…

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Sarah and I had dinner at the pool and then unpacked and changed for the Zumba Fitness Concert.

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The Fitness Concert is just like what it sounds like. Imagine a huge concert with the fancy lights and crazy sound systems and thousands of people all around, except instead of the people just standing there or doing random dances, they’re all moving in unison, doing the same dance moves, following instructors leading the crowd from a stage. Well, at least that’s what usually happens.

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For some reason, this year they decided to section off almost 1/4-1/3 of the room we usually use with large curtains so we were all crowded into a smaller space. The result? The areas in the back were too crowded for people to move, so they couldn’t really get into the dancing. We got there kind of late, so we started out near the back, but as some people trickled out, we were able to move up so we could do some dancing.

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I hope they give us more space next year, though. A girl needs room to move!

A mixture of different ZESes, plus Beto (the founder of Zumba for any non-Zumba readers out there) and celebrities like Sean Paul and Claudia Leitte, took turns leading different songs. There were also plenty of costume changes, and I loved seeing the different outfits. The energy level was super high, and I still had a good time, even if we didn’t really get to dance as much as we wanted. I have to admit, I loved the super loud music and how the bass tickled my nose! You’ll never get speakers that loud in a regular Zumba class!

Next time – Day 2 including Brazilian Carnival and Hip Hop!

ZCon 2013!

This time next week, I’ll be…asleep. Okay, but soon thereafter, I’ll be headed to Zumba Convention 2013!!! I’m so excited!

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I’m going with my good friend Sarah, and we’re going to make a most-awesome road trip out of it. We’re even stopping at the beach on the way there.

Here’s a recap from 2011 (Day #4 – has links to the other days): http://thechiclife.com/2011/07/zumba-convention-2011-day-4-bollywood-african-impromptu-dancing.html

And, here’s a recap from last year (part 1 of 2): http://thechiclife.com/2012/08/zumba-convention-2012-part-12.html

Do you guys want to see photos/videos from anything in particular? The convention is usually so crazy-busy, I find myself rushing from one thing to another, but I’m hoping to get a little more in the way of photos and videos this year.

Anyone else going? :)

Insta-Chic {8/4/13}

You guys know I love to cut shirts.

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I like making little tweaks to stretchy Zumba tank tops and turning unisex t-shirts into loose-fitting tank tops and halter tops.

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So, every once in awhile, I host a t-shirt cutting workshop for my Zumba class where we go over some of the basics. I share my tips and tricks and help them cut some practice tops. It’s always such a fun time, and I love seeing everyone’s creations – that night and after.

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I went out for some post-Zumba and post-t-shirt-cutting-workshop eats at Chloe’s recommendation – Bistro 88. I’ve been looking for a favorite Chinese restaurant in Charlotte, and this may be the one. I’d been here one time before, but I thought it was good but not a stand-out. This time, Chloe told us about the “secret menu” – the Cantonese one. They only give you this menu if you ask for it. We all ordered off the Cantonese menu. I got the cabbage with chicken, which was boneless chicken with baby bok choy in a light white sauce (I also saw pieces of fresh ginger in the mix). Chloe got the Beef Chow Fan (which is also on the regular menu) and shared a bite. Those noodles could easily be addicting. The flavor was wonderful, and I def recommend trying it if you visit.

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Here’s one of my yummy lunches from last week by the Roots food truck – pulled pork with pickled veggies and pasta salad. So fresh, so good! It’s so nice there are restaurants and food trucks in town that support local farmers.

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Not sure if you follow me on Instagram, but I bought a tiny bamboo plant to cheer up my office desk and posted about it on my account awhile back. I named her Lucy, and my desk-mate liked my plant so much, she got one, too! Her plant’s name is Ethel. Yup, Lucy and Ethel.

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Guess what showed up in my email inbox the other day? My Zumba Convention 2013 tickets!!! I’m so pumped. This will be my third year attending Zumba Convention, and it’s quickly become one of my favorite things to do every year. I’m about a week and half away. Can’t wait!

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And I made chili today for some friends and was reminded of why I try to read ingredients lists. My chili calls for three types of beans, and I found pretty clean versions of all but one. Most of the beans had three ingredients – beans, water, salt. But one of the cans had beans, water, salt, PLUS calcium chloride and calcium disodium edta. Now, I’m not going to freak out over these added ingredients, nor will I refuse to eat them, but I do try to avoid them whenever possible. I mean, if I were seasoning the chili, I wouldn’t be like, “Okay, I’ll add one tablespoon of chili powder and 2 teaspoons calcium chloride.” This is where I try to stick to the Food Rules by Michael Pollan.

I tried researching those last two added ingredients online quickly. There were different stances on calcium chloride – some calling it safe and others saying it has negative side effects. But, one quick hit was that calcium disodium edta is on the Whole Foods list of unacceptable ingredients in food. Pollan’s logic is still enough for me to try to avoid both.

How do you feel about added ingredients in your foods? Do you have a hard and fast rule to not eat them, do you try to avoid them when possible, or do you not care about eating/drinking them?

Overcoming 5 Common Workout Obstacles

Raise your hand if you made a New Year’s Resolution and/or goal related to getting your fitness back on track. It’s so much easier said than done, right? I know what you’re thinking. But, Diana, you don’t get it because you’re all crazy about Zumba and you’re a Zumba instructor…so, yea, you don’t understand. Trust me, it hasn’t always been this way.

I struggled hard during and post-college to get into shape. Between eating poorly (hello, fast food!) and rarely working out, I wasn’t in my healthiest state. I won’t go into the full story, but it took me about 4 years after graduating (almost 8 years after stopping training as an ice skater) to find something that worked. I tried common workouts like walking, running, and using cardio machines at the gym. They all felt too much like work, and I was very unmotivated to continue. I went on a brief yoga stint (loved it!) until I hurt my wrist. And then, in 2007, I finally found Zumba. What clicked for me was that Zumba reminded me a bit of skating. I love how I don’t really feel like I’m working out when I do Zumba. Instead of focusing on the workout, I focused on the choreography and other (more fun) distractions. After taking classes for about 3 years, I became an instructor in 2010, and I’ve been having a blast ever since.

I don’t consider myself a fitness/exercise expert, which is why I rarely blog about fitness. But, I was browsing through my latest Real Simple when I stumbled upon an article called The Workout Whisperer by Dimity McDowell. In the article McDowell gives solutions to common exercise obstacles. I found myself reading each headline and then thinking about the advice I would give. Then, I’d read what McDowell wrote. I thought it was interesting that I thought of some different ideas from what she wrote, so I thought I’d share those thoughts with you. I won’t give away her article, so be sure to check out the February 2013 Real Simple to read it – she has some great tips! I just thought I’d offer some of the tips I thought of while reading McDowell’s article. And, I’d love to hear from you guys, so please feel free to chime in with tips of your own in a comment.

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Obstacle #1: I don’t have time

This is an excuse I am most guilty of using…in life, not just in fitness. At least, it was until I read a cool article (can’t remember where) that set me straight by saying that we all get the same 24 hours in the day. You have the time, you’re just using it on different things. Now, you guys know I have a crazy schedule. I pretty much always have. And there was a time when exercise wasn’t part of it. Now, it is. It wasn’t easy, but eventually, I squeezed it in. And now that I’m an instructor, it’s become an important component of my life.

If you think you don’t have time, I’d suggest doing a couple things (individually, or a combination):

  1. Make small changes. I used to use some common tricks you’ve probably already of like parking far away (when it’s safe), taking the stairs, etc. Take a short break (in the afternoon or use part of your lunch break) to go for a short (15 minute) walk. Walk the dog. Every little bit helps.
  2. Change your schedule, but start small. The biggest mistake I see people make is that they go all in and try to go from working out 0 days a week to working out 7 days a week. I guess that works for some people, and if it works for you, go for it! I recommend a more gradual approach. Try scheduling something for 1 day per week. When that’s going well, add another in. Find a schedule that works for you.

Bottom line – if something is important to you, and I think exercise should be, you need to make time for it. Start small and see where you go from there. By starting smaller, you’ll be setting yourself up for success. And when you feel successful, you feel encouraged to continue and to grow.

Obstacle #2: I’m excruciatingly bored

The answer is obvious. Do Zumba. Everyone loves it. No, I’m kidding. Many people do enjoy Zumba, but it isn’t for everyone. The key is to find something that motivates you and something you enjoy.

Here are some categories I’ve noticed:

  1. Love to do things solo? Taking up running or walking may be better for you. Consider signing up for a race (maybe a 1-miler or 5k) so you have a goal to work towards. Maybe download a yoga podcast.
  2. Do you feel motivated by a group? Try a group fitness class. The energy can be so fun and encouraging.
  3. Do you need need someone constantly pushing you and keeping you on track? Maybe hire a personal trainer?
  4. Do you love competition? Why not join an adult league of something? Try tennis, basketball, soccer, or one of the many other teams out there. There are many recreational leagues, so you don’t have to be a prior high school star. In fact, I’d always wanted to play tennis, so when I was on assignment for work, I found a local tennis club and started doing group lessons and playing recreational games after work. It was great for de-stressing and kept me social and not cooped up in my hotel room.
  5. Do you like to be distracted by learning or doing something rather than thinking about your workout? Because of my skating background, this one fits me the most. This is also why I love Zumba so much. Part of the reason I don’t feel like I’m working out is because I’m thinking of other things – how to do a particular move, how the choreo goes, etc. If this is you, try Zumba, Masala Bhangra, or another dance fitness class.
  6. Would you love something that would also help you de-stress? Try yoga. I always felt like I had a great workout after yoga, but I also felt more at peace and like I really de-stressed after a long day of work.

Bottom line – I used to incorrectly think that a workout had to be a struggle. It doesn’t. I look forward to my workout (almost) every time I go. Like 99% of the time. I believe there’s a great workout for everyone out there. You just have to find it. And you may have to try a few different things before you figure out what works for you. Who knows, maybe you’ll have fun in the process?

Obstacle #3: My workout buddy dropped out

I love the idea of workout buddies. But, it’s good to not be 100% dependent on them. Life happens – that doesn’t mean your workout doesn’t have to. Here are some ideas:

  1. Make your workout part of schedule. When you get into a routine, it’s easier to keep it up, regardless of whether or not your friend will be there.
  2. Find another workout buddy or two. If there are other people around (and it’s not just the two of you on a lone running trail), get to know some of the other people doing your workout. I’ve met many of my current friends through Zumba. Who knows, maybe you’ll make new friends, too? If nothing else, you’ll have others who can help motivate you to workout.
  3. Join a group. There are many running, cycling, etc. groups out there. If you think the group is expecting you, you’ll be more likely to go.
  4. Tell the instructor when you’re planning to come to class. I love to hear when someone says they’re excited to come to my class in a couple days. And if you tell the instructor you’re coming, you’ll be less likely to back out.
  5. Enlist your SO. Ask your significant other to help you stay on track. My husband was very encouraging when I wasn’t into the full swing of working out. He’d remind me of what a good time I have and help give me that extra push I needed.

Bottom line – you’re a big boy/girl. Workout buddies are fabulous, but try to not be 100% dependent on them. Find others who can help keep you accountable, if you really need the extra motivation.

Obstacle #4: It’s too cold/hot/rainy/snowy

I have one hashtag for you – #firstworldproblems. Okay, just giving you a hard time. But, seriously, i get it. I’ll admit, every once in awhile, it will be a rainy and gross day outside, and I think to myself…oh no…I have to teach today. But, you know what? I fight the weather and teach my class, and I have a flippin blast. I get to see my friends and regulars, meet new people, and dance my a$$ off. I remind myself of this every time I doubt whether I should go to Zumba and I go anyways, I always have a blast. I saw a funny graphic the other day that said something like, “I really regret doing that workout said no one ever.” Oh wait, I found it here. I made my own version of the graphic to share with you guys:

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Bottom line – remind yourself how good you feel after your workout, and that despite the weather, you’ll feel that positive energy again if you go. I’ve done that before, and it’s worked well (even before I was an instructor). Also, see the tips in obstacle #3 to hold yourself accountable. And if you don’t feel fabulous after you workout, please see obstacle #2.

Obstacle #5: I’m not seeing results

This is the obstacle I’m least comfortable discussing, mostly because I don’t have any education or training on the human body, etc. I will say that most of the people in my classes have seen gradual progress. And it can take time to see progress in certain areas more so than others. I know I got really focused on losing weight in my stomach area, and that was an area that went last for me.

Bottom line – change take time. Be patient, and you will see results. Side note – I would especially love to hear from any personal trainers, etc. on ways people can measure success or when to expect results.

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Charlotte friends – are you purging your closet but you’re too busy to take the clothes to the consignment shop? Check out my Green Jeans giveaway by clicking here – this could be the solution you’re looking for!

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Oh, and here’s a preview of something coming your way next week. Stayed tuned for details! Remember, you can get free The Chic Life updates delivered to you via email or RSS feed by clicking here.

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Reader question: What are some workout obstacles you’ve overcome? How did you do it? And feel free to chime in with your comments, advice, and tips on the obstacles discussed in this post.

Holiday Stress-Busting: Find a Happy Place {Wellness}

Thanks to everyone who voted on The Chic Life’s Facebook wall for what I should blog next. I guess the cheesecake and doughnut recipes will have to wait because you wanted to hear about de-stressing first.

Since deciding recently to pay more attention to my general wellness, I’ve explored many different types of stress-busting and activities. I considered sharing them all in one blog post, but I think it will be better to do them one by one so people have time to share their thoughts on each one and digest the information. The title of this post implies that this de-stressing idea is only applicable for the holidays, but I think it should go year-round. Though, we could potentially use a little extra help around the holiday season. Am I right?

First up for de-stressing ideas, I want to talk about finding a happy place. I spoke to my Zumba class about this (except a much shorter version) last night, so it seemed like good timing to go with this one first. Oh, and this is my completely unscientific and not-so-researched advice, so if you’re looking for something more professional, try google. I’m just sharing my opinions as your blog friend. ;)

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Do you have a happy place?

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{Freeport, Bahamas – where I got married – a far away happy place}

I think there are many types of happy places, so this can be a difficult question to answer. I mean, there are physical happy places – places where you go that have positive energy or happy memories. There are happy places that you’ve longed to visit and dream about from photos. And there are many other types.

I’m talking about an easily accessible happy place where you can feel free from your daily stresses and challenges. Do you have such a place? If you don’t, maybe it’s time to find one.

I first really learned about the concept of a “happy place” from a woman, let’s call her Pattie, I met at a yarn shop I used to frequent. I took some knitting and crochet classes from Pattie and often hung out at the shop to relax and work on projects. Thankfully, she was there to help me if I ever got stuck on a pattern, to help fix my project when I dropped a loop or did something wrong, to lend me some confidence, and share a smile. The yarn shop was her happy place where she could focus on the positivity that the projects, people, and place gave her. One day, I found out that Pattie’s husband passed away. I was very sad for her and wanted to pass on my condolences, but the girls at the shop explained that I may want to do so carefully because Pattie wanted to maintain the yarn shop as her happy place. It became not only a place she naturally went to for general positivity, but also a place where, even just for a short time, she could try to forget her grieving. At the shop, Pattie could focus on the things that made her happy: not just yarn, but her beautiful creations, an inspirational atmosphere, and even just the act of helping her students, which she loves to do. It was and is a place where she could focus on all the positive energy and positive things around her.

It took me awhile to find my own happy place, but I did. And the best part for my happy place is that it isn’t a “place.”

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My happy place is my Zumba class. Not the room, not the building, not the place. It’s the class – the music, the moment, the energy in the room, and the smiles of the people in class.

No matter how stressed I am, no matter what’s going on in my life, my Zumba class is there to let me escape. I can leave my office with a headache, or even in tears, but my 60 minutes of Zumba can make me forget about it, even if just for a short time. I find it easiest to live in the moment when I’m in class because I just focus on the song (whichever one is playing at the moment), on the moves, on letting the music move me. I know this will sound kind of crazy, but if you can really learn to let go, you can feel the music and energy radiating through your body. Have you ever let music move you? Like in that moment, you’re living the song? It’s very freeing.

I leave all my worries behind when I get to class. And when I’m dancing, my mind is clear of any previous frustrations or distractions. I don’t think about how I really need to organize my house, how I have an important meeting the next day with the executives on my project, or how we have to spend a small fortune to get some plumbing fixed on our house. Nope. You know what I think about? Not much, actually. I don’t think. I let go. I sing, cheer, and dance my a-double-s off. I have a blast. I have fun. And it makes me happy.

Here are some things to think about to help you find a happy place:

  • Where is somewhere that you will not be distracted by your to-do list, daily stresses, or other worries?
  • What do you enjoy doing so much that you can really live in the moment?
  • What makes you smile?
  • Do you already do something that brings you joy and helps you “recharge your batteries”?

In this sometimes hectic holiday season, I think it’s important to find a happy place where you can retreat when you’re getting frazzled and stressed. It’s easy to let the fast pace around you pull you away from the activities and places you enjoy, but I believe that it’s important to make time for yourself, even if it’s just a little here and there. When times get challenging, make some time, go to your happy place, and do something you love. You’ll have new energy to tackle the rest of the holiday season, and I’m willing to bet you’ll feel better, too!

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Reader question: Did you figure out your happy place? What or where is it?

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