summer bod: push beyond

as we head into week #4 of the 12-weeks to a summer bod, you should be getting into the groove, learning to integrate nutritious eating into your lifestyle, and quite possibly seeing some physical progress toward reaching your goals.  now it’s time to shake things up a bit.  such is life. once you’re just getting comfortable, it up and changes on you. for workouts, it’s recommended that you switch up your routine every 4-6 weeks so you keep your body guessing, but i’m not talking about that.  i’m talking about pushing yourself to push beyond your comfort zone and try something new.  case in point: my little excursion at the gym this saturday.

i picked up a copy of the new oxygen abs collector’s issue (in bookstores now – and fab by the way!) which listed the top 4 fat-burning cardio workouts that incinerate fat to expose those 6-pack abs.  along with running, beach volleyball, and ultimate frisbee, they listed zumba.  my limited knowledge of zumba is what i’ve seen at fitness conventions and it’s usually super cute girls in little outfits shaking their groove-thang.  now i love cardio – but i’m just of the mindset that if i’m not in pain or dripping sweat (read: stepmill, running sprints, or a grueling spin class), it’s not worth my time.  but if oxygen said it – i knew i had to try it.  my girlfriend had just told me she tried out the new zumba class at our 24 hour club so i promised myself i’d try it out this past saturday morning.  in case you’re unfamiliar, zumba “fuses hypnotic latin rhythms and easy-to-follow moves to create a one-of-a-kind fitness routines that combine interval training with fast and slow rhythms and resistance training to tone and sculpt your body while burning fat.”  what does this mean to me?  dancey routines that have me lost and getting no workout.  however i decided to go and try it out – all the while kicking and screaming (in my head of course) and thinking to myself that i’d be better off just hopping on the stepmill for a half-hour.  and so ensues the next hour my slightly hilarious, but surprisingly insightful attempt at zumba.

my #1 requirement of any class – the instructor better look good…i want to envy (ok just admire) their physique.  and so enters the little brunette barbie with proportions to die for, the cute little outfit, and a 6-pack abs serving as proof that oxygen knows what they’re talking about.  feeling about as comfortable as a fish out of water (yes – even me, little-miss-show-off gets shy and uncomfortable sometimes) – i felt out of my element.  put me in a weight room and i can throw around plates with the best of them, but as the music started and her hips started swaying all that i could think to myself was that i SO did not know what i was doing.  i could have bailed – instead i learned more about myself than i ever thought an hour-long zumba session could teach me.

to embrace having fun, i channeled my inner: 5-year old
tell me the last time you saw a little child caring what any one thought.  that’s what i love about kids.  you inevitably will see a little girl walking through the store with her mom in a pink tutu, a green striped shirt and red cowboy boots and she is smiling ear to ear.  they flail about and play without a care, and i often watch them and envy that ability to be so carefree.  after about 15 minutes into the class i stopped watching everyone else around me and wondering if they saw me tripping all over myself, and realized how much fun i was having.  it felt so freeing to stop worrying about what i looked like and instead just let go, let my hips shake (even if they were going in the wrong direction), and  just having fun.

to get through the routine (im)perfectly i channeled my inner: cheerleader
i’m sure it comes no surprise that i was a cheerleader – it fits my peppy and outgoing personality.  however (i think i get this from my mom) i have somewhat of a perfectionist personality. i always want to understand and “get it” before i can really get into something.  i wanted to stop the class and ask the instructor to teach me the moves!  wait – you’re going to fast…i can’t keep up…how in the heck do you move your hips like that?  but what i also realized was that, just like life, the music just goes on and it’s up to us to keep up.  as soon as i got over needing to know each step perfectly i actually realized that i can enjoy doing something, even if i’m not “perfect”.  [side note: i am not nor do i think i can be perfect - there is no such thing and the author realizes this to be a character flaw at times.]

to add a little “flava” into the moves, i channeled my inner: latina
now while it may sound like i have no rhythm because of my sheer fear of this class, i actually can dance. case in point: a recent wedding in mexico where i was amidst about 400+ mexicanos dancing to everything from salsa to cumbia and banda.  and i must say that i held my own. possibly a little credit goes to the tequila (ha!), but seriously i was having fun because i was with people i love and didn’t care if i looked like a fool.  and it’s amazing that when you have that confidence, how you forget all about what you look like and just enjoy life.  when the instructor started integrating a little salsa into the zumba routine i relaxed a little and realized if i just approached it as “dancing”, i would be just fine. on that same trip to mexico, i had a similar little freeing experience on my morning run where i happened upon some random salsa workout on the beach where i joined in but had a blast because i knew i’d never see those people again in my life.

to take in the experience, i channeled my inner: belly dancer
my brother met and married an armenian girl from lebanon, so i was blessed to have the opportunity to go there for their wedding a few years ago.  after the wedding was just one big dance party.  my sister-in-law patiently taught me (or tried anyway) to master belly dancing, however i still have no idea how she moves her hips like she does.  (in my defense, she’s been doing this since she was a wee little one.)  at the wedding, right there in the middle of all the armenians was me…doing the debke (a lebanese type of line dance) and attempting to belly dance.  me shy?  no.  because part of experiencing the culture for me was partaking in their dance.  and in the same way, when the zumba instructor added the belly dancing moves into the routine, it was a little glimmer of “hey i know how to do that”!  even though my hips still (and probably never will) t move like my sister-in-law’s.

to feel a little sexy, i channeled my inner: diva
about half-way through the class i realized why i felt so awkward.  i’m in my sweaty gym clothes and have my tennies on.  put me in stilettos and i could have rocked that class!  there’s something about a cute little dress and high heels that give me confidence and instantaneously i can dance like nobody’s business.  not so in zumba.  i look in the mirror with my frizzy little ponytail and sweat-soaked gym clothes and the image looking back at me was anything but sexy.  now that seemed not to be the case for our instructor because, as described previously, yeah she was sexy. but then i realized being sexy isn’t a physical appearance but a state of being and an inner-confidence.  once i started dancing and getting into it, low and behold i must say i saw a (small) glimmer of sexy come through.

how did i take all that from one hour-long zumba class?  well i’ve found that life gives us the gift of learning something new every day if we just slow down long enough to take it all in.  as a workout, it actually was a pretty good sweat session.  i know it would be an even better workout if i learned the moves and could get into it more.  but the take-home for me wasn’t how many calories i burned, but what i learned about myself.

weekly fitness challenge: try something new
follow my lead and push yourself beyond your comfort zone this week.  for workouts, continue to lift 1 body part per day for 5 days and do cardio 6 (click here for full workout from last week).  we’ll change that up next week – but stay on the same program, making sure that you’re pushing yourself on the last rep, you keep moving like a mad (wo)man in between sets, and your cardio is intense.  but your challenge this week is to try 1 new thing that you’ve been wanting to.  have you been wanting to take up a new sport but you’re afraid you won’t be any good?  have you been shying away from the weight room because you’re afraid you won’t know what you’re doing?  did you used to love martial arts as a child and would love to get back into it?  or is there a class at the gym (like my zumba class) that intrigues you but you’re just hesitant to try?   do it. plan it in  your fitbook - write it down and then DO IT.  mixing up your workouts is good for your body, but more so it’s good to add variety.  workouts should be tough – but you should also enjoy them.  if you don’t, you’ll never stick to a workout program.  find what you love and working out becomes a joy.

weekly nutrition challenge: explore new foods
along the same theme – your challenge this week is to try at least 1 new food in each food group.  we often get in food ruts and sometimes you miss out on foods not only that are really good for you, but that you might just love too.  below are a few ideas for foods that you may or may not consume very often (if ever).  include this in your weekly goals so that you open up your (food) world and get a little taste of something new:

fruits: pomegranate, kiwi (brush off the fuzzies and try it with the skin!), persimmons
veggies: kale, broccoli rapini, sugar snap peas, pumpkin (click for my protein shake recipe – and more)
whole grains: quinoa (pronounced keen-wa), cous cous, brown rice pasta, lentils
protein: buffalo/bison, egg whites, edamame (soy beans), grass-fed beef, organic chicken
healthy fat: almond butter, avocado, coconut oil
dairy: non-fat greek yogurt,  low-fat ricotta cheese, laughing cow lite cheeses (an HG fave)

approach this week with a fresh new perspective.  you’ll be amazed how adding in new things can keep you invigorated and motivated.  my last question for you is this:

what would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?

truth is this: we spend so much time worrying about what everyone else thinks of us.  but dare to imagine your life if you lived every day as if it were you last and did not stop to care what anyone else thinks.  push yourself. go beyond.  and live your life….and of course, live life fit.

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