How Zumba® Inspired 5 Teachers and Students

Posted by on Nov 12, 2013 in Featured Posts, News | Comments Off on How Zumba® Inspired 5 Teachers and Students

An Article from Zlife Magazine

Can a dance class change your life? For these five instructors and students, Zumba®

class was the launching pad for more than just getting in shape. Here’s what Zumba® class inspired them to do…


To Dance At My Daughter’s Wedding
For most of her life, Jill Wilson was petrified at the thought of dancing in public. Even dancing in the privacy of her own home, curtains drawn, gave her heart palpitations. “At my wedding in 1974 I hid in the ladies’ room when it was time for the first dance,” says Wilson. “I had a true fear of dancing; it paralyzed me.” Almost 40 years later, at the age of 57, all that changed.

A couple of years ago, Wilson’s daughter came to visit. Wilson was amazed by how healthy, slim and fit her daughter looked. She had discovered Zumba® Fitness — and encouraged Wilson to inconspicuously slip into the back of classes at her local gym. Much to Wilson’s surprise, she was hooked from the first class. When the music started, her shyness and reservations disappeared. According to Wilson, dancing freed her inner child and became the ultimate mood elevator, with the additional benefits of stress relief and emerging muscle. Now, not only has Wilson earned her Zumba® license in hopes of some day becoming an instructor, she is sharing the dance floor — and the dancing bug — with her husband. They are enjoying taking ballroom dance lessons together. Best of all, her daughter is getting married in September — and she can’t wait to dance at her wedding.

To Teach Zumba® Classes When No One Else Would
Karla Gibson is just an Okie from Muskogee, as the country song goes. She rarely danced, but upon discovering Zumba® classes, she went from doing an occasional line dance to learning Latin grooves. And though there were many more steps to learn, she immersed herself in it from day one. In awe of her instructor and the way she moved, Gibson was heartbroken when she suddenly moved away. The gym scoured the area for a new teacher, but being in such a small town, came up with nothing. In fact, there were no instructors anywhere in the vicinity to fill the position. So Gibson took it upon herself to do so.

Stepping out of her comfort zone, in less than a year she emerged from the back of the class to the front. Once licensed, Gibson was a bundle of nerves for weeks before she started teaching, suffering from acid reflux and heartburn. To overcome her fear, she decided to pick a day and put a class on the gym calendar. She taught her first class on her 43rd birthday. After class she had to go to the doctor and get a steroid shot for severe hives, but she didn’t let the hives hinder her newfound passion.

The jitters are gone, and Gibson now teaches five classes a week. “I am learning more and more every day and loving it,” says Gibson. “Still trying to samba my way into becoming a seasoned instructor.”

To Break Out Of My Shell
As a former wallflower struggling with obesity, Shellie Austin was once so insecure that she wished she were invisible. No one, including herself, would have imagined that one day she would be in front of a room leading a Zumba® class.

At her highest weight, she simply stopped leaving the house. Diagnosed with depression, she hid on her couch and escaped into the television, retreating from life itself. “Then I had an epiphany moment,” says Austin. “I realized I did not like what I’d become and I could change it. The realization that I was not a victim was empowering, and I started changing my lifestyle.” As she began to eat better and move more, the numbers on the scale started creeping downward. Yet she was still mortified when a friend invited her to Zumba® class, having never exercised in front of anyone else before. Stepping into a class dominated by toned bodies was daunting, and she felt out of step and out of sorts, vowing never to go back. Yet she pushed past the mental and physical pain and the third time was a charm; Austin was transformed. She realized that underneath it all, she was a woman who loved to be happy and healthy, to dance and to sweat.

To celebrate the 100-pound mark in her weight-loss journey, Austin’s Zumba® instructor encouraged her to get her own teaching license. She once again fought the wallflower urge and now teaches classes. Austin says she finds her students feel more comfortable with her knowing she hasn’t always been thin. Pulled from the shadows and into the spotlight, Austin says she has come full circle and is now able to empower others.

To Dance in a Halftime Show … With my Dad
When Elizabeth Bingham, an instructor in Los Angeles, participated in Zumba® Fitness-themed halftime shows during WNBA Sparks and NBA Clippers games, her father, Chris, was always in the bleachers watching and giving her full support. After one such game, he mentioned that it looked like so much fun he might want to do a halftime show himself.

In true “be careful what you wish for” fashion, there soon was a call for performers for an upcoming Clippers game. Bingham signed both of them up without a word to her father. He was shocked when she told him the news. An electrical contractor by day, he had never danced a day in his life. With one month to practice, daughter now supported father, running through the choreography several times before leaving him on his own to work on the moves. With his wife out of town, he had the privacy to practice with wild abandon. Little did he know that some of the neighbors caught glimpses through the kitchen window, creating a buzz in his quiet neighborhood.

Finally the big day came. Fighting nerves, he was a crowd-pleaser during the performance — even making it on to the big screen for a few seconds. Chris now attends his daughter’s Zumba® classes and has become quite the popular fixure. “The funny thing is that now my students seem more excited to see my dad in class than they are to see me,” says Bingham, laughing.

To Push Past Post-Partum Depression
For almost a decade, Victoria Pena had been on a diet, grading her workouts — and ultimately her entire day — by the number on a cardio machine’s calorie counter.

When she became pregnant with her first child, the stress of finishing graduate school and becoming a mom was so overwhelming that instead of being a glowing pregnant woman, she was sad, worried and nervous and gained twice the recommended weight. Then full-on depression set in. “I experienced a sadness so deep that I believed the old me was gone forever,” says Pena. “My beautiful daughter seemed too good to be true, and I constantly felt that she deserved a better mom.” The person who had previously managed two jobs, full-time graduate school, workouts and a clean house was gone. In her place was a despondent stay-at-home mom with a master’s degree, no job prospects and a messy house. At her worst, she stayed in bed with the baby for days at a time.

A commercial motivated her to buy the Zumba® Fitness game for her Wii gaming system, and she tried it for a few minutes each day. She hadn’t experienced the kind of joy it brought in a year. Soon, sessions got longer, and she was propping her baby up in her high chair so she too could get in on the action. The joy was contagious; her daughter would watch intensely, smiling and bobbing her head to the music.

Pena eventually made it back to the gym, but having never been a fan of group workouts, she avoided the Zumba® class. Finally she grew bored with the elliptical machine and decided to join in. Pena says she forgot about counting calories. The more she attended, the more she began to appreciate life again. Zumba® Fitness, she says, changed her from a depressed new mom lacking confidence and direction to a fitter, more capable version of herself — happier now than ever.

Excerpted from the Summer 2013 issue of Z-LIFE Magazine