Interview with an Inspiration: Zumba Instructor Loses Over 100 Pounds
I have been hearing about Zumba for months. It's all over infomercials and people at work talk about it; I even see many people posting about it on Facebook! I happen to know a Zumba instructor, Mary Ellen Fromm, and decided it would make a wonderful interview to share with the world. Luckily, she agreed! (Thanks, Mary Ellen!)
Mary Ellen teaches Zumba in Maryland and is a wonderful person. She just had a baby several months ago but was only away from Zumba for a few short weeks. She and I share many mutual friends. I do not personally know her very well, but I know she's a good person and certainly an inspiration to many. I hope you enjoy her story.
How did you discover Zumba?
I was a member at Silhouettes Ladies Fitness. They where offering it as a new class and everyone was really excited about it. I was at a plateau in my weight and just about ready to give up on myself again. My sister Emily was the one who forced me to go. I barely made it through my first class. I was over 300 pounds at the time and it was very hard. I couldn’t do most of the moves, I had two left feet and I was very out of shape. I had to stop and take a break during my first class and I almost stopped but I was having a lot of fun so I decided to push myself to get through the rest of class.
The next night my sister dragged me in there again. I was hurting from the night before still and did not want to go back. I thought she was crazy but I went. I had a blast again and I had never sweat so much working out. I made the commitment to keep going. I was attending Zumba classes and events at least 5 times a week. I became addicted.
How did you become an instructor?
My sister Emily again encouraged me to be an instructor. I remember her saying how awesome it would be to get paid to work out. I was hesitant at first because I was still much bigger then any other fitness instructor I had ever seen. My Zumba instructor Sheila encouraged me. She told the Zumba family comes in all shapes and sizes and if I was passionate about Zumba I would be successful. So I signed myself up for certification training.
Were there any certifications required?
Yes, You must attend Zumba training to become a certified Zumba instructor.
Have you ever taught any other exercise classes before moving on to Zumba?
No, I barely got off the sofa before Zumba. I would have never in a million years would have guessed I would be where I am now 5 years ago.
Do you have another job or is this your only source of income?
I want to be able to stay at home with my kids so I do Zumba in the evenings. Sometimes I baby-sit during the day. This way I can be with them and only work a few hours a day during the time I would be working out anyway.
Where do you lead your Zumba classes?
I currently (or at least by the time this is published) teach 10 Zumba classes and 2 Zumbatomic (Zumba for kids) classes a week. In Rosedale, Overlea and coming soon in Towson. I also have Zumba events and parties almost every weekend.
My class schedule can be found at: http://maryellenbaltimorezumba.wordpress.com
How many days a week do you Zumba?
I Zumba 6 days a week but I am planning on adding the 7th day soon. Most days I teach more then one class. I have taught 10 at one time. I know of instructors that teach 28 classes a week. I feel almost addicted. I just want to do more and more. I even like to take other instructors classes too.
Does your husband Zumba with you?
My husband Jim usually has to watch the boys Jameson 3 and Avery 3 months but he does come as often as he can. He also will do a song or two with me while I practice from time to time. Although he sometimes gets distracted by all my sexy moves..lol
Is there a niche group of Zumba-ers, such as twenty-something women?
No, The best part of Zumba is anyone can do it. I have had people as young as 4 and as old as 90 in my classes. As long as you are moving you are doing Zumba right. So with variations anyone can do it. I did it at 350 pounds and I have done it 9 months pregnant. If I can do that anyone can. I have even had wheel chair bound students and blind students. They may not be able to do every move but you don’t have to be perfect.
Who should Zumba?
Anyone can do it. Everyone should try it.
Can children and elderly Zumba?
Yes, In fact we have Zumbatomic just for kids and Zumba gold for the elderly. They also have Zumba toning and Aqua Zumba.
Are there any risks to Zumba?
Participants should always consult with their doctor before taking on a new fitness program.
How much weight have you lost?
I lost 100 pounds before getting pregnant in September .
Have you tried other exercises and diets with any success before Zumba?
I did Weight Watchers, diet pills, Slim Fast, Ta Boe, and countless other exercises and diets but I just kept losing 30 pounds and then gaining more back... Until I found Zumba.
In addition to Zumba, have you altered your eating habits in any way to produce this weight loss?
We try to eat as much local fresh food as we can. Try to stay away from most processed foods. Although I am far from perfect.
How long have you been trying to lose weight?
I remember going on my first diet/ exercise regimen when I was going into high school.
Is there any special supplies or equipment needed?
No come as you are. Although if you really like Zumba I recommend investing in a good pair of Zumba or dance shoes.
I'm hearing about Aqua Zumba, have you tried this or do you have any plans to incorporate this into your routine?
I tried it for the first time this weekend. I would like to take it again sometime but I don’t plan to ever teach it. The next certification I will be getting is Zumba toning.
What would you say to those who want to purchase Zumba DVDs rather than taking a group session?
The Zumba DVD’s are really amazing but taking a class with a group of Zumba fanatics is a real party. We really have fun. We hoot, holler, sing, and sweat. Plus we motivate each other to keep coming to classes.
Do you need to know how to dance/be coordinated to do Zumba?
No, I started with off beat with 2 left feet.
Have you always enjoyed dancing, and has this improved your dancing ability in any way?
I have always loved to dance for fun but I was never very good at it and I always felt awkward and out of place on the dance floor. I was usually the one dancing all night long at wedding receptions after a few drinks. The other day a student told me I look like I have danced my so life it comes so natural. She has no clue how silly I look at home learning these new moves. It hasn’t been easy but it has been fun.
I know Zumba typically uses Spanish music and Spanish dances, but do you ever incorporate other music and dance styles into your classes?
Yes, We use so many different rhythms. We have swing, belly dancing, Greek, hip hop, Salsa, Meringue, Reggaton, Cumbia, Bollywood and so many more I could not name them all. Each Zumba class is made up of at least 70% international music.
Do you ever feel burned out from being a Zumba instructor?
I do get sore muscles often but in general I feel better physically then I have in my entire life. The work out never gets boring because we add new songs almost every week.
How long do you see yourself being a Zumba instructor?
I don’t ever want to stop. I joke that my retirement plan is Zumba gold.
How do you stay motivated?
Sometimes it is hard especially when I was pregnant. My sister has been an amazing support system. She has lost 80 pounds thanks to Zumba and is now an instructor too. We team teach a few times a week and it is so much fun. I look forward to going to Zumba all day.
Since you have such a large following, do you ever feel like a quasi-celebrity?
It is so weird for me. I have people tell me all the time that I have inspired them and I am so happy to have done it but I never set out to be anything other then a fit mommy. As weird as it is I still embrace it. If my story can motivate someone else to get off the couch and into a Zumba class that inspires me to keep going and encourage others to join the Zumba party.
Why do you think Zumba has become such a craze over the last few years?
It is fun, anyone can do it. Plus it is effective.
If you could use one or two words to describe Zumba, your experience, or your feelings about Zumba, what would they be?
Can you give a little information regarding Zumba during your pregnancy?
When I was considering becoming a Zumba instructor I was hesitant at first. We had been trying to have a baby for some time. I thought well maybe after the baby is born I’d get certified. Until one night at a Zumba party there was a pregnant instructor teaching and she could move better then anyone else in the room. I thought if she can do it I could do it and I decided to work towards my goal of becoming an instructor. I taught for 4 months and In the same month I reached my milestone 100 pound weight loss I also found out I was expecting.
In part I think the weight loss helped me to become pregnant. All the sexy dance moves being practiced around the house did not hurt either. With my doctors guidance I set a goal to keep teaching until I couldn’t anymore and boy did I. My doctor told me since I was already fit when getting pregnant he saw no reason for me to stop unless there was a medical reason and luckily nothing like that happened. Morning sickness was hard but somehow after the fist song or two I felt better then I did the entire rest of the day. I was able to sleep well my entire pregnancy, I had a huge belly but I felt great. Not like my pregnant friends that where having all kinds of trouble getting around.
I taught 8 Zumba class a week until I was 35 weeks pregnant. I could have kept going but since I was no longer able to keep up with the high intensity moves I thought I’d step aside and let my sister take over for me. I continued to take 4 classes a week until the day I had my scheduled c-section. My son was 9.4 pounds and 22 inches. I was dancing with a whole lot of baby in me.
By the end of class the after only 3 weeks I was begging my doctor to let me go back. He gave me permission and I have not missed a class since. It was most amazing how much I missed it when I was recovering. It really has been a great cure to my depression and anxiety with which I have suffered, so not being able to do it was hard.
Having a fit pregnancy helped me to get around in the hospital so much better. I was up and walking the day after my c-section. I never really had much pain and I thank Zumba for that too.
Any closing remarks?
An amazing Zumba experience I had was meeting Beto the founder of Zumba at the 2010 Zumba instructor convention. I thanked him for Zumba and told him how much weight I had lost. He said “That’s amazing, Inspire others.” That is exactly what I plan to do.
Mary Ellen’s website: http://maryellenbaltimorezumba.wordpress.com. You can also find her on Facebook.
From Mary Ellen’s website, her self-written bio:
“Mary Ellen struggled with her weight for years, and after the birth of her son she found herself out of shape, exhausted, and three hundred and twenty pounds. With a brand new baby boy and the desire to be an active and involved mother she knew, if she wanted to be around long enough to watch her son become a man and to make sure her son would not adopt her unhealthy lifestyle, she would have to make big changes.
With her son as her inspiration she joined a gym and began working out. Although she loved the way working out made her feel, she found it to be a lot more work then fun and often became discouraged by the slow weight loss. That was until she found Zumba. She had no dance background and two left feet, and although she was unwilling her sister dragged her to her first class. Mary Ellen begrudgingly began the class, but did not even make it through her first hour without having to stop and take a break. Even though it was very challenging for her, she knew she never sweated that much and had fun working out before. The more classes she took the easier it became, and the more confident Mary Ellen became.
“In June of 2010 she became a certified Zumba instructor, and in August 2010 she became certified in Zumbatomic at the Zumba instructor convention in Orlando. Here she also learned new forms of dance like Belly Dance, Hip Hop, African dance, etc. In only one year of Zumba classes several times a week and local eating she has lost 100 pounds and went from a size 28 to a size 14. She is confident with Zumba she will reach her goals. She is very excited to share her love of Zumba with you. It changed her life and it could change yours too.”