“Yeah, you should totally try it – it’s a lot of fun!”

In January 2012, I was down in the dumps, over-stressed, overweight, and trying to look for a way to get active again. I was tired of not working out and not feeling active and healthy, but I couldn’t bear the thought of spending every morning on a treadmill or elliptical. I wanted to do something fun. I heard about Zumba and decided to sign up for some classes after a couple of my friends told me I’d love it.

I was crazy scared to go to my first class, but my friends were right: it was a lot of fun. I loved the music and the moves, even though I wasn’t great at them at first. I decided this was something I could stick to, so I kept going.

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve felt like a dancer. That might sound really strange, but it’s just always something I’ve felt, like down in my soul. Maybe part of it is in my blood – my mom was a gymnast and dancer for many years. As recently as a few years ago, I’d watch shows on TV like So You Think You Can Dance, and I’d be like, yeah, I’ve got that rhythm, I feel the music, I could do that.

But I just never did it because I was scared.

After a few months of small studio classes, I was confident enough to join a gym and start attending larger Zumba classes as well. It wasn’t long before some of the amazing instructors started coming up to me after class and saying, “You’ve got mad rhythm – you should become a Zumba instructor!”

I was floored. It wasn’t something I would have ever considered. I didn’t think I was nearly good enough or in strong enough shape to teach. But I had so much fun when I was at Zumba class and felt so happy while I was doing it that I thought what the hell? And I signed up for certification.

Zumba B1 certification – with Ricardo Marmitte (the instructor).

After what was one of the most exhausting and sweaty days of my life, I had done it. I had become a certified Zumba instructor. And while going into the day, I wasn’t sure if I’d actually want to teach right away, by the time I was leaving, I was fired up. I wanted to start right then and there.


Yesterday, I celebrated one year since starting what has been one of the wildest rides I’ve ever been on.

You may be sitting there thinking, “Big deal – you became a Zumba instructor,” but in the last year, my entire life has changed. And most of those changes have, in some way or another, been sparked by Zumba.

I mean, never in a million years did I ever think I would teach Zumba to 500 (!!) people at one time, but that happened, last November.

Groovin' for the Cure, November 2012.
Groovin’ for the Cure, November 2012.

Then again, never in a million years did I think I would become a fitness instructor, period. Like, dorky, overweight, super self-conscious me? Not a chance in hell.

Zumba opened up a lot of doors for me. It gave me confidence, got me in shape,  and introduced me to an absolutely incredible social circle of positive, encouraging, and inspiring women (and men). It gave me license to shake my bum in front of strangers, dance like nobody is watching, and really just let go on a daily basis. It helped be de-stress, laugh more often, and sleep better. It helped me connect more strongly to my cultural roots through music and dance. It encouraged me to try all sorts of new things I’ve also fallen in love with, like running, climbing, lifting weights, and Pilates. It helped me clear my mind so that I am more able to focus on my biggest passion in life: writing.

It helped me say goodbye to 100lbs and counting, something I’m still trying to wrap my head around on the daily.

Sept. 2011 vs. May 2013.
Sept. 2011 vs. May 2013.

If some weirdo stranger (or Future Andrea, like in that one episode of New Girl with Future Nick) had walked up to me on the street a year and a half ago when I was preparing to go to my first Zumba class and told me that all of this was going to happen, I would have told them to go to hell or check themselves into psychiatric care. But if I’ve learned anything since then – and I think I’ve learned a lot – it’s that anything is possible.

I’m not saying it’s gonna be Zumba for everyone, but when you find that thing you connect with that makes you happy, holy shit, DO IT.

Happy one-year Anniversary, Zumba!