Why I Quit Teaching Zumba…

NO IT WASN’T BECAUSE I HAVE FIBRO.

Many times I have been told that my fibro would eventually become so bad that my activity, including Zumba, would have to stop.

I want to clarify THIS IS NOT THE CASE!

Giving up teaching Zumba was a very difficult decision for me, and it wasn’t one that came suddenly. I still highly respect, and highly recommend Zumba for anyone looking for a fun and effective way to get in shape. I owe the program SO much. Yes, it started my weight loss journey, but more importantly, it gave me a love for fitness. I fully believe Zumba has impacted where I am even today. My fertility issues where impacted by my poor health…then “Surprise! You’re pregnant!” I found a job that is full of fitness oriented people and LOVE that and am SO happy with my new job! I was diagnosed with fibro, but loved Zumba so much I wouldn’t let it impact my fitness or health goals. There are probably a thousand other examples of what it has done for me and I will always be grateful for that! When I sold some of my Zumba clothes I cried. It was a very special part of my life, but it was time to move on.

I reached burn out. I suddenly began to dread getting ready for a class. NOT because I was in too much pain and NOT because I was too tried, it just kind of happened.

It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the class, or my students or how I felt after class…I just had a feeling in my gut like it was time to move on. I became an instructor as one of my “fibro isn’t going to stop me” goals and I feel I more than succeeded reaching that goal…but I needed a new one.

I wanted to do something more independent, not lead a class, or be told by an instructor what to do…I wanted to see if I could maintain my weight, my fitness goals AND my fibro on my own. I continue to be very blessed having great support in all of these areas, but at the end of the day, it’s up to me to maintain!

Shortly before finding out I was pregnant I found a love for running. Ok….honestly….it was (and still is) a love/hate relationship. It was a brand new challenge. It tested different muscles, tested my endurance, and I had to get my body (and fibro) adjusted to the change, but the more I did it, the more I enjoyed it. I could get lost in my own head, in my own music and take everything at my own pace. If I WAS hurting one day, I walked. Feeling great? Pushed myself to do a little extra distance.

I took my first run, post-baby, yesterday. It SUCKED! I loved it! It felt good to sweat and push myself again. Yes…I huffed and puffed and probably looked like a crazy person trying to find my stride again, but hey…I did it!

My new goal?

I WILL run a 5k by next summer.

I can’t wait to put another met goal under my “Fibro’s not going to stop me” list.

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What I’ve learned this week…

I started my new job this week.  So far so good!  I crammed enough learning into five days to send my fibro fog into overdrive.  By yesterday, my husband I went grocery shopping and I caught myself talking backwards.  Hey, at least I saved that for the people at Wal-Mart (along with a very confused hubby) and not the clients at the gym.  I can hear myself now “Are signed up you today Pilates?” 

Going from a nursing home to a gym is quite a switch and I’ve learned a few new things this week:

-People LOVE their early morning workouts.  At 6 a.m. on the dot, clients come in ready to work.  These people are my hero’s.  I am NOT an early morning exerciser.  I think a lot of it is because my fibro handles night work-outs much better, but truth be told, I’m not very pleasant in the morning.  I’m probably putting that lightly.

-While my Zumba® Gold chair classes are starting off slow, I had one of the best experiences while teaching this type of class this week.  I cooled down to “Feeling Good” by Michael Buble’.  http://search.yahoo.com/r/_ylt=A0oG7iWDSV9QNFkANxJXNyoA/SIG=120somkru/EXP=1348450819/**http%3a//www.youtube.com/watch%3fv=Edwsf-8F3sI  You have to click this link to this song to truly appreciate the “sultry” mood of the music. An adorable woman who attended my class LOVES this song and started singing along.  Before I know it, she’s yelling “Take it off, Take it off!”  It was a good thing this song was my cool down because I was laughing so hard I probably couldn’t have composed myself for any other songs!  Experiences like these are why I LOVE teaching Zumba®!

– People make very interesting noises while they’re working out.  Nuff said.

– I lost 3 ½ pounds this week alone!  Crazy what happens when you don’t sit behind a desk for over 8 hours a day.

– Starting a new job the same week the weather switches from 70 to 39 degrees was ridiculous!  I had fully prepared myself for a “stress from starting a new job, new schedule, oh my God…CHANGE” flare, but I was unpleasantly surprised by a “new weather” flare.  Here comes fall!

– My bosses are Filipino.  I need language lessons.  Can you imagine Fibro-fog mixed with a brand new language!  I have enough trouble with English most days!

– Our gym has partnered with the bariatric center who helped me with my diet during my weight loss.  A much needed “follow my healthy diet” has happened this week.  And if anyone out there has followed a high-protein diet, you feel my pain here.  My increase of protein has also come with an increase of gas.  Aren’t I sexy??  This partnership let me in on one a client’s start of her weight loss journey.  She lost 7 ½ pounds her first week starting with the diet and exercise program.  Seeing her do this was really amazing!

– This change has been good for my mindset.  It was time and I’m happy to make some changes in my life!

We’ll see what next week brings!

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. ~Victor Frankl

I may be putting my foot in my mouth by saying I think I “might” finally be pushing through the “grieving” process of losing my “old self” to Fibromyalgia.  I am almost three years into my diagnosis and I never imagined it would be such a long process.  I feel I’ve taken my final steps these past few weeks to enter into the last and final stage of the grieving process.  Some say there are five steps to the grieving process, some say there are seven, in my honest opinion there are probably more around the range of one hundred and two steps with someone with chronic pain, but for now, I’ll stick to the seven to see how far I’ve come:

 

1.  SHOCK & DENIAL-
For me (and probably a lot of Fibro patients) the “shock” factor wasn’t really there when I was diagnosed.  Doctors put patients through such a long mess of tests and procedures before finally reaching the fibromyalgia diagnosis, there isn’t a huge surprise that something is “actually wrong.” 

The denial, however, was definitely there.  I wasn’t in denial about having a “pain condition.”  The “Chronic” part of the condition definitely did not kick in for some time.  The thought that this was something that could last “forever” was something I refused to even think about.  As the symptoms progressed, the reality of that hit me like a ton of brick…and led me into the next stage:


2. PAIN & GUILT-
This is where I started to realize the I wasn’t the same person I used to be, and I had guilt for not taking better advantage of how my body and mind used to be.  How could I let myself get so fat and be so lazy with a perfectly able body??  Why wasn’t I more active when it wasn’t so hard to get up and move without pain and extra fatigue. I should have ridden more roller coasters when I could.  I could have slept in a little longer just because I actually “could” sleep.  The list goes on and on…and as expected, the guilt and the regret eventually lead to…

3. ANGER & BARGAINING-
Why me? Why me? Angry outbursts at my friends, my family, the cashier at Wal-Mart…whoever got into the path of the Fibro monster.

I want to add here that for me, a lot of this phase was directed at God.  I was angry, feeling I was being punished for something I had done wrong. And so I bargained with Him.  If I stop doing this, if I live this way, blah blah blah, would He heal me?  When He didn’t, I just became more and more angry.  This stage lasted a long time for me.  I’ve just now accepted why God has given me Fibro, and as my life as continued and changed so much because of it, his reasons become more and more clear. I trust Him. 

4. “DEPRESSION”, REFLECTION, LONELINESS-
This is the stage where you really learn who your true supporters are.  I know I’m not alone here by saying that when fibro came, friends slowly started to disappear.  Some people can’t handle the change, some can’t handle the depression, and in all honestly, some just aren’t as good of friends as you thought they were. 

A dear friend told me awhile back that it was time to do a “clean sweep,” so to speak, of who I had surrounding me in my life at that time.  Were they helping or supporting?  Could they accept the person I am now and let go of the person I used to be? This isn’t an easy thing to do, but after following her advice the loneliness has slowly disappeared because I never question the intent or distrust the people I have surrounding me.  Are there as many of them?  Nope.  Does it matter?  Nope.

5. THE UPWARD TURN-
This turn did not come until I stopped being afraid to take control of my life.  I’d had enough and it was time to stop rejecting this Fibro and learn to live with it.  Which leads us to:

6. RECONSTRUCTION & WORKING THROUGH-
Reconstruction is not a strong enough word.  Totally re-organizing every aspect of your life seems more accurate.  From the time you get up in the morning, what you eat, finding a realistic exercise schedule, learning how to deal with flares, finding tricks to help with fibro fog, etc.

I have done all of those things, but there was one aspect of my daily living that was due for reconstruction…my job.

This is my last week as the Business Office Manager for the nursing home I’ve worked at for the last four years.  The job came before the fibro and as I changed with the condition, my desire and feeling of a real “need” for a fresh start became over-whelming. 

I start Monday as Gym Manager for the gym where I teach Zumba.  I’m excited to have a fresh start, doing something new, and be surrounded by people who already know and support me, know my fibro, and at a place where I enjoy spending my time. 

7. ACCEPTANCE & HOPE-
I may be a foggy, tired, emotional mess at times, but I am what I am.  When I accepted my new job my new boss told me “Just be yourself” and that’s what I’m intending to do. I’m still new to this phase and may have some setbacks, but I’m trying to stay as positive as possible in letting my “old self” go.   

I’m Jennifer and I have Fibromyalgia.

It won’t be like the past, It won’t be like the past…

Friday morning, my wake-up call was answering text messages from work.  Normally I should be annoyed by this on my day off, but it was a nice distraction this particular morning.  I had to get in the shower and be on my way to my first counseling appointment at 10 and I was procrastinating.

I find it ironic that I felt anxious about going, since my purpose for going is to help find help for my anxiety. 

*It won’t be like the past, it won’t be like the past.  I hated those doctors.  This one will be good…right??*

I was relieved when I walked into the office for many reasons.  First, it was quiet and there were very few people in the waiting room.  *Good…Maybe this means I won’t have to wait and wait for my appointment.*   Second, I filled out the usual paperwork and was relieved to see a certain question on it.

“Are there any special instructions you would like the Doctor to know before your appointment today?”

*Why yes, actually…Please please please understand I can’t take anti-depressants…please?*

I had a few minutes of waiting and found it humorous that the other person in the waiting room was reading a magazine article titled “Are you Normal or Nuts?”    *hehe*

It was my turn to go in.  The doctor came to greet me and we made the walk back to his office.  We passed a room set up for children’s counseling.  In the corner of the room were what looked like kitty litter boxes.  My first thought…They have cats???  Maybe it’s for therapy?? Pet therapy??  That would be nice for the kids.  What about the smell, don’t they worry??

*Duh Jennifer, those are sand boxes for the kids to play in while they’re talking….sheesh…cats**

We made it to the office and much to my surprise, I let my guard down and word vomit spewed out quicker than I think the Doctor could keep up with, all while obsessively staring at a poster on his book shelf that said “No Whining”, which I found funny and kind of insulting all at the same time.

Reasons why I have good feelings about this guy…

He seemed fully supportive to not use anti depressants and anti anxiety medication. 

He didn’t want to dwell with what happened in my past due taking those medications.  What happened, happened.  It’s over, and I don’t want to talk about it in counseling anymore.

One of his first recommendations was meditation and breathing exercises, exactly what I’m looking for. *On a side question…Is it completely racist of me that I was a little surprised to hear that from and older white man? *

He said if I can lose 120 pounds, I can beat this.

Most importantly, he acknowledged the connection of my anxiety with my pain and with fibromyalgia…*whew*

So I have homework….diving into meditation and some books he recommended.  This isn’t easy. 

While I do my part, he plans to do his.  Work on trying to make me less of a perfectionist (When I told both my husband and Mom this, they laughed…out loud), not be as hard on myself, and working through anxiety.  He also seemed responsive to working through my insecurities I’ve developed since my fibro has developed.  Fibro fog, forgetting words, not being able to spit out coherent sentences, blah blah blah.  It, by no means, helps the anxiety.

I’m ready to dive into this and I hope I can sit down tomorrow and get into some of his reading recommendations …and not over-think it…hmmm….we’ll see how this goes!!

Weight Loss Woes…

I would like to start off by saying that I would NEVER discourage anyone from losing weight.  It’s the new year and I know there are many resolutions out there to lose weight and get healthy.  I support those resolutions 100 percent.

But…

I feel like I am in a weight loss nightmare right now. 

I know weight loss is hard.  I’ve been there.  I know some of the things I am about to complain about might not make sense to those who are having their own struggles with weight loss…but  try to hear me out.

Yes my life has changed for the better since losing weight.

 Yes I’m doing things I never thought I’d do.

Yes my physical health is better…

but my mental health is being tested.

I would like say that my weight, BMI, and fat are all normal for my height.  I’m a size 6, not a size zero, and trust me…this girl can eat and nothing is going to change that. 

I’ve been struggling a lot lately with what people have been saying to me.

I spent the majority of my day today having to answer questions and hear comments about my weight…

“You aren’t still trying to lose are you?” – NO, I’m done!

“You’re cold because you’re too skinny.” –actually I have this thing called Fibro and it’s making me more sensitive to the cold, but you wouldn’t understand.

“Did you have to buy new pants again?” – No

“Skinny Bitch.” – Um yeah…I heard that.

“You don’t need to work out anymore!” – I guess that’s true, If I want my fibro to go into a major flare.

“Do you ever eat.” – YES

“Are you eating enough” – YES

“Do you want a cookie? I’m asking but I know you won’t eat one.” – Actually I just ate one.

“Don’t show Jennifer what we’re eating, she doesn’t eat anything bad.” – Ummm…anybody see the hamburger I just ate?

“Are you sick or something?”

For some reason, it went on and on and on today and has been replaying over and over in my head.

I’ve been told these things are said to me out of jealousy.  I’ve been told to do what makes me happy and brush off these comments. I’ve been told people say these things because they’re not strong enough to do what I’ve done. 

Maybe, but lately these questions and comments are really starting to eat at me (no pun intended).

I wish people could see what the weight loss has been like since the beginning of my journey. 

I wish they could see how confusing it has been for them to start of being so supportive…at first. Then after I reached my goal, they suddenly say I’m too skinny.

I wish they could know all the reasons why I chose to lose weight, and that they go way beyond wanting to look good in a pair of jeans.  Like trying to ease the pain from a chronic condition they may not even know I have, or avoiding diabetes and constant knee pain.

I wish people would get to know the real me and not assume I’m judging them.  Like I’ve said, I’ve been there.  Why does it seem like people forget that?

I wish people knew that some people used to call me an inspiration, now they just call me a lot of things that are not so nice, and I DO hear it.

I wish people were as supportive of my loss as they are to someone who lost their weight through bariatric surgery.

I wish they knew that when they call me “too skinny” when I’m not that I have to struggle to maintain in my own head what size is realistic for me.  I had to sit with my husband tonight and honestly ask him if I was, in fact, too skinny because I’m hearing it so often and I’m starting to lose perspective of what is “normal.”  This is a terrible thing that is happening in my head right now. 

I wish people knew that when I take off my clothes at the end of the night I don’t have a nice sculpted stomach that I plan to flaunt in a bikini this summer.  My stomach is ridden with sagging skin.  A constant reminder of the heavy me. 

I wish they knew I was complaining about these things because I’m hurting from them and not because I’m rubbing my weight loss into anyone’s faces.

I wish they knew I don’t work out to “lose weight” but to be healthy, happy and strong. 

Weight loss support goes way beyond reaching that “goal weight.”  I want to say a big thank you to my friends and family who understand and have been in full support with me through all of this.  I spent tonight in tears and feeling down I am vowing now that this is the last time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Fibro Survival Kit”

As I get to talk with more and more people who suffer from fibro, it’s interesting to see how we all get through our days.  Different exercises we do, changing our diets, etc.  I’ve also come to realize we are all very particular about items we have to have to “survive.”

So…

Drum roll please…

The following is a list of items I have in my “Fibro Survival Kit” that help get me through my days…

  • Water Bottle.  I always have one with me.  I started drinking more water for my weight loss, but I do notice I have less energy and motivation when I don’t drink enough.  Plus the extra bathroom trips don’t hurt to keep me from getting stiff from sitting too long at my desk at work.
  • TWO pillows!  I have to have two.  One for my head and one to lean against.  Anything that helps sleep come easier is good for me, although I think I’m giving my husband a complex sticking a pillow in between us every night. 
  • Aleve and Tylenol P.M.  Although I don’t use them every day, they have become a necessity.  Aleve has been the ONLY thing that kicks my migraines and Tylenol P.M. comes in when the pillows don’t work.  Since I’m still doing well not taking anything else for pain, I feel o.k. taking these every once in awhile. 
  • Foam Roller.  For those of you who haven’t used one, I highly suggest trying one.  My physical therapist introduced me to the foam roller and sent me home with some instructions to use one at home.  Pretty much anything you want to use it for you can.  Back, Legs, Shoulders, arms, etc.  If you want to learn some stretches and exercises www.rollrelease.com has some great pictures and videos to learn more.  I will fair-warn you.  It’s one of those “hurts so good” items.  I’ve yelled my way through many rolls.
  • Bio-Freeze.  I tried Icy hot once and wanted to cry.  The icy was good, but the hot made me want to scratch my skin off.  Bio-Freeze is a little less intense.  I will also give a warning here, however, that if you use it on your upper body, and take a shower too soon after, you WILL have it run into places bio-freeze should NOT go!  You’ve been warned.
  • B-Vitamins.  HELLO ENERGY!
  • Heating Pad.  I usually prefer a hot bath, but there are some days when taking 2 or 3 hot baths seems excessive.
  • My little space heater under my desk at work.  My office is freezing and my co-workers are always hot.  I had ONE day already this year where I thought my fingers where going to fall off as I typed because they were so cold.  Now I have my own little hand warmer if I need it.  Best $10.00 ever spent.
  • Pajama pants and cozy sweatshirts.  I’ve mentioned it before, but some days clothes just hurt. 
  • My I-Pod.  If I’m feeling over-whelmed or can’t concentrate, music always seems to help.
  • Post-It notes, note pads, scrap paper, calendars, etc.  Anything where I can write down when I’m supposed to do what, and when to try to avoid fibro fog moments. 
  • Arthritis insoles for my Zumba shoes.  They make me feel about a hundred years old, but have helped my hips and knees more than I’d like to admit at 30 years old.

So…what’s in your fibro survival kit?

One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain. – Bob Marley

I’ve had the opportunity recently to connect with other Zumba instructors from all over the world who also suffer from Fibromyalgia or other chronic pain problems.  It’s been great to be able to chat with people who fully understand what I go through every day.  Learning to teach Zumba is a challenge in itself, but learning to teach with fibromyalgia has been a whole other adventure.  I know my Zumba experience is probably different from a person who does not suffer chronic pain, but I can only speak from my perspective and let’s face it, I’m still a newbie when it comes to teaching.  So, I called out to these fellow instructors and got some added insight on how our Zumba experience is different as we fight against chronic pain. 

I asked the question “What is your biggest challenge teaching Zumba with Fibromyalgia or other chronic pain problems.”

Chronic pain stereotypes would lead you to believe that this question is easily answered and that pain MUST be the biggest challenge.  This actually doesn’t seem to be the case at all.  In fact, I was so happy to see that this little group of chronic pain fighters are some of the most positive thinkers I have met in a long time.  For every “challenge” there seemed to be a solution, and not one of these “challenges” has stopped anyone from doing what they love to do. 

The following answers were given…plus my little insight on them…of course:

–          Added pain with changing weather.  (AMEN SISTER!!  Southern Indiana just got its first “real” snow yesterday and it damn near killed me.  It didn’t stop me from going to Zumba…also didn’t stop me from cussing out the sleet and snowflakes on my slick drive home). 

–          Stiffness in the mornings.  (A friend of mine recently planned on going to a Zumba class that started at 5:15 a.m.  HUH???  We did a Thanksgiving Zumba recently that started at 8:30 and I was so stiff my arms felt like stone.  Even when I was helping with an 11:00 a.m. class I had to make sure I got up early enough to get some of my morning stiffness out).

–          Fibro-Fog and forgetting steps.  (The instructor who posted this response said she gets through this with laughter and I agree.  I love what she said so I have to quote her “A class with laughter is a great alternative therapy.”)

–          Fatigue, being un-motivated or wanting to skip class.  (I know these days.  I’m having one right now.  Awful, grumpy, bloodshot eyed, head bobbing, just want to cry…exhaustion.  This is one aspect of fibro I don’t understand.  It’s usually on days like today that I feel SO tired all day and five minutes into Zumba I’m jumping off the walls with energy.  There seemed to be a general consensus on this topic that once the motivation or push came, we all felt much better after class).

–          “Just glad I made it through.” (I love that having a chronic pain problem has not stopped these instructors from teaching tough class.  My mentors for Zumba teach some high intensity songs and I want to be able to do the same…and I’ll be damned if Fibro is going to keep me from that!)

–          Having to pretend I don’t hurt when I do.  (This one is hard and I failed miserably at it last night as I left class early with back pain.  Instructors keep smiling, keep cuing, and keep the class motivated, while also trying to keep that high energy flowing through a whole class.  We, chronic pain sufferers, are doing the same thing but brushing off pain at the same time. This isn’t always the easiest thing to do.  I get an attitude about this sometimes when I’m having a bad fibro day.  For example, during a song full of squats when people are moaning and groaning I want to turn around and yell “Oh yeah!  You think it hurts YOU, you should try it with Fibro!”—Not that I would ever do this, but those thoughts do go through my head.)

–          There are advantages we may have over other instructors.  Because we are aware of our bodies and body pain, we may have an easier time modifying moves for different levels of Zumba experience.  (This is not only comes in handy for students, but also for ourselves.   I love this train of thought.  It’s such a great way to use our so–called  “set-backs” to our advantage.)

–          The most important statement that was worded in many different ways is that not one of these instructors dwells on the pain.  They may have to change their ways of doing some things, but the pain does not seem to be stopping anyone. 

I have to remember this positive thinking.  Last night was a rough fibro and Zumba night for me. I know it’s going to happen every once in awhile, but it’s still hard (physically and mentally) when it does happen.  I also recently ended up in tears while searching YouTube.  Did I cry from watching bad Zumba choreography?   No, just kidding.  I cried as I watched fibromyalgia documentaries and personal videos.  Some people couldn’t walk without crutches, or walk at all.  Some people were so full of pain medication I couldn’t understand their video.  Some couldn’t get in or out of a car, get out of bed on their own, or take a bath without assistance.

It was heartbreaking.  Sometimes I get so busy with my Zumba/Pilates schedule that I forget how severe fibromyalgia can be.  It’s then that I realize how grateful I am FOR that crazy schedule and how it helps me manage my fibro.  I think the instructors I have mentioned are all extremely grateful or our crazy Zumba-filled lives.  You hear so many success stories of people losing weight from Zumba or finally sticking to an exercise program, etc. But there is also a group of chronic pain fighters who are thankful for those successes and so much more.  Thankful for the ability to move, to teach, to motivate, inspire, and enjoy life!

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