Sometimes It’s Not You: Chronicles of a Plus-Sized Zumba Instructor Part V (and a special announcement!)

It’s officially been a little over one year since I got licensed to be a Zumba instructor, and — can I tell you? — I’m exhausted (but in a good way).

I really wanted to write this post last month, but I’ve been so busy and so tired.

Around this time last year, I was contacting gym managers and I had serious doubts about whether or not I would get hired. Many people were not looking for any additional Zumba instructors. Was the market saturated? I thought. Did I just waste hundreds of dollars for nothing? I prayed about it, asked others for advice, read articles on the internet and just decided to be patient.

If you have been following my blog, you know that little by little I started getting classes to teach.

Fast forward one year: I currently teach six Zumba classes a week (three Aqua Zumba classes and three regular Zumba classes) in addition to my full-time day job at the Department of Justice where I also teach Zumba for Wellness Wednesdays and I am constantly receiving requests to teach more (after I end my stint at the Downtown YMCA at the end of this month, I will be teaching Zumba on Tuesday evenings at the Taggart Family YMCA). I also just completed training to become a Power Barbell instructor. I’m in the process of completing my Canfitpro Fitness Instructor Specialist Certification (the fitness industry is regulated almost like the legal industry. Who knew?). I’m spent (if only there were more days in the week!).

My class sizes are small, but my participants are loyal. Fiercely loyal. But I was too worried about class size to notice their dedication and devotion. There are any number of reasons why a class may be struggling in size — everything from the instructor themselves to the weather. Even famed Zumba ZES (Zumba Education Specialist) Kass Martin had only two people in her first class — and one of those people was her mom. But confidence already not being my forte, I started to wonder if it was me or something about me. Comments from my class members and lifeguards would indicate otherwise.

I had been trying to get an Aqua Zumba class at Movati for a while, but settled on subbing in the meanwhile. After I subbed a class for someone, the lifeguard sent an e-mail to the Regional Group Fitness Director (i.e. my boss’s boss) and said:

“I am a lifeguard at movati atheletics. [sic]

I also have guarding most of the Aqua Zumba classes held here at Movati.

Today a lovely instructor named Simeon [sic] covered for [name removed] in her Tuesday shift.

She came in to the room with a bright bubbly personality, great music, good relatable moves and her music cranked.

Seeing as I have seen the magority [sic] of the Aqua Zumba instroctors [sic] here at movati I will easily say that she is the best I have seen.

I have also heard most of the normal complaints with Aqua Zumba. I can’t see her class having these same issues.

Every lady that left the class wanted to know when her land Zumba class is and if she will be teaching a Aqua Zumba class.

I just wanted to share this information with you.

If you haven’t allready [sic] you should stop in at one of her Aqua classes. 🙂 .”

As a result of this e-mail, the Regional Group Fitness Director asked if I was available to teach an Aqua Zumba class on Saturdays. Obviously I couldn’t because of my beliefs, but I didn’t even have to reply — my Group Fitness Supervisor (i.e. my boss, Zara Phillips, who is also a Seventh-day Adventist), replied declaring that we are Seventh-day Adventists and as a result we do not work on Sabbath, and that I will be teaching Aqua Zumba on Sundays at Movati.

If that’s not Jesus I don’t know what is.

As a side note: Honestly, the success that I’ve had in Zumba so far is only a result of being a co-labourer with Christ. Yes, I mentioned Zumba and Jesus in the same sentence. It also goes to show that God can bless ventures that Christians don’t necessarily or immediately think of as Christ-like or godly. Does that make sense?

Anyways, back to my preoccupation with class sizes. So yes — my participants would often tell me how much they love me. The lifeguards love my music, replaying the songs they loved on my mp3 player when I wasn’t looking. My group fitness supervisors at both locations have raved about my classes, sharing with me the positive feedback that they have read or heard (and so far, as far as I know, it’s only been positive feedback). Just yesterday, my supervisor told me that one of my participants told her that, “Simone is the best Aqua Zumba instructor here. She’s so kind and caring.” I overheard someone say something similar to her the week prior. After one of my Zumba classes, I had one lady tell me, “OMG I love your class! You teach every Thursday night? I’m gonna bring all of my friends!” Sure enough, the next week she was there. At the end of the class, with the biggest smile ever, she said, “I’m never going to miss your class!”

(I admit, I kind of feel silly now, talking about my “concerns,” but here goes): I discussed my concerns with my Zumba mentor, Susan Sloan. She allowed me to teach a couple of songs in her class, and critiqued my choreography. She said, “Simone, you have the heart of a Zumba instructor and you just exude fun.” Her fundamental suggestion? Keep it simple. I went home and decided to simplify my choreo. Zara also came to some of my classes. Her comment? “Simone, you rock.”

Epiphany: So it’s not (necessarily) me.

Instead of focusing on being popular and having large classes, I have decided that it is far more important that everyone in my class feels welcome, feels safe, feels taken care of, has fun and challenges their past selves in order to birth their best selves.

This seems to be a winning strategy. Recently, the size of all of my classes has been growing. Slowly, ever so slowly, yes, but word is getting out about me. I drew a valuable life lesson from this. Sometimes it’s not you. Sometimes you can be doing all of the right things but not seeing the desired outcome. You can be eating well and having sex and still not get pregnant. You can be exercising and eating well and still not lose weight. You can be dating a whole bunch of people, “putting yourself out there” as they say, and still be hopelessly single. You can study hard for an exam and still fail. You can be giving your all as a group fitness instructor, and still have a small class. Sometimes it’s not you. Sometimes it’s just the circumstance. Part of life is learning how to live with the discomfort and yet still move forward. Not that you need to be a victim of circumstance, but each disappointment gives us an opportunity to address the unrelenting question, “Now what?” and our answer will determine the scope and depth of our disappointment. Sometimes the answer is, “I’ve given all that I got. Imma just do me and enjoy the ride.” And that’s ok too. What I needed to change was my expectation (“It’s January so my class sizes should balloon,” “If I don’t have a large class that means I’m not a good instructor”… etc.).

I have learned that small classes are not an indication of the quality of the instructor. Large classes does not a good instructor make. Come to think of it, when I used to do Zumba at ÉnergieCardio pour Elles in Montreal, we had a super small class but we always had fun. I have seen ego get the best of some instructors. As my gym supervisor once told me, “Just because you are a good instructor does not make you a good employee.”

I also haven’t lost a single pound (I think). Mind you, I haven’t been weighing myself or measuring around my waist, nor was weight loss the goal or is the goal. But I had thought, what with all of the added exercise I was doing, that I would be slimmer. Leaner. Lighter. But I’m not. Instead, I am stronger. More resilient. More confident. Happier. I feel better. I may not be thin, but becoming a Zumba instructor has made me okay with that. I appreciate and I am constantly in awe of the things my body (I reiterate: my body) is able to do and achieve. I teach six times a week in the pool and on land, I walk to and from work (my day job and often my Zumba job), I taught two Zumba classes back-to-back today and on Sunday I completed a 4-hour training session to become a Power Barbell group fitness instructor. I am hella strong. I am fit. No one on God’s green earth can tell me otherwise — no doctor, no relative, no magazine, no industry — no one. I have come to terms with the fact that this is my body. This is how it looks. This is how my body looks when it is strong and healthy. I now know that this is what fitness looks like for me. I’ll take that.

Teaching Zumba is truly one of the most rewarding activities I do during my week. I get to teach (yay!) to people who care (double yay!!), get an unintentional workout (triple yay!) and basically get paid to host dance parties almost every day, with music that I actually like (YAAAAY!!). From grieving with participants when their 18 year old cat dies, to being the only reason why someone works out (one lady told me, “I love your class, and that’s saying a lot because I hate exercise”) I truly feel so blessed to be able to do this.

…And I’m gonna pace myself and rest so I can do this for the long haul (I think I have a repetitive strain injury — any tips?). The most satisfying fatigue is when you are tired because you did something you love.

Now for the big announcement! I’ll be team teaching with Tracy Auger-Amendola during this Thursday’s Zumba class at Movati Athletics — Trainyards!!! Ahh! You need to be there! It’s gonna be lit! 🔥

Ciao for now!

Originally published at on February 10, 2017.

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I like big stories and I cannot lie. Authentic, transparent musings & connecting with others so we can all feel less alone.

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