Tuesday, May 17, 2011

ACE, the certification

Two Saturdays ago, on May 7, after several months of studying, I took the three-hour, 150-question ACE group fitness instructor exam. I took the test at the same time as a handful of other people, all taking either the group fitness exam or the personal trainer exam. One by one, every other person plowed through their test and left the room. Two-and-a-half hours later (and alone), I finally clicked the button verifying that I was done.

Was I sure I was done? Yes. I was D-O-N-E.

And by some miracle, I passed—and by a decent enough margin that I’m convinced I might actually know a fair amount of the material.

Now, with my nationally recognized ACE certification and my two Zumba classes a week, I’m feeling a bit more confident about this whole group fitness thing.

The question is what’s next? Or at least that’s what it feels like the question should be.

Sure, I have a full-time job and the Zumba market is heavily saturated, but there seems to be small windows of opportunities—maybe even medium-sized windows. What I’d like to do is spend every minute exploring those opportunities, but alas, duty (and a paycheck that pays the bills) calls.

I’m trying to figure out which way to go: Lobby my boss to let me complete a physical education bachelor’s degree (which would require some work flexibility, unlike the evening master’s programs), or go full speed ahead with the group fitness instructor thing.

I really don’t know what to do. Part of the reason I took the time to become an ACE-certified group fitness instructor—and many Zumba (and other specialty teachers) do not have a nationally recognized certification—is because I believe in being qualified, through education, to do what you’re doing. In my opinion, this becomes even more important when you’re dealing with people’s health and wellness.

So, in THEORY, I’d like to go back to school and have a related bachelor’s degree under my belt. I also proved to myself, in studying for the ACE exam, that I am capable of learning the science—a confidence boost if nothing else.

And at some point, I need to make a choice because if I go back to school for this degree, it will be the last time I ever go back to school.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Watch It Grow

One of the big bonuses of moving out to the suburbs is having a yard, and (if spring/summer ever makes it to the Chicagoland) I am really looking forward to planting my first vegetable garden. But, as with most things that are new to me, the world of gardening initially seemed complicated and mysterious.

I started with a book called “Small Plot, High Yield Gardening,” which was helpful for some 101 information about growing seasons and vegetables that are typically easy to cultivate, but it quickly got into topics like raising rabbits so you can use their waste as fertilizer and that just seemed beyond the scope of what I was willing to put into this whole gardening thing--at least the first around.

No, really what I was looking for was low-risk, high-reward gardening--the type of gardening that requires me to plant some seeds and water them every so often. So, no rabbits for me this year, I just want to be able to walk outside and pick some tomatoes or peppers or whatever for a salad.

Feeling overwhelmed about the whole rabbit poop/fertilizer thing, I wasn’t really sure I’d get it together for a garden this year, but that’s one of the pluses (?) of living in an area where it’s still basically late winter--lots of extra time to plan your garden. Lucky for us, with that extra time we were able to wrangle the help we needed to push us to get started. When my family was in town a few weeks ago, my mom’s husband helped MM and I build raised beds for the backyard, and he bought us this cool growing kit from Burpee.

I’ll be honest, I was a little skeptical of this whole seed-starting growing kit business. It seemed maybe like something that wouldn’t actually work, but low and behold, two weeks after planting, I have seedlings for cilantro, oregono, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, and lettuce. Sometimes I just stare at the plants for 10 minutes or so, amazed that they are not dead yet. The fact that these seedlings have grown and continue to grow, noticeably it seems, every day, is a real moral booster for my gardening efforts. It feels like something may actually come of this experiment.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

The Newbie

For a long time, I looked into becoming a group fitness instructor even before I had a decent track record with fitness. Why? It always seemed like a really cool job to me. From time to time, I’d research this possibility, and the whole thing seemed very complicated. A lot of gyms require that you have a general group fitness certification from a national governing body, like ACE (American Council on Exercise) or AFAA. I didn’t really get what I would be able to do with this certification, other than say “Hey there, I’m certified to teach at your gym.” But to teach what?

I considered getting certified to teach Spinning because most gyms do not require their Spinning instructors to have the general certification. There was one small issue with this plan: I really didn’t love Spinning. From time to time, I enjoy a Spin class. I like the amount of sweating that happens in a Spin room, but it’s just not my thing.

Then, I talked running buddy Meg into trying a Sunday morning Zumba class at our gym in January 2010. It was the fastest hour of exercise I had ever participated in. I wanted the class to last longer. I wanted to dance more. Without question, I had found my thing.

I’ve been certified to teach Zumba since July 2010, and it has taken me a long time to get around to doing anything about getting a class. I did have the opportunity to audition for a Zumba class in the fall, which did not go horribly, but clearly did not result in me getting a class. I had no idea what I was doing (I’m not sure I have much of an idea of what I’m doing now), but I did learn from that experience. First and foremost, I learned to SIMPLIFY.

This year, I really wanted to make the whole Zumba thing happen, but honestly, I wasn’t sure I had it in me. Well, I lucked out. The local YMCA—which is approximately six blocks from my house—offered me the opportunity to teach two Zumba classes a week. The truth is, I did not have to work terribly hard to get these classes, but because of that I feel like I have to work even harder to prove that I deserve them.

I’ve been a bit MIA these past few weeks because I’ve been preparing myself to teach. Luckily (and somehow), I had about two-thirds of material ready to go, the bad news was that I still needed to learn a few songs in order to fill an entire class (gotta love the 45-minute format, so much easier to prepare for than an hour). There were a lot of early mornings in the dance studio at the Y practicing over the last week or so.

My first class was Tuesday night. I had prepared myself for a low turnout, but ended up having 11 people show up, which was approximately five times more than I was expecting. Not bad. After mild panic that plagued me throughout the day leading up to my 6:30pm class (not a lot of focus at work that day), I actually made it through my class with few hiccups and definitely no major meltdowns. I knew my music better than I realized I knew my music. And people seemed to enjoy themselves overall. Hey, no one walked out. That’s a decent sign, right?

It’s been a weird couple of months as evidence by a number of posts I have written. I have arguably not been having the easiest go at life lately. Frankly, I’ve really needed something. Something to focus on that is not work related. Something to help me feel more rooted in my new community. Something to get excited about it. I think, in life, sometimes something comes along that is exactly what you need when you need it. This is one of those times.