STRONG by Zumba™ Is Different from a Zumba® Class

How does STRONG by Zumba differ from a Zumba® class?

A traditional Zumba® class is based on the integration of dance and dance-type movements, creating a high-cardio, total-body workout.

STRONG by Zumba is a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) class using more traditional fitness moves for a more athletic, conditioning-style workout. You use your own body weight as resistance to achieve muscle definition. There are movements inspired by dance but these are limited compared to a Zumba® class, so it’s perfect for those not comfortable in a full-out dance class.

Both classes are driven by a unique musical experience unlike anything else in the industry.

Eat less, move more? A practical approach to part 2 – moving more

This is part 2 of how to lose weight – eat less (part 1) is listed here.

So, you know you need to move more, and as discussed in part 1, you know you need a 500 calorie deficit per day in order to lose 1 pound per week (a 1 to 2 pound per week weight loss rate is considered healthy). A general recommendation is that you get 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate intensity aerobic exercise AND 2 days a week of muscle strengthening activities (source: CDC: How much physical activity do adults need?). How are you going to do this?

QUESTION: What do you like to do?

If you don’t move your body more in a way that you like, chances are, you aren’t going to stick with it. Adherence is the key and glue to any healthy lifestyle! If you don’t keep doing it, you aren’t helping yourself out! Here are a few things to help you out, and a lot of them are really simple!

  1. Walking? This seems so simple, but if you like to walk, you might be amazed how easy this is to build up your routine! If you live in a safe neighborhood, try walking around few blocks a day to get yourself built up. Set yourself a number of steps goal so you can measure this. Get a pedometer (step counter) to help you here – they are often free or nearly free. What is a good goal? 10,000 – but you don’t have to start there! Get going at 3,000 / day for week one, and add 500 to 1,000 steps / day until you can get yourself to 10,000 steps a day. How can you do some easy things to help you accomplish this? Park far away where ever you go – avoid the urge to search endlessly for that often elusive close spot. Walk an indoor space or park with a lot of people watching opportunities – this will help keep your mind off the task and help you hit your numbers. Lastly, walking is FREE! Unless you do it at a mall, and find a really cute outfit or pair of shoes or something else while walking that catches your eye 😉 Move this to a brisk walk to get you to the CDC target!
  2. At home workouts? I have a couple of HUGE cautions here – at home workouts are so easy to skip and there are some dangerous stuff posted online. We get into our normal habits as soon as we get home, so we often will find any excuse to skip these. I only bring this option up because budget can often be a concern, and at home workouts can be free – yes, FREE. You can find a lot of stuff online for bodyweight based exercised (think boot camp, cardio, etc). Find a spot in your home that you can do this – and then stick to doing your workouts in that space. This will help you with adherence! If you choose to go this route, carve out 30 to 60 minutes every single day to dedicate to your workout and do it for at least 3 weeks consistently. This will help you build it into your daily routine. CAUTION: don’t find excuses to skip and be careful that what you find is coming from a reputable source to ensure you are moving your body safely.
  3. Muscular strengthening? This will likely come with an investment – either to build an at home gym (see above about excuses) or a gym membership. Frankly, everyone needs some resistance training in their lives. We should all be doing some sort of weight bearing exercising every week. The CDC recommends at least 2 days a week of muscle strengthening exercise, defined as: “Physical activity, including exercise that increases skeletal muscle strength, power, endurance, and mass.” What counts?
    1. Lifting weights (you may wish to seek council of a Personal Trainer to help you get started)
    2. Working with resistance bands (seek out a group Personal Training class to help introduce you to these devices, as they can be dangerous)
    3. Doing exercises that use your body weight for resistance (i.e., push ups, sit ups)
    4. Heavy gardening (i.e., digging, shoveling)
    5. Yoga
  4. Class or Group Fitness? Whether you choose to go this route, let me tell you that this is what hooked me! You don’t have to join a gym or fitness club to do this, as often you can find boutique studios that can give you the benefits of everything above. There are many benefits to going this route:
    1. Other people in class to keep you motivated
    2. Feeling a part of a crowd, so you’re just kind of going with the flow
    3. Accountability – if you pay for it, you will feel motivated to ensure you get maximum benefit for your dollars
    4. Cheaper than Personal Training, but with the design and science of fitness experts
    5. You can find a class that works for you! Step? Zumba (dance)? Weight lifting / toning? You name it, it’s out there for you. The variety is impressive. My suggestion here is to try many different classes to find a few classes that you like, and keep doing it. Then, after a couple months, change it up! Make sure those classes keep changing moves and music to keep your body guessing!
  5. Fitness Center / Club / Gym? This will be a fee here, but you’ll get a lot of value for that cost. Many people find they need one of these facilities, but either get intimidated or find excuses to not go. Here’s a secret most them don’t want you to know: If you don’t go, but still send them money every month? They LOVE that! Get value for your money and GO GO GO! Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of joining a gym:
    1. Find one that is near to work or home so it’s easy to make it as part of your commute. If you like to workout in the morning, do it on your way to work. Vice verse. If you don’t have one right near either of those places, find one that’s on the way – then make it a crucial stop every single day.
    2. Find a facility that offers what you want! Do you like a steam room, sauna, hot tub, pool, etc? Get a tour before you join. Do they offer personal trainers? Every club will give you a free tour and answer any questions you may have before you join. Do your due diligence.
    3. Have a (healthy) buddy that likes a certain facility? Having a gym buddy helps you with adherence and motivation to work your hardest! Join the club your friend is a member of, and that’ll make sure your butt gets in there several times a week.

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider, but it doesn’t have to be hard. There are a ton of resources out there for you! The only thing holding you back is YOU!

Eat less, move more? A practical approach to part 1 – eating less (or smarter)

I don’t know what has been going on lately, but I’ve been approached recently about how to lose weight by several people. I answer with the basics: eat less, move more. It’s math! If you want to lose weight, you have to put your body into a calorie deficit. That deficit needs to be about 500 less per day in order to lose 1 pound a week. Here’s the deal, if it were simply this easy, more people would be living a fit lifestyle. So, in that vain, let’s break it down!

Eat less (or eat smarter)

First things first: how many calories do you need in a day? This varies by individual, but most humans need about 2,000 calories a day to sustain basic activities plus a little vigorous movement. Also, do you eat out? Ask about the number of calories in the food you order. You need to get a handle on what you are inserting into your body before you can make a concerted effort to reduce.


  1. Record the food you eat every single day for a week. *** Scroll all the way down for a link to a food journal to help you here ***
    1. It’s OKAY to miss a few things here and there, but try to get a baseline.
    2. Food labels will help you here – but remember to do the full math. Note the number of servings – so if you eat the entire package, you’ll need to multiply the calories by the number of servings.food_label
  2. Once you have your number of calories in a day and week, let’s breakdown the rest of what major categories of nutrients you need: fat, carbs, and protein.
    1. You can find all this on the food label as well.
    2. Add up the number of percentages – these are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. If you get over 100% in any category, this may be a red flag on something you want to watch moving forward.
  3. Now, let’s get a plan in place! First of all, let’s ensure we’re putting a healthy balance of nutrients into your body!
    1. Carbs are NOT your enemy! You need these for quick energy! Expect to get around 50% of your daily calories here. The trick is to focus on complex carbohydrates, not simple. Try to avoid high sugar content, and instead, focus on whole grains that will include the calories along with a healthy amount of fiber.
    2. Fat – the easiest way to reduce what you put into your body. We all still need it, but not nearly in the high number we ingest on a daily basis. Fats are used a lot as food preservatives, so you’ll find very high numbers here! Something you might have noticed in step #2 is how high this number is. You will need to get about 20 – 30% of your calories from fat – and try to focus on unsaturated fats versus saturated. Healthy sources of fat would include lean poultry, fish and healthy oils, such as olive, canola and nut oils. Limit less healthy full-fat dairy products, desserts, pizza, burgers, sausage and other fatty meats.
    3. Protein – Emphasize plant sources of protein, such as beans, lentils, soy products and unsalted nuts. These high-protein foods have the added bonus of being higher in health-enhancing nutrients than are animal sources of protein. Eat seafood twice a week. Meat, poultry and dairy products should be lean or low fat. Get 15 to 30% of your total daily calories from protein.
    4. Water – drink lots of water! Good ole H2O makes up a HUGE portion of the human body, and we need to drink this. In the world of drink this, not that – stick to water, just water, and nothing but water, thank you very much! If you don’t have a healthy source from a tap, you can buy bottled water, but better yet: get yourself a reusable water bottle and fill it up at home before you leave the house. Ensure you drink the entire thing 2-3 times through, every single day. Make this a habit! You might be amazed that when you cut out the soda and other sugary drinks with more water, how much better you feel! You need 8 8oz glasses of water (i.e. 64 ounces of water) every day. So, if your water bottle holds 32 ounces, you need 2 full bottles every day.
  4. DO NOT DIET!!!!!!!! I can’t emphasize this enough: DIETS DON’T WORK. Healthy lifestyles work – long term. While a diet may work in the short term, you will eventually go back to your old ways, and you can pack the weight back on faster when your body loses its efficiency in working with what you’re doing now versus adapting to the diet.

Use the food journal I’ve included here, and get a handle on your daily food intake. This is your first step in getting a handle on phase 1! Once you have a handle on this, you can then put a plan in place. This phase alone will likely have a big impact on your life, as you become aware of how you are fueling your body’s energy needs.

DOWNLOAD: Bryan Miller Fitness Food Journal

Next month, I’ll post about how to move more: finding what moves you, excites you, things you like to do, and then: how to challenge yourself to do more!

Cardio Does NOT Make You FAT!

I saw a blog article posted online, and immediately found so much wrong with it. I’m not going to say anything negative about the author, because that wouldn’t help matters, but I will say that putting purely one-sided information out there (without citations, I must add), can lead to unintended consequences. I am certified by 3 different agencies for group fitness and aquatic fitness, and am also working on my Personal Trainer certification (expect to achieve by April 10). My qualifications aside, the data from any one study can easily be countered by another, especially if you consider whose side a study is being funded by or written for.

Cardio does NOT make you fat! Lifting weight does NOT make you bulk up! Fat gain / loss is a mathematical calculation – caloric intake minus expenditure will equal either a surplus or deficit. The quality of those calories also plays a part. The body gets energy from calories, and grams of everything we put in our bodies have varying levels of energy to fuel us. Knowing how you workout and what you consume will help you tailor your diet to your physical activity levels in order to achieve goals that are specific to you. You should seek the help of a nutritionist for assistance here.

Remember this: an overall lean physique (i.e. a six-pack) begins at the mouth, not at the feet! Just because you do an hour of cardio every day does NOT mean you can now splurge and consume that Burger and Fries, washing it down with a Milkshake!

It is true that your body will adapt to exercise methodologies, so I always suggest to my clients to constantly change up how they are working out! THAT is how you counter the adaptation principle. If you only lift weights, your body adapts, so you’ll always need to be increasing your weight and/or repetitions. If you only do cardio, you consistently need to change how your body is working for that same cardio burn and/or increase / alternate your activity levels. Multiple studies prove that intermittent and interval training (i.e. Zumba, HIIT, Tabata, etc) work the best to combat the adaptation principle in cardio.

A balanced workout approach, lifting weights AND cardiovascular exercise, is the best way to combat a varied diet for a maximum overall health benefit. My prescription to everyone is this: find the cardio that you like, work in some weight lifting, and find the balance that works for your lifestyle. If you start getting too comfortable, CHANGE IT UP!

Here’s the blog I saw posted, simply for reference, in case you are interested in the perspective that made me write all this out:

Upper and Lower Abs Myth

Three, and sometimes four, bands of connective tissue called the tendinous intersections traverse the rectus abdominus, which separate it into six or eight distinct muscle bellies, respectively. The appearance of these segments has led to the rectus abdominus also being called the “six-pack.”

Muscles in the body are either all engaged or not engaged at all. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation about abs. What is the biggest myth? That you can target working out your upper and lower abs independently.

The rectus abdominus is one single muscle (see image) – it just has some fibrous tissue separating the sections so that it gives a look like it’s more than one muscle. Sure, there appears to be an upper and lower section, but that’s just it. There are other muscles that make up our core, but let’s keep the focus here on the abs.

We have been inundated with late-night and day-time infomercials that tell us some random product will help us “work out those hard to reach lower abs” or other some such nonsense. Why is it nonsense? Due to the all-or-none law, which I briefly mention in the first paragraph, the entire rectus abdominus is engaged or it’s not. This means that there are no such things as upper or lower abs!

If you want that six or eight-pack look, it’s not going to be achieved by ordering some product on TV. You are doing to do so by focusing on your diet to remove the layer of fat that sits between the muscle and your skin. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll need to tighten up that muscle as well, and work it out like any other muscle in your body! But targeting non-existent upper or lower abs is false. Do exercises that work out your abs a few times a week, but most importantly, work on your diet.

Zumba on the Beach – Summer ’13!

Zumba on the Beach is Coming to Lake Andrea – Summer 2013!!!

When? Every Wednesday 6 to 7 PM

Dates? June 12 through August 21

How much does it cost? FREE FOR RecPlex MEMBERS
-OR- $5 drop-in for non-members

Why? Lake Andrea is conveniently located in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, a few miles north of the IL / WI border, 1 1/2 miles from I-94. We can party and workout in the gorgeous sun on a man-made beach overlooking a picturesque lake. If you haven’t partied on the low-impact environment of sand, or done Zumba outside, you simply MUST join us! So come on out in our inaugural year: wear your best summer workoutfit, slather on a bit of sunscreen, have some water to drink, and party your heart out!

430206_4496229326895_322986530_nNOTE: Photo taken at Racine’s North Beach

Muscle Fruit?

NOTE: I am not a certified nutrition specialist, and I am not offering full-on nutrition advice.

I subscribe to very few fitness-related blogs, but one that I pay for and have been very happy with is Kyle Leon’s Yesterday, his newsletter highlighted some great information that I feel obligated to share with you. His nutrition advice is incredible – it has helped me (in the past year, since I’ve been a paying customer) get back up to a healthy weight the right way. I build my diet around his plans and make sure that I follow his advice to help me with lean muscle growth and healthy fuel consumption for the amount of exercise I exert every week.

Here are my top five fruits for building muscle:

Pineapple is an awesome fruit to eat post-workout. Not only does it give you a quick burst of energy, but it also delivers steady energy because the fiber in it slows the absorption of sugar. But that’s not what makes pineapple a bodybuilder’s favorite fruit. Pineapple is also rich in bromelain, an antioxidant that reduces inflammation and muscle pain.


Watermelon is one of the healthiest fruits you can eat. Its high water and fiber content make you feel satisfied, the fiber slows sugar absorption and it’s one of the best sources of the amino acid citrulline. Citrulline is used to make arginine, another amino acid, which is really important for your nitric oxide levels. That nitric oxide is a natural vasodilator – it dilates your blood vessels, which helps you to look pumped, but also helps speed nourishment to your recovering muscles.


Apples are loaded with fiber, which means they provide steady, slow energy and have a low-glycemic index. The skin is also loaded with polyphenols, which help to increase strength and fight body fat.


Aside from being loaded with fiber, bananas are also a great source of potassium. Potassium helps control your fluid levels, draws water to your cells and help to keep you from getting muscle cramps.


Berries are loaded with antioxidants, which can not only help you avoid illness, but also speed muscle recovery, reduce inflammation and build your heart health. They’re jammed with fiber, so they’re one of the best low-glycemic fruits.


When you’re restricting your sugar intake, you generally don’t get a lot of fruit in your daily diet. It’s important to make the best choices, to get as many antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber grams out of every single fruit.


It’s also important to skip fruit juices, which have added sugar and far less fiber, so they tend to spike your blood sugar and insulin levels and still leave you hungry. Always go for whole fruit, eat the skin if it’s edible and take the time to enjoy having something sweet.



Continuing Fitness Education Matters – Choose a Certified Fitness Professional!

ACE-Logo2I am currently licensed by Zumba Fitness, LLC to teach a variety of formats: Zumba, Zumba Gold, Zumba Gold-Toning, Zumba Toning, and Aqua Zumba. I am certfied by ACE (American Council on Exercise) as a Group Fitness Instructor. This past weekend, I took a full-day workshop and an exam to become a certified Aquatic Fitness Professional from AEA (Aquatic Exercise Association). Later this year, I intend to get my Primary Group Exercise certification from AFAA (Aerobics and Fitness Association of America).

All that said, it’s very important for instructors to do this: get certified and maintain said certifications through continuing education. Why? It’s easy to forget some of the core principles you are tested on, and without continuing education, said instructors can easily ignore certain principles in their programming or instruction.

aea_logoExample: I learned all about aquatic principles when I took my Aqua Zumba training, but that was a year ago. One of my participants recently told me I wasn’t working them hard enough in the water. In my AEA workshop, we had a practical component – and in that exercise, we learned the principles of inertia, acceleration, action/reaction, etc. I was able to immediately put those to use on Monday when I taught my class. My participant thanked me at the end of class, telling me she didn’t feel like she did last week.

The lesson: make sure you are getting your money’s worth in your group fitness classes by choosing a certified instructor!


Modifications Lesson – LEVERS!

It is very important for your Zumba instructor to have additional group fitness instructor training and the subsequent certification(s). Why? Modifications with an understanding of the human body’s systems as they relate to fitness.

I had a participant in tonight’s Aqua Zumba class, and I noticed that she had a very limited range of motion (ROM) in her arms during my warmup. As I went through the class, I was careful to pay particular attention to show modifications in lever length (i.e. moving from the shoulder vs the elbows). At the end of class, she came up to me and thanked me for the modifications – she felt not only successful in class, but empowered in how to modify the moves for her limited ROM. She told me of some severe nerve damage to her shoulder, and why she was limited. I then gave her further stretches to do at home to help her recover and assist with areas she may not know how to stretch.

Some of the things we, as certified group fitness instructors (ACE – American Council on Exercise and AFAA – Aerobics and Fitness Association of America are the most widely recognized in the US – I am ACE certified) learn are anatomy, muscle pairings, nervous system details, cardiovascular system details, and much more! I’m currently studying for my Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA) certification in March, and my studying has been a great refresher of this information that I was tested on last year for ACE.