“I became a member of the Fanwood-Scotch Plains YMCA about 18 years ago, when my son Griffin was 1 year old. I not only wanted to get back into shape, but I was yearning for a connection to people and my community now that I had become a stay-at-home mom. Soon after, I had my daughter Emma; it became a daily routine for me to drop Griffin and Emma off in the Child Watch room, while mommy got in her workout. For the first few years, I clung to the Wellness Center – for some reason I was intimidated by taking group exercise classes. Then one morning on my birthday, I woke up and literally said out loud to myself ‘I’m going to go out of my comfort zone and take my first group exercise class – cardio dance!’ It felt great to move my body, get my endorphins pumping, and also to have spontaneous conversations with other members when class was done.

A few years later, I decided once again to come out of my comfort zone and join the Tri Women’s Group and train for the Danskin Sprint Triathlon at Sandy Hook. After 10 months of training with other supportive women at the Y, I successfully completed my first triathlon! The support from the YMCA members was astounding and really made my experience meaningful and empowering. I went on to complete three Sprint triathlons.

What happened next, however, in my journey at the Y, probably changed me the most profoundly. I decided to try a class called Zumba, an international dance class that consists of dances like salsa, merengue and cha cha, accompanied by the most amazing music. Having been a competitive gymnast growing up, my body was used to a very different style of movement, very strict and regimented. Zumba, on the other hand, represented a freedom of movement, very flowy, along with a sense of being carefree in a way I had never experienced before – it literally changed my life. Becoming a regular, and gaining confidence in some Latin dance moves, one of the instructors approached me and asked if I would be interested in becoming certified and working at the Y as a Zumba instructor to sub for her. My first reaction was ‘there is NO WAY I could get up in front of a group and dance salsa!’ But for some reason I said ‘yes.’

Regardless of my fears, I can proudly say that I’ve now been teaching Zumba at our YMCA for the past 10 years. It has been one of the greatest gifts of my life! The joy and good vibes that come from leading a class and that special shared experience with members in the gym every Monday night, cannot actually be described in words; it’s just something that grabs your heart and soul, amps up your life and makes you feel like a more complete person. Not to mention the incredible friendships that have developed from this class. Without a doubt, Monday evenings are a true highlight of my every week for the past 10 years.”