In July of 2007 I called off an engagement, moved out from my fiancée and then 2 months later was diagnosed with malignant melanoma and was told by the doctors that there was a good chance the cancer could’ve moved into my bloodstream which… meant I would not live very long..
Within the first week of November, 2007 I had major surgery on my arm to remove the cancer, which was a successful surgery, but because of the size and location of the cancer and the surgery needed to effectively remove it, I was left with a large cut that ran from my shoulder to my elbow. As a result, I was left with large keloids as the skin tissue did not heal properly. During that time, call it depression, call it boredom or call it not being able to exercise because of my surgery… I gained about 100 pounds over the course of 9 months.
After that 9 month period I was given clearance by my Dr. to start exercising more regularly and I immediately started taking several group exercise classes including kickboxing, step, 20/20/20 and other cardio classes for about a year. What I noticed was I was losing weight, but after a year it just felt monotonous and boring and I felt I hit a plateau.
Fast forward to January of 2010, I saw that another gym near me was offering both Zumba® and Hip Hop in the same night, and as someone who has always loved to dance I decided to go do a 7 day guest pass.. My first experience with Zumba® was with an amazing Instructor Tara Turner. Her classes get PACKED, easily 70+ people per class, and I remember being the only guy standing on line feeling like everyone was looking at me like “is this guy serious?” because I stand about 6’3″ and am built like a stocky football player.
But as soon as the first song played and Tara busted out her moves, I think everyone knew immediately I wasn’t there just to check out the pretty girls and I was serious about dancing… so I kept going back and made some good friendships with other Zumba® instructors in the Long Island area. I would go to special 2 hour Zumba® events and fundraisers and people would always ask if I was an instructor because they said standing behind me made it easy for them to follow. I would always laugh that off and said “No!”.
But several amazing Zumba® instructors here on Long Island kept encouraging me to take a Zumba® Basic Steps Level 1 (B1) workshop and become a licensed Zumba® Instructor. Everyone I knew had their Zumba® Basic Steps Level 1 (B1) with ZES Tanya Beardsley, and although she’s amazing.. as a guy I really wanted to take my their Zumba® Basic Steps Level 1 (B1) with a male ZES as I had gender specific questions.. so I took my their Zumba® Basic Steps Level 1 (B1) with Tony & Jessica Witt. I traveled from Long Island, NY to St. Louis, Missouri on cold rainy day in May.
At the time, I didn’t really think I would’ve started teaching Zumba® classes… I really just got licensed to fit in socially with my new friends and be able to stand the front line during special events and help out where I could… but the Zumba® community has been so warm and embracing and encouraged me… allowing me to come to their classes and do a song or two to get comfortable in front of the class.
I still never really thought about teaching classes regularly, until one woman came up to me after a class and said how much fun she had and seeing a guy of my size and stature teaching a song made her feel so much more comfortable. She told me that many of the normal Zumba® students feel intimidated by the gorgeous, sexy, skinny girls who normally teach the classes and that I was easy to follow and thought she could motivate her husband to come take a class if she told him a guy was teaching.
The journey so far has been amazing for me… because I’ve always been interested in dance and would usually be the first one on the dance floor and the last one off. I did have several concerns about teaching Zumba® classes because I do not fit the stereotypical mold of a Zumba® Instructor, and I thought that would hurt me the most as people might be apprehensive about taking a class from a guy who looks like he should be playing football.
But what I had originally thought would be my biggest detriment has actually become my greatest asset and strength in teaching Zumba® classes on Long Island.
I always tell people at the beginning of my Zumba® class; “If I can do this… you can do this!” and I’ve found that people leave their insecurities at the door and feel more comfortable following someone who probably looks more like their husband or brother……. and that’s why I keep doing this.
Only 6 weeks after I had my their Zumba® Basic Steps Level 1 (B1) workshop I was already in Pittsburgh for my Zumba® Basic Steps Level (B2) with the creator of Zumba®, Beto Perez. During his Master Class for a Breast Cancer Fundraiser outside the stadium, Beto invited several males to come up on stage and join him and at one point Beto pulled me front and center to lead the Machete Step. To be invited on stage and put in front of 700+ people dancing in the streets was just an amazing moment and reaffirmed why I do this…. Because if I can get on stage and totally hijack the routine of the creator of this amazing fitness program to the point where he just throws his hands up and sits down while I finish out his song…… then I believe anyone can achieve anything if they put their mind to it and have the discipline to see it through.
At my heaviest I weighed 375 pounds and have lost over 100 pounds naturally through proper fitness and healthy eating choices. Although I started with other aspects of fitness for weight loss, it has been Zumba®, the relationships I’ve made and the support from others that have allowed me to completely change my lifestyle, my outlook and in turn brings me a great sense of pride and happiness that now other people actually look to me for motivation and inspiration in their own fitness struggles.