Military spouse Angelica Robinson dances into a room, prepared to motivate 45 Zumba participants, but only a year ago she was the one who needed motivation.
In August 2008, Robinson weighed 264 pounds. Now 108 pounds lighter and a certified Zumba instructor, she hopes to inspire Soldiers and spouses with her story.
Robinson was a certified assistant principal in the state of Arizona school system, and every summer she would take a vacation. When she arrived home with a handful of photos, she was ashamed of her appearance. She went to the doctor shortly after her trip and she discovered that she was 264 pounds.
"I was so depressed. I could not believe I weighed that much," Robinson said. "I kept rounding up: 'I can't believe I am 300 pounds.' Then I would say, 'I can't believe I am almost 500 pounds. I can't believe I am almost a quarter ton!'"
Robinson knew she had to do something about her weight; she went home and did a lot of research. She made the decision to start eating healthy. She quickly went to the grocery store and picked up healthy food. When school started again, she decided to bring her lunch instead of eating cafeteria food.
Then she saw a sign for Zumba, an aerobics class that brings Latin dancing moves into a fun party-like atmosphere and thought it sounded like fun. She tried to convince her colleagues and friends to take one of the classes, but her friends decided not to attend. Robinson knew that she had to make a change in her life, so she went alone.
She stood in the back of the class and wore layers of clothing because she was uncomfortable with her size. When Robinson couldn't do all of the Zumba moves, she blamed it on her clothing.
"I couldn't do the moves," she said. "I decided it was my shoes, so I took off my shoes, but I still couldn't do the moves. Then I decided it was my shirt, so I took off my T-shirt, and I still couldn't move."
Robinson took layers off until she was in her bottom layer of clothing, but it was not her clothing that was the real problem. The true problem was that Robinson was overweight and uncomfortable, but she still managed to have fun in the class, inspiring her to continue. She kept trying, and little by little, she picked up the moves and started moving forward in the class.
Just one month later, she had lost 17 pounds and her doctor couldn't believe it. She started attending class five days a week and set a goal to lose 10 pounds a month.
Three months later, Robinson found herself at Fort Drum, where Zumba classes were not offered. She was motivated not to quit and resorted to doing Zumba online. Seeing the void, she decided to take matters into her own hands. She became a certified instructor in March 2009 and was hired shortly after by the aerobics contractor on Fort Drum.
The Zumba craze took off quickly, beginning with one class and building up to 180 participants in several classes.
Many people have difficulty staying on a fitness regimen; any change in routine can become a deterrent. Military spouses face more challenges than the average person. Deployments and living away from Family are two of the biggest challenges spouses face as they try to continue any fitness regimen.
Zumba is a popular exercise craze that is now available on Fort Drum because of one military spouse's motivation to provide others with enjoyable and effective exercise while socializing with people who have like challenges.
"I have two master's degrees, and getting my Zumba certification meant more to me then getting those degrees," Robinson admitted.
Robinson has participated in Zumba classes five days a week for the last 14 months. Now at the head of the class, her attitude is infectious. She teaches six classes a week to the Fort Drum community. Not only does she motivate people to lose weight, but she also has inspired a few people in her classes to become certified Zumba instructors.
"No coordination necessary," Robinson claims as she dances around clad in Zumba attire.
Now, Fort Drum has three Zumba instructors and offers classes seven times a week. Classes include "Zumba Toning" and "Zumba Special."
Instructors encourage participants to dress up for theme night on specified Fridays for their "Zumba Special" classes. On some Fridays, there will be a sea of pink while up to 50 women dance together to support breast cancer or in Mexican outfits in support of Hispanic Heritage Month.
"Zumba has changed my life; I have more drive and energy. I cannot sit still. I am just one of the millions of successful Zumba stories," Robinson said.
For more information about Zumba or any of the other aerobics classes offered by Fort Drum Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, call 772-4806 or 772-4936.
(Smith serves as Pine Plains Physical Fitness Center manager.)