Tacos, Tunes, and Island Time: Is gentle fitness a good workout?

As a fitness professional, I think of my classes as low impact, moderate intensity, and safe for knees and hips.  All true but all fit-biz terminology.  Then I stopped and listened to my participants, they call my classes “gentle.”  According to Oxford, “gentle” is moderate in action, effect, or degree; not harsh or severe.  So, my participants are right, my classes are gentle. 

But why do they think that? Is it because they don’t hurt the next day?  So, this then begs the question, can “gentle” still be a good workout?

In my 50-minute class, I burn an average of 363 calories (7.3/minute).  Based on known activity benchmarks, this rate is halfway between low impact aerobics and running.  That’s a good workout. 

I usually spend 11 minutes in the peak/cardio heart rate zone, 37 minutes in fat burn, and 3 minutes in warm-up.  That’s 20% of my workout classified as vigorous and 68% classified as moderate.  That’s a good workout.

So, while my participants say it’s a gentle workout, they are actually getting a good workout; they just don’t know it. 

Published April 29, 2023

Tacos, Tunes, and Island Time: Harmony. Balance. Movement.

These three words are the foundation of Kiwa Dance Fitness.

HARMONY is taking elements that complement each other to create something new.  The simplest example of harmony is the musical chord, uniting individual notes to create a new sound.  Dance is another example of harmony, uniting rest and movement in a rhythmic pattern.  Living harmoniously means uniting the aspects of your life that bring you joy and delegating the rest.  Since what brings us joy varies individually, harmony is different for everyone. 

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” – Mahatma Gandhi. 

Dance fitness classes are spaces where everyone feels their own joy from conscious harmonious movement.

Conscious harmonious movement.  Exercise is physical movement, your mind does not have to be present; i.e. you can run, lift weights, ride a bike without thinking about what your body is doing, you can still be thinking about work, relationships, dishes.  (Light bulb: This explains why I never found walking relaxing.)  Dance is different.  Your brain can be thinking about movement patterns or just feeling the joy of allowing your body to move freely through space.  You are conscious of each move and how it feels.  You are conscious of your breathing and heart rate and how they ebb and flow based on the rhythm and tempo of movement.  When you freestyle dance you take conscious harmonious movement to the next level; this is why Kiwa Dance Fitness classes don’t make you follow the leader if you are not so inclined.

“Life is like riding a bicycle.  To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” – Einstein

BALANCE is structural, it’s how equal or unequal something is.  Achieving balance means giving all sides equal attention.  This is why a “life balance” is unattainable (paradigm shift).  You can’t give more time to your family without giving more time to your job (remember, equal attention), and you only have so much time to work with.  If your right is stronger than your left, your balance is off.  A weak core means your upper body cannot maintain an upright position, throwing your balance off.  As we age, the right side of our brain becomes weaker, causing a brain function imbalance. 

Structured dance fitness.  While you may not learn to salsa in a dance fitness class, you will improve balance (tightrope walk), spatial orientation/awareness (4-wall dances), brain coordination (reaching across your body), hip/pelvis stabilization (moving sideways), flexibility (pretty much all moves), and right brain functioning (memory).  You will strengthen your core (belly dance, squats) and ease depression and anxiety (movement + happy songs).  A properly structured dance fitness class can make you less susceptible to falls and dementia-related symptoms. 

“Life requires movement.” – Aristotle

MOVEMENT is fundamental to life.  Movement is built on a foundation of balance and harmony which get stronger the more we move.  The happier and more stable we become, the more we move.  Movement without joy is exercise, movement with joy is dance.  The old adage of “move it or lose it” is true for both mental and physical abilities.  Science is showing us that your brain is better off with complex tasks [such as dance] that utilize many basic mental processes rather than “brain games.”  The added benefit of dance as movement is that it satisfies the brain’s reward center, bringing joy and motivating us to continue so we can feel the joy again.

Published April 5, 2023

Tacos, Tunes, and Island Time: I think, therefore I do…Maybe.

Thinking you move faster than you do is not your imagination.  While it takes 150 msec for your feet to get the message to move once the brain says “go,” people typically sense movement starts in half that time.  The brain is predicting when movement will occur.  Everyone at any age has the perception that they are moving quicker and more fluidly than they actually are.

The ability to sense movement is known as proprioception.  Aging, chronic disease, and trauma impair this ability, making it take longer for the message to reach its destination.  However, even though the transmittal is taking longer, the brain is still predicting movement based on when the message was sent.  So, unfortunately, your smooth dance floor moves are not as graceful or as on beat as you perceive them to be.

Studies have shown there is a correlation between diminished proprioception and the loss of muscle and joint strength.  Based on this correlation, proprioception starts to decline after age 60 such that it takes twice as long for the message to get to its destination by age 80.  Impaired proprioception also leads to an increased risk of falling because we perceive movement like a 60-year-old but move like an 80-year-old. 

However, there is hope.  While the decline in proprioception from chronic disease and trauma is always present, appropriate and proper physical activity can slow the age-related decline in proprioception.

Having a strong core through balance exercises is key to preserving proprioception, and one of the best balance exercises is dance.  Dance incorporates balance moves without you even knowing it.  When we side salsa, lifting our plant foot while side stepping, we are balancing.  When we do kicks and knee lifts, we are balancing.  When we tango forward, placing one foot in front of the other, we are balancing.  When we do foot circles on the ground or in the air, we are balancing. 

Balance moves strengthen our core muscles and joints, and dance (variations in steps, formations, speed, and rhythm) keeps our brain healthy by creating new pathways and keeping the old ones functioning optimally.  Since dance slows the age-related decline in our body’s communication system, it keeps us moving and independent longer.  Let’s dance!

Tacos, Tunes, and Island Time: Sugar Coating

When we sugar coat something, we dress it up to be more palatable than it truly is, we lie.  Unfortunately, there’s no way to sugar coat the current state of the fitness industry.  It is not recovering, it is struggling to stay alive. Restrictions placed on fitness facilities over the past few years have irrevocably changed the industry.  One of the most popular gyms in Parksville closed their doors after 10 years due to the financial losses and future uncertainty brought on by the pandemic.  The only dance studio in town is abandoning all adult classes.

All professional fitness instructors incur expenses to bring you your classes, and those costs continued even when we couldn’t bring you live classes and persist now while we wait for you to come back.  Many instructors have to cover these expenses with their day jobs. 

Post pandemic many group fitness participants have shifted to online classes or dropped self-care entirely.  Many want the flexibility of pay as you go, they don’t want to commit to a session.  Instructors who accommodate drop-in participants often show up to no participants.  This is not just a local issue, it’s a global problem.  Nor is the problem limited to newer instructors, I know veteran instructors who used to pack a room and are now having difficulty paying expenses.  When participants won’t commit or show up on a regular basis as they did previously, classes are cut from the schedule. 

Dance fitness is a passion project for me, it was never my intention to pay myself or make a profit.  My goal was to make enough to cover my expenses while offering affordable classes that give participants a chance to workout at their own pace and have fun doing it.

As it stands right now, I will likely cut the Tuesday class from my schedule or offer it only on a prepaid monthly basis.  If interest picks up and as long as the studio has open slots, I will add classes back to the schedule. 

Before cancelling everything, I will consider dropping branded programs (like Zumba Gold®) and going with generic classes such as Kiwa Gold or Hula Fit.  What I learned from the branded programs will stay with me, and I will continue to learn more on offering safe, effective fitness classes for active adults and new dance fitness formats. The classes will be the same, just with a name change. Dropping the brand program license fees will reduce my fixed expenses by 50% and give me more freedom to customize my classes and playlists. 

Ultimately, as long as participants continue choose something other than traditional fitness options, overall community self care will decline.  Don’t forget that the mental aspect of wellness includes getting out in a social environment.  This is especially true for the older adult population, where isolation leads to major health issues. Staying at home, working out (unsupervised) to an online class may offer some physical benefits, but it is not doing your mental health any good.

Please support your local instructors and work with them to ensure fun, safe, group fitness options remain accessible in your community.

Published: November 14, 2022

Tacos, Tunes, and Island Time: What is a “best life”?

We hear it all the time, “live your best life”; but what exactly does that mean? 

I believe a “best life” means finding your sustainable happiness; and to be sustainable, the things that bring you happiness have to be affordable over time, have to be adaptable to changes in your physical/mental condition, and have to be things you can do on your own.

For my retirement plan to work optimally, I am choosing to work part-time for the first 5 years of retirement.  This will allow me to make the last “big purchases” like cars, renovations, and several trips of a lifetime. Budget is sustainable, therefore happiness is sustainable.

With a total knee replacement and various other musculoskeletal conditions, I am already experienced at adapting movement.  Capabilities can be adjusted for, therefore happiness is sustainable.

Activities with my husband such as cooking, gardening, traveling, dining, dancing, and “beaching it” are more joyful with him; but I can do these things on my own.  I was divorced and single in my late 30s/early 40s, so I know I can.  Having a partner is not required, therefore happiness is sustainable. 

A best life doesn’t mean having everything, it’s about having what you need and what makes you happy.

My best life is about having adventures (travel), eating well (tacos), being active (dance fitness), and chasing dreams (more on that later).

What does your sustainable happiness look like?

Game Changer

“So, so what?  I’m still a rock star.  I got my rock moves.” [“So What,” P!nk] 

Don’t play the game, change it.  So often as older adults we are presumed to be past our “best before” date, so much so that we believe it too; and that’s not okay because we are accepting the limitations imposed on us by others.

The phrase “so what” carries a punch, it’s not indifference, it’s a declaration of irrelevance.

Can’t run as fast, so what.  Can’t jump as high, so what.  Can’t remember shit, so what. No longer graceful, so what.  No longer wrinkle free, so what. 

I can’t wear heels any more, so what; I have a rainbow collection of sneakers and flipflops.  I can’t compete any more, so what; I can do it for joy. 

If we are lucky enough to live long enough to be a “senior,” we must be sassy and smart, because that’s how we change attitudes towards aging.  Young people should want to be us not the other way around. 

Live without filters, say “so what” a lot.  Get off the bench, change the game.