Posts Tagged ‘Afro Belly Boogie’

I am happy to report that I attended an Afro-Belly Boogie class tonight, and it was fantastic.  I hadn’t been to one in a really long time, but I think tonight’s class was even better than the last one I took.

It’s been hot here – in the 100s, and I know myself well enough to know that in order to make sure I stayed committed and attended the class, I had to take my accountability up a notch.  Which is why I invited one of my teaching colleagues, FiddlerGirl, to come with me to the class.  I knew that if someone else was counting on me to be there, I couldn’t renege.

(On a side note: FiddlerGirl and I couldn’t be more different in so many ways.  She’s unassuming, shy, and was raised in an ultra-religious Pentacostal household.  She grew up wearing skirts that went to her ankles and shirts that covered her to the wrist, but finally broke out of that when her parents passed away.  At that time she was 80+ pounds overweight, and I watched her transform herself in body and spirit.  She joined Jenny Craig and then WW, lost 80 lbs, started becoming really active and fit, and stopped wearing the long skirts and dowdy clothes.  She’s even a WW leader now.  Her metamorphosis was nothing short of phenomenal.  At 43 she’d given up the thought of ever getting married, but she went online one day, and met a man who became her husband.  Oh, and the name FiddlerGirl is because she’s a classically trained violinist who plays concerts in our area.  So even though I’m bold, outspoken, and the opposite of  conservative, she and I are becoming friends.  She’s such a sweet, kind, encouraging person and she inspires me.  She told me last night that she wishes she could be more like me in speaking her mind about things.  So I think that even though we’re opposites, we’re going to help teach each other something.  I’m really encouraged that I’ve made a new friend and workout buddy).

In class tonight I had two different women come up and start talking to me, which made me feel happy that I’m approachable.  And glad that I’m extroverted and like meeting new people.  One woman is a teacher, too, and said that she just joined the gym and plans on going a lot this summer (another workout buddy!). The other woman was joyful in the way that she moved, and I got such a positive vibe from her.  I think she’s had weight loss surgery because she was slender, but had some loose skin.  It seemed like she recognized herself in me, and she kept smiling encouragingly at me throughout the class.  Talking to both of them at clued me in to the fact that I need to keep getting out and about among people because I’m bound to meet new friends that way.

I told you all about this class in an earlier post, but I can’t reiterate strongly enough how much fun it is.  I love that it combines African beats, Belly Dancing rhythms, and then modern dance moves.  The class is high energy and empowering, and I left feeling sweaty and exhausted – in a good way.  There were women of all shapes and sizes in the class, and while I long for the day that I’m not the biggest girl in the room, I’m proud of myself for how well I kept up with the moves.  In fact, after the class, FiddlerGirl told me that she wished she could move like me.

FiddlerGirl has a hip injury that is so severe that she’s going to eventually need to get hip replacement surgery (she’s only 47).  Certain movements, especially jerking ones, send shooting pain down her leg from her hip past her knee.  It was so eye-opening for me to realize that even though FiddlerGirl is slim, fit, and wears single-digit sizes, she’s got limitations and she’s envious of the way that I can move my body without pain.  Which goes to show just how much I have to be grateful for.  My body may have been the biggest one in that room, but I was able to move and shimmy and shake with the best of them.  All the more reason to reach my true fitness potential once I lose this weight. 

Tonight I had a great workout, but it was so much more than that.  I deepened a collegial relationship that’s becoming a real friendship, I made two new acquaintances, I moved my body painlessly, I kept my commitment to myself about exercise, and I was proud of myself.  Not bad for 60 minutes, right?


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Welcome to another edition of Adventures in Fitness, where I battle the bulge and burn calories while keeping it fun and varied by trying all sorts of new activities.

Today’s post is a warning to those of you who may be variety junkies like me.  It’s great to try lots of new classes and activities that are offered at the gym, but remember, you don’t have to try them all at once.  LOL.  Oh, don’t make me laugh too hard, my poor muscles.  🙂

This cautionary tale is about what happened on Tuesday.  You see, I woke up feeling much better after a couple of days of a mild flu.  I was determined to try new classes this week, since I had the entire week off of work, and I didn’t want to miss a thing.

All lessons seem to have a story to them, and this one is no different.

Begin with an interval class.
Early Tuesday morning I went to Muscle Blast which was a fun interval training class that combined step with strength training.  I kept up really well, and I think I impressed some of the regular members, since quite a few of them came up to me at the end and said how well I did for my first time.  I’m sure that my size might have given them the illusion that it might’ve been tough for me, and I’m not going to lie, the lunges are still too hard for me to do, but I could do the rest of the movements without trouble. I was definitely tired after the class, but invigorated, too.

Help your family, since you’re off work.
I got home and helped my dad clear out LC’s garage.  She spent hours on Monday going through all her old boxes, donating most of it and throwing out the rest.  Once everything was gone, she’d be able to park in her garage, so I wanted to help my dad with it.  There was a lot of stuff: enough to fill his entire truck bed.  The boxes weren’t heavy as much as there were a lot of them.  My dad was headed to the Salvation Army and then he would come back to retrieve the ladder that LC borrowed from him.  I only mention this because it comes into play later in the my story.

Take the pooches for a nice, long (ill-fated) walk.
I’d just loaded my iPhone up with lots of new music (Mumford & Sons, Adele, and Anberlin), and I decided that it was the perfect day to take the dogs on a long walk.  I thought we’d take a totally new route, to a street that I have always loved, but that was a bit of a trek.  We started out fine, and then came to the end of my street where they were doing some sort of sewer work and had crosswalk/corner where the stoplight is all dug up.  We had to cross into the median of a very busy street, but I thought we were ok.  The cars were whizzing past us on both sides, but I just took a stronger hand with the two-dog leash, and thought that we’d be fine as soon as the light changed.  The thing was, I couldn’t see the lights from where I was in the median, so I turned to the traffic cop who was there and asked him if it was OK for me to go.  He said it was. Here’s where I should’ve taken out my headphones, but I trusted him.

We started to cross the street when something made me look to my right only to see a huge truck barreling towards us. I literally picked both dogs up by the leash and ran back to the median, adrenaline pumping.  I was in shock, I think, because when the truck driver stopped, inches from us, and started yelling at me, I just stood there.  Normally, I would’ve told him a thing or two of the !*%4-letter-word&@^# variety, but it was like I was just stuck.  The cop ended up yelling something at the truck driver, and all the while I had the music playing.  Mumford & Sons is strangely calming in a near-death situation; I highly recommend it.

Undeterred (sort of), we made our way across the street and then headed to Campbell Ave.  Campbell Ave is a wide, wide street full of beautiful houses and few cars. It’s also a very long street.  We headed down the street and just kept walking, and walking, and walking.  Finally I realized that my shoes (Vans) weren’t the best for such a long walk, but decided to power through. And then we turned the corner and were halfway to the next street that would take us back to my house when I realized that it was too windy and had no sidewalks.

We turned around, and while I wasn’t sure how I was going to cross that busy street again to get back to my house, I figured we had to go back to that direction, so we might as well start walking.  And walking.  And walking.  The poor dogs had their tongues hanging out, my feet were really starting to hurt, and we were all sort of tired.  I think I was finally recovering from the shock of the situation, and I just wanted to get home NOW.  So I called my dad.

Luckily he was on his way back to LC’s to pick up his ladder after donating her items and could swing by and pick us up.  When he saw us, he said we were quite the site.  He estimates that we walked at least 2 1/2 – 3 miles in that hour.  No wonder we were all so tired.

I know that walk doesn’t sound like that much, but I think the harrowing, almost-getting-run-over experience at the outset sort of put a damper on the whole walk. I do think I’d take the dogs that way again, but only when the traffic lights are working properly, and only with plenty of water for the puppies and myself.

While you’re at it, throw in a high-intensity dance class.
Now, it had already been a very active day, what with the Muscle Blast and the Walk from Hell, but since I’d been wanting to try the Afro Belly Boogie class, I figured I might as well go for it. Plus, LC was supposed to meet me there and I didn’t want to disappoint her.  As it turned out, she was running too late after a work emergency (she’s a social worker) and decided that since she couldn’t make it to this 6:30 class, she’d head to a 7:30 Gentle Yoga class at the yoga studio I introduced her to.  I went by myself and I had a great time in the class, but I was feeling it.  I got home and was just so spent.

LC came over when she returned home from yoga, took one look at me, and immediately brought over some Advil.  She said she knew I was going to need it.  And was she right!

The Moral of the Story: Moderation!
Yesterday I was sore. I had planned on going to Step Jam at 9AM, but stayed home and rested up.  I did take the dogs for a walk with my dad, but that was the extent of it.  I had been planning on going to an Aqua Aerobics class in the evening, but the weather was cold, and I just didn’t feel like getting in a pool.  Bikram with LC was an option, but I finally decided that taking a rest day was fine.

Today I’m still feeling really sore, especially in the thighs.  I do want to go to Bikram with LC tonight, and since it will be our last chance to go together before the kids return on Sunday evening, I know we’ll keep that appointment.  Plus, the heat should soothe my muscles and the movements are slow enough that I should be ok.  I’ll definitely take it easy and only do what I can do.

I know it was silly of me to attempt to do all of that in one day.  I liked trying both of those new classes, but I need to learn to pace myself.  They’ll be there again.  And though the Muscle Blast isn’t something I can regularly go to because I work when the class is offered, there are similar classes offered in the evenings on different days.  Moderation was the lesson of the day.


There are still a few more classes that I want to try before this week is over, so here’s the new and improved plan:

Thursday: Bikram yoga
Friday: Aqua Aerobics
Saturday: Zumba
Sunday: Turbo Kick (kickboxing!!)

Now that this momentum of trying new classes has set in, I don’t want to lose it.  I will use more restraint in how many classes I attempt in one day, but I want to keep taking a variety of classes because it makes working out and burning calories more fun.

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Welcome to another edition of Adventures in Fitness, where I battle the bulge and burn calories while keeping it fun and varied by trying all sorts of new activities.

You heard it hear first.  Afro Belly Boogie is going to be as big as Zumba.  It may take time to get to your area, but mark my words – it’s coming.  And you’re not going to want to miss out on it when it does.

This workout combines high-energy conditioning and rhythmic movements of African dance with the sensuous muscle isolations of Belly Dance to create a low impact, spirit boosting, high cardio workout. The workout features rhythms and sounds from Africa, Caribbean, Middle East and even current club beats. You’ll have fun while you burn calories, tone your core and strengthen your upper and lower body all while dancing to the beat.

That class description was enough to hook me; I had no idea that Afro Belly Boogie, created by Angel Thacker, was born here in the Bay Area. But knowing that the class originated here makes me love it all the more. I’m so thankful that 24 Hour Fitness offers the class!

You guys know that I took a belly dancing class a few months back, and while that class was relaxing, soothing, and empowering and more similar to a hip-shaking yoga class with it’s isolated movements.  Afro Belly Boogie, on the other hand, was nothing like that.

I really didn’t know what to expect when I walked into the class.  As I said, the description drew me in, but beyond that, I had no idea what I was in for.  A few of the ladies had hip scarves on, making me wish I would’ve brought mine, too.  Next time.  We were told that the regular instructor was on vacation and the girl who would be leading class would be here for two weeks.  She seemed friendly enough, and she was encouraging the class to let loose and get into it. She also warned,

This is a tough class.  We have fun, listen to great music, shake our hips, but this isn’t a gentle belly dancing class.  This one will make you MOVE.  This one will make you sore tomorrow.  But don’t get frustrated if you can’t do everything at first.  Keep at it.  Move with the music.  And have fun.”

My first thought was “Uh-oh, am I going to be able to hand this?”  I was the biggest one in the room (yet again), and the only other plus-sized woman in the class didn’t last past the first 10 minutes.  I have to admit, I had moments of wondering whether I should give up and leave, but then I told myself that even if I couldn’t do exactly what they were doing, I was still getting a great workout.  I loved the music, liked the moves, and hoped that I would be able to be more precise with the moves at some point in the future.  Plus, I  can shake my hips and follow a beat, so I knew I wouldn’t look too far off base, as long as I kept moving.  I stayed for the whole class, and I’m glad I did.

The class itself is so hard to describe.  It uses the movement of belly dance, but at a much quicker pace than the SharQui class did.  The music is a combo of a bit of African beats, with lots of Middle Eastern rhythms, and then paired with club favorites like “Like a G6.”  The music was awesome.

The moves on the other hand were difficult because they were so fast.  But just like with Zumba, I have a feeling that once I take the class for a few months I’ll be able to do them better and better each time.  And just like with Zumba, the instructor can make all the difference.  This instructor was sweet and friendly, but she didn’t spend enough time demonstrating the moves, especially since there were 5-6 new people in the class that evening.  She did inspire me to keep going, though, and by the end of the class, I felt proud of myself for sticking to it.  I loved the moves, and I can’t wait until I can do more of them successfully.

(Surprisingly enough, it was the club dance moves that I was the best at.  I’ve always been a good dancer, but since it’s been years since I’ve set foot in a club, this surprised me.  Guess the old girl still has it!).

Here’s a short video that gives you a small taste of some of the moves in the class.  It begins sort of slow, but once the women start moving, you’ll get a better idea.  Most of the class is much more intense that what’s being depicted in this video, but it does give you a little flavor of what the class is like.

In doing a bit of research about the origins of Afro Belly Boogie, I discovered that Angel Thacker was once over 300 pounds.  She developed this dance program to help herself lose weight and enjoy herself while doing it.  That REALLY inspired me.  So while I may not be able to  do all of the moves right now, I’m very confident that if I keep going, I’ll shaking my hips and moving my bootie with the best of them soon.

If you’re able to find an Afro Belly Boogie class near you GO.  You’ll have fun and you’ll burn a ton of calories.  Oh, and you’ll remember how much fun you had again the next day, when you feel your sore muscles.

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