A Coffee Break with…. Ana from Funky Fitness

This week I have been chatting to the lovely Ana from Funky Fitness about her exercise classes and how she feels as a fitness instructor who has struggled with her weight and suffered various health problems but has changed that with exercise, yes that’s exercise not extra fries! She has changed her life and understands the battles her clients face with their weight too which isn’t always common with fitness instructors is it! Though I should add I have another friend who is a fitness instructor and has struggles with her weight who I will chat to another week for our coffee break chatter!
First things first we need a drink before we can chat! Do you drink tea or coffee? or something else? how do you drink it? and what are your favourite biscuits?
I drink coffee with just milk (sometimes a sweetener tablet, when I need a bit of sweetness!). This is a big change – I used to have two teaspoons of sugar!  But no one else at work had sugar, so I learned.
If it is too warm for coffee, I love a nice cold Pineapple Coconut sparkling water from ASDA.
Favourite biscuits! Oh my! Are Jaffa Cakes considered a biscuit? 😀  I am also a big fan of ginger nuts and milk chocolate digestives.
I know quite a bit about you I think but can you tell my readers a bit about you?
I’m originally from Puerto Rico (one of Cuba’s sister islands, but belonging to the USA). I grew up in New York. I’ve been overweight all my life, and as an adult, I had hypothyroidism, metabolic syndrome (a ‘cousin’ of PCOS) and undiagnosed type 2 diabetes.  I was a walking time bomb and my body has nerve damage as a result. 
I lost enough weight to get pregnant, but suffered a miscarriage and that ended my relationship and my caring about what happened to my body.  I went up to just over 18 stone. I reconnected as friends with my now husband and we just fell in love. We married and I moved to Mansfield 
I have two step children and 3 cats. I work in education during the day.  Other hobbies include travel, cooking, making jewellery, ancient history, and spinning wool into yarn.
Do you feel fitness and weight go hand in hand or can you be overweight but very fit?
You can be overweight and be very fit. Mainly because there are no established way to connect the two. Many athletes are considered overweight, because of their muscle mass.  Weight is a guideline, but really, it is the shape of your body and your overall health that determine your fitness. My overall health make me fit – not the weight on the scale.  Still, it is hard not to want to see the numbers going down. It is years and years of programming into our heads that the scale determines our health.

Ana Before photos
As a fitness instructor do you feel that people question your skills because of your weight struggles?
First I’d like to say that I have been really lucky – my classes have a mixture of all ages, shapes, sizes and fitness levels and they all support each other.  I have also been lucky in that I have a good number of people who have kept with me as regular clients.  So when there is someone new, everyone gathers to welcome them!
At times, yes. The insecurity gets louder when I’ve gained weight as well.  Sometimes also when I have new “skinnier” people join my class, who want to work out at a higher impact.
But I remember my purpose and why I became a Fitness Instructor.  I wanted to show people that it didn’t matter how fit or unfit they were – how broken they felt their body was – that they CAN exercise and begin repairing their body.  The point of my classes was to have my clients feel comfortable that they could achieve exercise with someone they could relate to.
Because I’m not all-out high impact, I remind them that the impact level of the class is up to them. I give them tips on how to increase the impact if they need to, or bring it down if they need to. I stay at a moderate impact level.  Because my classes are about the people who take them, I am not precious – if my style is not for you, I know other amazing instructors who may be more to their style.  I’m not afraid to send them their way, either!
When I was at my biggest and at various points during my weight loss journey I was tempted to join an exercise class but felt too big and too unfit and was embarrassed. As an instructor how would you encourage someone with low confidence to give it a try?
When were you diagnosed with diabetes and how did it affect you?
I was diagnosed in 2008, whilst starting fertility treatments, but a lot of damage had already been done. I have nerve damage in my feet.  I had 2 periods a year.  My cholesterol was high, the fat content in my blood was double the highest number on the chart. I always LOOKED pregnant, I always had issues with doing just about anything and my eating was uncontrollable – I’d go to being fine, to being starving and angry in seconds.  I had a very broken body. I have horrible knees, shoulders and neck. I was close to having to take insulin.
Was it the diagnosis of diabetes that made you want to change? How did you change and what do the doctors say?
Initially it was wanting to have children that made me want to change.  But after the miscarriage it all went downhill.  After moving to Mansfield, I decided I wanted to do it for my health.
I found local Zumba classes (they were what I used to lose weight the first time) and loved it so much that, at 16 stone, I became a qualified Fitness Instructor, and then became a Zumba instructor and taught my own classes.  I then became a certified SharQui belly dance workout instructor, which was a long time goal from when I took belly dance with the amazing Oreet, in NYC.
The doctors are impressed with how much I am connected with my body and that I do it all with diet and exercise.
Ana as she looks now at 14 stone.
How is your health now?
I am at pre-diabetic sugar levels and have been that way for years. All controlled with diet and exercise. No tablets.  My cholesterol is normal. The fat content of my blood is normal.
If any of my readers are looking to change their life and health as you have what would you suggest they do, other than speaking to their gp?
Please, please, please – find exercise you love. Please make time for it and share that intent with others in your life. Include them when you can, but don’t let others be your excuse not to exercise. Though it happens sometimes!  I’m a firm believer of “You’ll either make time, or you’ll make excuses.”  That’s not push others – that’s my self-reflection.
Secondly – you do NOT need to go to insanely difficult workouts that leave you wanting to throw up halfway through. It is important to understand that you can have a successful, impactful workout that is still enjoyable.
I have people who come to my classes and haven’t exercised in years.  They love the class and suddenly are attending every high-impact class they can find in the week. And in just a couple of weeks, every single one has an injury. Every. Single. One. That’s not what no pain, no gain means.  Please ask for help when wanting to push that little bit more, whilst keeping safe.  This is why it is important that your instructors be qualified Fitness Instructors and not just Zumba (or other dance) instructors. Fitness Instructors have studied anatomy and how to make your workout as safe as possible, to prevent injury.
When I was at my biggest and at various points during my weight loss journey I was tempted to join an exercise class but felt too big and too unfit and was embarrassed. As an instructor how would you encourage someone with low confidence to give it a try?
Oooh this is a good one.  I’m assuming if you aren’t comfortable joining a workout group, you haven’t joined a gym.  To be honest, I don’t like gyms, but that’s more for the fact that I’m impatient and I don’t like people waiting for me to get off the machines.
I would say that if you find the right class, none of it will matter, eventually.  So how do you do it?
1. Do your homework. Don’t join a class because it is conveniently located – you want the class to work for YOU. So find out what you’d like to try, find out where and when they are happening and go talk to the instructor about your needs and your goals. 
2. Please find an instructor who is also a FITNESS INSTRUCTOR. These are the people who have invested in a qualification to make sure your workout is as safe as possible.  If you had bad knees or back, they can adjust the workout for you – even in group sessions.
3. If you still aren’t sure, ask if you can observe, first.  I have no problem with people observing how my class works to see if they think they’d might enjoy it.
4. But ultimately, join in. You’ll want to stand in the back. I get that. I can guarantee you others are too busy looking at the instructor or themselves to look at you and judge. And just remember that within every step and move you make in that class, lives the roar of a warrior who walked through the doors and said to their self (no matter how quietly) “Bring it.”
What are your plans now going forward?
I currently only have one belly dance workout scheduled during the week. I am looking to expand this – it is a non-impact workout, so there’s no jumping around, but it is a cardio/toning/core workout.  Just yesterday, one of my clients (who comes to both my Zumba and SharQui classes) said “My stomach is toned because of your SharQui classes.  Not because of Zumba.  It makes such a difference.”
Since I am committed to keeping exercise as affordable as possible, I’m looking to find places that are either very low cost, or willing to do a 50/50 split of any fees that come in.
I am also planning on getting back to cooking and sharing recipes and techniques.  I am currently on Slimming World, and they have such an amazing programme, I really want to share all the ways to get the most flavour from your food, and better manage where and when to include things like butter, oils, fats and syns, in general.
After reading this chat with you I am sure that some of my readers would love to follow you further and read more about you, how can they do this? (ie social media links blog links etc etc whatever youre happy to add people to publicly)
Everyone is welcome to come on over to our Facebook group.  I encourage you to get chatting and asking questions. I really want to build a community that supports each other.  You’ll have to click on the “Join Group” button, but that’s to make sure we keep the group positive and helpful.
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