In 2010, Alena Shifrin weighed over 300 pounds, but was committed to going to the Saw Mill Club in Mount Kisco, New York, to work out on treadmills and ellipticals. But she wasn’t ever excited about her workout.
Someone at the club suggested she try a Zumba class. A little nervous, she peeked into the class, “and I saw that it looked like everyone was having so much fun. So I went in and tried it,” recalled Shifrin.
When she first started Zumba classes, she hid in the back, but couldn’t believe how fast the time passed when it was over.
“I had so much fun, it didn’t feel like a workout at all. And then I was hooked, I think from the first time,” explained Shifrin.
Over the next couple of years, she progressed further and further to the front of the class, and fell more and more in love with the workout, going at least five days a week.
Her instructor, Shahidah Beltran-Prats, not only inspired her to come to the front of the class and made her feel welcome and special, but also encouraged her to become a Zumba instructor.
“Even as a beginner at over 300 pounds, I could really be successful at a [Zumba] fitness course. Whereas I’m not sure other fitness courses would allow me to feel as successful and then want to keep going,” said Shifrin. “Most importantly, the instructor was inspiring. The formula for Zumba makes it so everyone can work at their own level, it’s easy to follow and everyone can feel successful.”
Since falling in love with Zumba, she has lost over 150 pounds, which she said has been life changing.
In 2013, she traveled to New York City to take an 8-hour accreditation course to get her Zumba certificate. To Shifrin, finishing that day was an accomplishment in itself. “That 8-hour training is like eight hours of moving. That would have been pretty hard to do when I had first started. So the fact that I could complete that training, the physical part, was a big accomplishment. No, I didn’t think I would be teaching it, but now I love teaching it,” explained Shifrin.
She teaches three classes a week, both adult and kid Zumba classes, which sometimes include her 7 and 10-year-old children and their friends.
Besides teaching classes, Shifrin said she still attends classes, sometimes twice a day, and will even travel to different states to follow instructors she loves. She often travels to Connecticut to Eddie Calle’s class in Stamford. “You can always keep learning, even though I am a teacher,” said Shifrin.
To her, each instructor has his or her own art form, so she would encourage potential members or those interested in trying Zumba to try different instructors. She described her own art form as “Party Style.”
“I might walk into Zumba in a bad mood, but I’ve never walked out in a less-than-awesome mood,” said Shifrin.
Shifrin explained she regrets nothing about her journey to where she is today. She only wishes she hadn’t hesitated and walked into her first class sooner.