Rencsi Before and After Zumba

January 3rd, 2013

The other day, I struggled to carry a 35-pound box of kitty litter up 3 flights of stairs to my apartment. It was hard work carrying that much extra weight up the stairs and I was exhausted. My legs were tired and I was breathing hard when it occurred to me: I used to weigh 35 pounds more than I do now, and I carried that weight around with me all day, every day!

Here are a couple of pictures of me from 2008, before I started doing Zumba. I am 5 feet 2 inches and I weighed approximately 145 pounds. (Excuse the black bar, I would like to remain somewhat anonymous.)

rencsi before zumba 2008

Rencsi before zumba 2008 1

I started doing Zumba in the spring of 2009 and I became a certified Zumba instructor in May of 2009. I have been teaching ever since. At my peak, I was teaching 18 Zumba classes per week. I currently teach 8-10 Zumba classes per week. I take other instructors’ Zumba classes whenever possible.

Here are a couple pictures of me from 2012. I am still 5 feet 2 inches and I weigh 110 pounds!

rencsi after zumba 2012

rencsi after zumba 2012 1

So if you’re trying to lose weight, here’s an idea for the next time you need some motivation: Calculate the number of pounds you’d like to lose, put that amount of weight in a backpack, and carry it with you throughout your day – maybe even to Zumba. When you’re finally free of that extra weight, you’ll feel great and you’ll want to be free from that extra weight every day!

Chocolate-Covered Fresh, Raw Cranberries

January 5th, 2012

I’m always looking for healthy, vegetarian snacks. Okay, this one is not so healthy, but I needed a dessert to take to Christmas. One of my professors brought these chocolate-covered fresh, raw cranberries to school the day we discussed the gastrointestinal tract and exercise. I loved them and thought these chocolate-covered cranberries would be a “healthy” dessert option for my family for Christmas. Cranberries are a big industry in Wisconsin so I thought it would be patriotic to my home state as well.

Here’s what I did:

1) Rinse and completely dry 1 pint of fresh, raw cranberries.
2) Melt 1 bag of milk chocolate chips in the microwave. (You’ll need about 1 bag of chocolate chips per pint of cranberries.)
3) Coat each cranberry with chocolate and set on wax paper. (I had trouble with my chocolate seizing so I melted chocolate, spread the chocolate on wax paper, and coated each cranberry in chocolate that way. I then separated the cranberries and set them individually on wax paper.)
4) Refrigerate to set the chocolate.

I love these chocolate-covered cranberries. Some of the cranberries are solid and firm, but some of the cranberries break as you bite so you get a surprise burst of tart cranberry juice with chocolate… I think it’s delicious!

How well did it go over at Christmas? Not well. I made 4 pints of cranberries and I estimate less than 1 pint of them got eaten over two days. This was one of those lucky situations where I made something I loved to eat so at least when I got stuck with leftovers, they were leftovers I loved to eat. I did learn an important lesson: Making food that no one eats, no matter how much I love it, is a waste of money.

The fresh cranberries cost $3.99 a pint. Hershey Toll House Milk Chocolate chocolate chips were on sale for $2.50. Here is what you get nutritionally from one batch (1 pint of raw cranberries + one bag of Hershey Milk Chocolate chocolate chips) for about $7:

1632 calories
222 g Carbohydrates
99 g Fat
22 g Protein

Enjoy! Let me know if you have any suggestions!

chocolate covered cranberries

Roasted Seasoned Chickpeas

January 5th, 2012

I am always looking for new healthy, vegetarian snacks. Today, I tried this Baked Garbanzo Bean (Chick Peas) with Moroccan Spices recipe from Kalyn’s Kitchen via Eddie on Everything.

I modified the recipe quite a bit. I don’t cook often, and I am of Scandinavian and Irish heritage, so I had NO spices in my kitchen – sea salt, black pepper, and paprika – that’s it. (My mom doesn’t eat marinara sauce because it’s “too spicy” if that tells you anything…)

I’m cheap and lazy so I didn’t want to pick up all nine spices that the original recipe calls for, so I bought “Less Sodium” Lawry’s Seasoned Salt for $1.66. One can of garbanzo beans was $.66. I had olive oil on hand.

Here’s what I did:

1) Preheat oven to 350°.
2) Drain, rinse, and dry one can of chickpeas (also ceci bean, garbanzo bean, chana, sanagalu Indian pea, Bengal gram).
3) Toss chickpeas, 1 Tbsp of olive oil, and 1 Tbsp of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt.
4) Spread chickpeas in a single layer on a baking sheet.
5) Roast at 350° for 50 minutes or until brown.

They are pretty tasty! They remind me of a cross between soy nuts and roasted pumpkin seeds. Eddie suggested roasting for closer to an hour and I agree because I like the crunchy chickpeas the best. My version is pretty salty – if you’re using Lawry’s, you might want to use less than 1 Tbsp.

These seasoned roasted chickpeas are tasty, but be careful not to eat the whole batch: There are more calories here than you might think. Nutritionally, here’s what you get per batch, all for about $1.00:

497 Calories
70 g Carbohydrates
7 g Fat
21 g Protein

Enjoy, let me know if you have any suggestions!

Zumba – Kicks like a workout, feels like a party

December 22nd, 2010

The Minneapolis – St. Paul, Minnesota Star Tribune recently published an article about Zumba.

University of Minnesota kinesiology professor, Beth Lewis was quoted as saying: “For someone who’s physically fit, probably going for a run is going to provide a better workout, but for people who work out rarely, this is a fabulous gateway exercise…”

I very much disagree with Ms. Lewis. Zumba is a great interval workout for people of all fitness levels, not only “people who work out rarely.” The Zumba format allows each individual to work as hard as they choose or as hard as they are able. Zumba recruits muscles from the entire body while challenging the cardiovascular system. Choreography may be difficult for some former athletes to pick up and therefore, some “physically fit” participants may need more time and practice to feel comfortable enough to work at a high intensity.

I have been a long-distance runner for over 15 years and I never saw the rapid results that I saw from Zumba from running. Since doing Zumba for the first time in March 2009, I personally have lost over 30 pounds. I consider myself well-conditioned and toned. I ran my best-ever Ragnar Relay race in the summer of 2010 after training by primarily leading Zumba classes.

I love seeing my participants smile and build confidence, spirit, and attitude through Zumba. Viva Zumba!

I Hate Clif Bars

August 6th, 2010

My mom used to say, “I hate the word ‘hate.’” I don’t use it very often, but when I use it, I mean it. I can only think of a few things I hate – like February. I also hate Clif Bars.

I mean it when I say, “I hate Clif Bars.” I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Everyone I know loves Clif Bars, but the thought of eating one makes me gag. Even after long, grueling runs, I can’t choke down more than a few bites of a Clif Bar simply for nourishment.

I admit, Clif Bars are hard to beat nutritionally and unfortunately, they’re everywhere: race goodie bags, grocery store checkouts, gas stations, sports supply stores… What’s a good alternative to Clif Bars? Here are some suggestions:

Snickers Marathon Bars
I got one of these in a race goodie bag and I now buy them on the regular. They are so good, I feel like I’m eating a candy bar! I get them at Wal-mart in the pharmacy section near the Boost and Ensure meal replacement drinks. It seems unnatural to eat anything with the Snickers name on it for nutrition before or after exercising, but I’ve had success with them. I will continue to buy them and eat them until further notice.

Kashi Go Lean Protein & Fiber Bars
Eh. These bars are OK. I like the Chocolate Caramel Crunchy Protein & Fiber Bar, but it’s the only one I’ve found that I’ve liked.

Luna “The Whole Nutrition Bar for Women” – Lemon Zest
Yes, I know Luna bars are made by the Clif company. I never said, “I hate the company that makes Clif Bars.” I said, “I hate Clif Bars.” I can’t eat Clif Bars, but I can eat Luna Bars. I don’t know why. I’m a woman – maybe that’s why. Lemon Zest is my favorite so far.

As I noted, Luna Bars are The Whole Nutrition Bar for Women. So can my boyfriend eat a Luna Bar?

From the post Will Eating Luna Bars Make a Guy Grow Breasts? on

Clif Bar, manufacturer of the Luna nutrition bar – marketed “for women” – is asked this question all the time. The concern is baseless, however. Luna bars, which come in flavors including Lemon Zest, S’mores, and Dulce de Leche, contain no estrogen or other hormones that might cause men to grow mammary glands. They’re for women because they’re fortified with nutrients females typically need more of or sometimes have a hard time getting in their diets. These include folic acid, calcium, iron, B vitamins, and fiber.

Kashi Go Lean Protein & Fiber Bars – Chewy PB & Chocolate Versus Crunchy Chocolate Caramel

August 6th, 2010

Some days, meal replacement bars are a group fitness instructor’s best friend. On my latest trip to the grocery store, Kashi GOLEAN Protein & Fiber Bars were on sale 10 for $10 so I decided to give them a try. I bought four Peanut Butter & Chocolate Kashi Go Lean Chewy Protein & Fiber Bars (13 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber, 290 calories) and six Chocolate Caramel Kashi Go Lean Crunchy Protein & Fiber Bars (8 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber, 150 calories). These two varieties were my only options at the time.

I started with the Chewy Peanut Butter & Chocolate Go Lean Bar on day one. I eat in the car between classes. I opened the package and it looked like a giant chocolate bar, and in my opinion, that is a good thing. The first bite was sadly disappointing. Inside the chocolate was a grainy, flavorless mass that did not resemble any peanut butter I’ve ever tasted. I forced myself to eat half the bar for nourishment, and I left the rest in my car to melt in the summer heat while I taught Zumba.

After my bad experience with the Chewy bar, I hesitated a couple of days before trying the Crunchy Chocolate Caramel Go Lean Bar. Actually, my boyfriend tried it first. He described it as a Rice Krispies bar. I tried it and agreed. It was something like a soggy Rice Krispies bar or Special K bar with chunks of marshmallow on a bed of chocolate. Between me and my boyfriend, all six are now gone. I will buy these again.

The Kashi Chocolate Caramel Crunchy Go Lean Protein & Fiber bar is low in calories and protein, but it was the clear winner of the Crunchy versus Chewy taste test.

Heart Rate Monitor for Zumba

May 9th, 2010

Enough guessing. I’m buying a heart rate monitor for Zumba.

I’m a Zumba instructor and I track my diet and exercise through a free online fitness diary called hotcal. Until now, I’ve been using the cardio exercise entry “Dancing, aerobic, ballet or modern, twist” to track Zumba. According to my height, weight, age, and sex; I should burn about 272 calories in one 50-minute Zumba class.

As an instructor, I exaggerate all of my movements and give 100% during each song of each class. After Zumba classes, I am drenched from head to toe in sweat. I don’t think 272 is an accurate measure of the calories I burn in a typical Zumba class. That is why I’ve decided to buy a heart rate monitor.

After a little research, I’ve settled on the Polar FT60 heart rate monitor. This hr monitor comes with the fabric chest band with the snap on/snap off electronic brain. The fabric band was important because I’ve used hr monitors with the plastic band with the built in electronics. It was very uncomfortable and I can’t image doing Zumba while wearing a hard plastic band around my rib cage. As I mentioned, Zumba makes me sweat hardcore. I need equipment that I can rinse or it will be ruined in no time.

The FT60 is not cheap, but I am also a long distance runner and biker. I don’t need a foot pod or gps capability now, but these are optional add-ons to the FT60. I would not like to buy another heart rate monitor any time soon, but I may want to accessorize later.

The other nice thing about the women’s FT60 is that it is attractive. The band is magenta and the face is white and silver with decorations on the face. If I have to wear this thing daily, I might as well like the way it looks.

Stay tuned as I try out my heart rate monitor for Zumba.Polar FT60 Heart Rate Monitor

How Many Calories Does Zumba Burn?

December 1st, 2009

I recently saw a thread on discussing how many calories does Zumba burn. Not that I need a reason to do Zumba, but what a good question!

The Zumba FAQ does vaguely address the question:

How many calories can I burn during a Zumba class?

The number of calories each person burns per class varies. However, depending on your body parameters (type, composition, intensity, range of motion), you can burn hundreds of calories per class.

A good source for calories burned is the list of Calories Burned During Exercise list from NutriStrategy.

Calories burned during exercise is affected by body weight, intensity of workout, conditioning level, and metabolism. Calories burned per hour are listed below for the example body weights of 130, 155, and 190 pounds.

According to NutriStragegy, “Dancing, aerobic, ballet or modern, twist” burns 354 calories per hour for a 130-pound person, 422 calories per hour for a 155-pound person, and 518 calories per hour for a 190-pound person.

The only way to know exactly how many calories you are burning during any given Zumba class is by wearing a heart rate monitor that is able to take into account your heart rate as well as your age, height, weight, and gender to calculate your personal amount of calories burned.

Zumba with a Purpose

November 28th, 2009

Attention Zumba lovers in Minnesota!

Zumba with a Purpose to benefit Toys for Tots with a $10 donation on December 12, 2009 from 1-3pm at Gold’s Gym in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. This Toys for Tots benefit will feature a group of local Zumba instructors and, keeping in the spirit of Toys for Tots, Marines.

Click here for more information and enjoy!

Zumba Toys for Tots December 12 2009

Why Buy Vegetarian Cage-free Brown Eggs?

May 27th, 2009

I buy Vegetarian Cage-free Brown Eggs at the grocery store. What does that mean?

Vegetarian Eggs
Chickens need protein. Chickens in a pasture eat bugs, like wood ticks. Commercial chicken feed may contain animal protein sources like meat or bone meal, dried whey, and fish meal. Vegetarian eggs are eggs fed feed with only vegetarian ingredients, like soybean.

Cage-free Eggs
In a perfect world, all God’s creatures could co-exist and share the land. Unfortunately, even “cage-free” chickens may not have a pleasant existence, but they are free to roam in an open area like a barn and have unlimited access to food and water.

I will spare you the details of the caged-life of a commercial layer hen. Please, if you can, buy cage-free eggs.

Brown Eggs
There is no difference between brown eggs and white eggs other than the fact that brown eggs come from “brown” or “red” hens and white eggs come from white hens.

While white to brown is common in commercial eggs, eggs can come in a wide variety of colors. There is even a non-commercial chicken breed called the Araucana, an ornery, white chicken that lays blueish-green eggs.

According to the American Egg Board at

Egg shell and yolk color may vary. Color has no relationship to egg quality, flavor, nutritive value, cooking characteristics or shell thickness.

Shell color comes from pigments in the outer layer of the shell and, in eggs from various commercial breeds, may range from white to deep brown. The breed of hen determines the color of the shell. Among commercial breeds, hens with white feathers and ear lobes lay white-shelled eggs; hens with red feathers and ear lobes lay brown eggs.

White eggs are most in demand among American buyers. In some parts of the country, however, particularly in New England, brown shells are preferred. Commercial brown-egg layers are hens derived from the Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire and Plymouth Rock breeds. Since brown-egg layers are slightly larger birds and require more food, brown eggs are usually more expensive than white.