“The challenges involved in moving countries are mind blowing.”

Today we’d like to share with you Irena’s, one of our members, personal fitness story with you all. As of right now, this story was first posted two years ago. Enjoy!

[First posted August 22, 2014]

When I was a teenager (which was in the eighties, in another hemisphere, in the opposite season and in a communist country), following my best friend’s suggestion, I started attending ballroom dancing classes where together with many other young people. I learnt the cha-cha, rumba, samba, paso doble, jive, slow walls, Vienna walls, tango, foxtrot and quick step.

The “instructors” were a husband and wife who were not paid to teach. Leading the dance club was something they loved doing.

In those days, self managed cultural interests were encouraged by the Communist party. We did not pay anything. Our dance instructors were not paid for the work they did, we were provided a gym in one of the suburban schools for free, and our costumes were made on a government budget which was the communist party’s generous gesture to keep young people occupied in activities that were approved by the communist ideals.

We did not have video tapes in those days, so our dance instructors learned from an old book in English with the steps described in diagrams and the moves in English terminology. It looked like a witch-craft book with mysterious spells. And we were all enchanted!

We were a tight group, each one of us madly dedicated to dancing, the music and everything involved in the process. There was an old music player and the quality of the records was poor, as the recordings were pirate copies, but the music of Glen Miller and Paul Anka, sixties rock and the hot Latin American rhythms were enough to make us all feel unique and incredible!

I trained three hours almost every night. Apart from being technical, dancing is quite vigorous exercise and also requires strength, balance and coordination. We participated in numerous stage presentations where costumes were made in frantic excitement and each stage presentation and competition ended with noisy parties with a lot of laughter and recollection of the stage fright and nerves we had to overcome.

I was fortunate to wear dresses made of 40 meter gauze and slide my feet in high heel dancing shoes, apply make up and transform from the dork I used to be to a graceful dancer.

The sensation on stage was indescribable – it was mixture of wild excitement to fear and panic to incredible elevation when the applause came at the end or the judges gave good scores… I was living a double life – during the day went to school in the plain school rooms with portraits of the party leaders wearing my blue school uniform, with my hair braided in two pigtails, wearing thick glasses. And at night transformed in the dancing queen – glitter, spray, lipstick and pirouettes! I even met my husband, Alex, in the dancing club. I must have stolen his heart with my rumba steps

When I turned 21 I went to study at uni and my focus changed. I left the dancing club and the fitness was left to once a week compulsory physical education run by the uni. It was not exciting at all especially in those minus 20 degree mornings at 5:30am riding the packed bus on an icy road…

I graduated from uni and had my daughter at the same time! All of a sudden I found my life completely changed – taking care of a baby, staying home all the time and nothing else to do but talking googly goo to my cute little daughter. Somehow this was not enough and I was getting restless locked at home alone. Luckily, a friend suggested aerobic classes which was the craze in the eighties and I loved it immediately. It wasn’t dancing but close to it – disco music, leg warmers, leotards and vigorous jumping.

In the early nineties our family – me, Alex and Emilly who was nearly 3 years-old moved to Australia. That was so amazing! The challenges involved in moving countries are mind blowing. There are so many surprises – some good and others not so good – but one learns to overcome obstacles. Yes, there were times when sadness was getting the best of me.

Exercising was not an option while settling in the new country, raising two children (Ivan was born in 1995 in Melbourne), going back to work, moving to Sydney, settling in again, changing work, working full time, building a career and buying a house.

With the stress that came I started putting on weight.

Ironically, a time comes when one has to learn from one’s own children! In 2010, my son Ivan turned 15 and wanted to go to the newly opened gym in Campbelltown. That meant that somebody had to drive him there. I had no idea what Fitness First was or the programs they offered. Actually, I laughed at people at work when they mentioned that they go to the gym. However, putting on weight and the loss of flexibility due to insufficient physical activity was not a good feeling.

So a week after Ivan became a Fitness First member, I signed up. I was interested in the group classes but was scared to join in initially as I was so unfit. I remember walking in my first BODYCOMBAT™ class with Kerrie. I was late, the class had started, I lasted less than 30 minutes and left in the middle of the class, breathless and purple in the face. I seriously thought that I needed resuscitation after those 30 minutes!

I clearly remember that Kerrie approached me after the class and instead of being cranky at me for leaving before the end, asked me what I thought of it. Without thinking I replied that I loved it! And I found myself going to BODYCOMBAT™ classes and loving it more every time I went.

Then ZUMBA™ was launched for the first time in FF. Kerrie was there in bright colours, the Latin American music was blasting and disco lights were adding to the excitement! There was no room to stretch my arms without touching someone, it was that full! And the Zumba moves! WOW! It brought back all those long forgotten memories when I was a teenager in the ballroom dancing club!

In time I realised that not only did I lose weight, I felt immediate stress relief after every class, my mood improved and I started feeling like a much happier person. It was really sad when I realised that Kerrie had gone after they sold out FF. The classes were not the same even though the instructors were well trained.

I missed Kerrie, her enthusiasm, giving 110% in her classes, creating the positive atmosphere, the feeling of joy and happiness in each of her classes. Until one day chatting before class to two regular BODYCOMBAT™ guys at the gym, one mentioned that Kerrie has opened her own business in Campbelltown. I did not waste time.

I immediately googled Kerrie Campbelltown fitness and there it was! KERRIE FITNESS – the phone, the address and the classes time table which included ZUMBA™! YAY! Hot pink, disco lights, Latin American, hip hop and rock and roll rhythms! I love the BODYCOMBAT™ class as well! I only wished I had more free time to go to BODYPUMP™ and other classes.

Going to Kerrie Fitness classes is not just going to another group fitness class. There is enthusiasm, positivism, strength and joy! Coming to your classes, Kerrie, gives me extra happy feeling because you are such sunny, friendly, happy person!

‘Till next time, Irena <3

A note from Kerrie: I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am you found me again Irena! I was under strict instructions I could not tell my members of 10 years I was staying with Fitness First and not with the company taking over at Campbelltown.

I love your story, and feel so blessed I am able to bring that light back into your life which sounded so very exciting. By the way, I still love rocking leg warmers!!!

I take my hat off to you working mums. It’s a true balance fitting in work, family, taking care of your home and still knowing how important it is to take care of yourself to be able to take care of the above! Together we can do it!

Thanks again Irena. We’re so lucky to have you at KERRIE FITNESS x