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Native fitness instructor shares how she
stays motivated to keep fit

By Danielle S. Harrison, fitness instructor

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Danielle S. Harrison, a Zumba instructor and Navajo (Dine) from Bloomfield, NM, will periodically share her tips for healthy living and keeping fit from a Native perspective.

Fitness. That much dreaded word that may cause you to slump back on the couch or even trigger the "Ill start the health kick tomorrow" phrase. Yes, I have been there. I would rather listen to Northern Cree's round dance songs than run in the cold weather. So how does one even start a healthy fitness path?

Whether you are having thoughts to begin or are struggling to maintain a path, here are some ways I was motivated and kept that motivation. It may be inspiring if you're tired of your couch that may be imprinted with your body frame or just want a positive change.

Before my fitness path I felt sluggish with no energy. One morning in April 2009 I saw women running ferociously in the Boston Marathon on television. This was the spark that gave me motivation; I set my goal and knew what I wanted. I researched marathons and began my foundation as a runner. Having a gym membership, I decided to try my first group exercise class and change up my running routine.

Zumba, which was ridiculous to me, was definitely not how I got my groove. It seemed too easy and I wanted cardio -- that runners high. I went in confident that I could knock the class out, but I wrong. My side hurt, my chest burned and I just couldn't understand how the body could move so fast and stay on beat. The struggle only sparked the drive to accomplish Zumba. I saw men participating and hurting so I was not alone. Zumba was no joke, it was hardcore.

As time passed, I have accomplished half-marathons and became licensed to teach Zumba classes for a few years now. The healthy lifestyle was a challenge to maintain, and I'm an advocate for our Indian communities to get actively involved in health and fitness. Here are some tips to begin and maintain a fitness path.

* Know what you want. Before running, walking or hitting the gym have an idea or goal of where you want to be with your health and fitness. For example, I knew I wanted to run a marathon so I started at the beginning and took steps to reach that bigger goal.

* Find the time. I know after we get through our daily life and responsibilities all we want to do is relax. I totally get it; I would want to miss a few days because of this. Squeeze in 15-30 minutes of something if you don't have time. Anything is better than nothing.

* Schedule. Developing a daily schedule with goals in mind was always helpful for me. I would map out my weekly schedule and stuck to it no matter how tired or lazy I was. This is where you stay motivated, surround yourself with people who will be positive influences in your life and keep you going. Group classes have a strong foundation for support.

* What's out there? Find the resources around you, look for gyms that have what you need whether it is childcare or fitness programs (Zumba, Yoga, Piyo, R.i.p.p.e.d, Cross fit, Body pump or Turbo Kick) that will support you along your path. When I needed a run and had no sitter, I took the baby-jogging stroller for my 2-year-old and loaded the bike for my 7-year-old to accompany me. Make sure you find safe running routes for yourself and always let someone know where you're running.

* "Clean Eating." Ditch the carbonated stuff for WATER. I know the fizzy stuff going down your throat is good but it's not good for you. I know what you're thinking, Indian Country is devoted to fry breads and Indian Tacos. How is it possible to not have fried potatoes and spam? Sorry, but "clean eating" with H2o is the best way to go. It may not always taste good but it's healthier. Once you start eating healthy and cheat with a heavy fried meal, believe me you will feel the difference!

Hope this was helpful and good luck!

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