As she heads to the airport, fitness instructor Ingrid Kessler receives a text message from her 13-year-old daughter, Isabella, saying how much she'll miss her. The self-described "stay-at-home" mom is flying from her hometown near Houston to Ft. Lauderdale to rehearse for a Zumba convention. Kessler is a Zumba Jammer, one of 150 national ambassadors who promote fitness through dance and teach choreography to other instructors.
When she's not on the road, the 41-year-old leads a team of Zumba halftime dancers who perform at Rockets, Astros and Dynamos games; teaches eight fitness classes a week; and manages the busy schedules of her two athletic teens, 15-year-old George and "Belli." For her, fitness is a big part of everyday life. (She met her husband of 19 years, George, in the gym.) But the Miami native feels that exercise should be about having fun and taking it at your own pace. So what's the average day like for this former pediatric nurse-turned-dance mom?
6 a.m. My husband is the first one to wake up at 5:15; my son gets up around 5:45. Belli and I are up at 6. If I'm teaching a morning class, I don’t shower before. I just put on my workout clothes.
6:30 a.m. Usually, we do cereal for breakfast. But we’ll pick up Chick-fil-A at least once a week. After we all get our lunches ready, we're off about 7:15. I take my daughter to school, and my husband drops our son.
8:30 a.m. If I'm teaching a 9:30 class, I’ll go to Starbucks and work on administrative stuff. I respond to email, promote sessions on social media, and look for sponsors to host my out-of-town events. I also work on my music and choreography notes: I put every step into writing and describe it as much as possible so the class can understand it.
9:30 a.m. My classes are high intensity, but I’ll adapt to the group. The instructors are not judging how you dance. I have 16 year olds to 80-somethings in my classes. All body types. Everyone’s moving to the music and having fun. That's what I love about Zumba.
12 noon I'm starving after class. Once a month, the people at the gym get together and have lunch. There's a little Italian place nearby. Two or three times a month, I meet my husband for lunch.
I like to eat, but I'm very plain. I like your basic stuff: spaghetti and meat sauce, a really good chicken salad. But after Zumba, I'm craving the carb.
2:30 p.m. I pick up my son first, then we pick up my daughter around 3, and we go home. If he's in football or soccer, he doesn't get out until 4:30 and then my husband gets him. Belli has an hour and a half to do her homework, and then we are gone by 5:30 or 5:45.
6 p.m. I take Belli to ballet — she just auditioned for the Houston Ballet summer program. I'll teach a class at her dance studio or at the gym at 6:30. I shower at the studio or gym while she's at rehearsal.
I live in my car a lot, and I like the quiet time. When I'm sitting waiting for her, I'll turn on soft music and just sit there and decompress.
8 p.m. My family likes to eat together. We usually eat late, which is not very healthy. I’ll cook a couple of times a week, but I have to really be inspired. My husband is a really good cook. But there are two Latin dishes I like to make: asopao de pollo, a Puerto Rican chicken and rice stew, and carne desmenuzada, shredded flank steak with tomatoes and onions over rice. Otherwise, we'll do something simple like paninis or chicken tortilla soup.
11 p.m. I go to bed at 11, and I'm asleep by 11:30. I don't need a lot of sleep. I'm hyper by nature.
Being happy and healthy for her family is Kessler's health ambition. She tries not to overthink it or deprive herself of anything. She'll eat a cookie, just not 10 of them. Everything in moderation, she says. She admits she's far from perfect. But as the mom of a teenage girl, she doesn't want to focus too much on food. She just does her best to promote positive eating habits and encourages her children to stay active.
Christina Joseph Robinson is a veteran editor and writer from New Jersey who still loves to read the old-fashioned newspaper. She’s raising two fruit-and-veggie loving daughters to balance all the treats Grandma sends their way. Christina’s health goal is to resume her workout routine after being sidelined by injuries.
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