Zumba dance is exercise for good health
Bringing the Zumba exercise dance craze to Bellaire at Barbara King Dance Company, 5410 Bellaire Blvd., Karen Franklin is a high-energy fitness instructor. What's more amazing is that she continued to lead rigorous Zumba classes after a cancer diagnosis and subsequent surgery and chemotherapy.
Originally a Spanish teacher and assistant principal after earning a master's degree in school administration, Franklin decided to leave education to raise her son 11 years ago. She became a fitness instructor for the flexibility of hours.
"I wanted a career but I also wanted to be with my son, so I found a way to juggle both roles," Franklin said.
In April 2009, she found out about Zumba, which is a fast-paced exercise program that combines dance movements with upbeat Latin and other music, and became certified to teach Zumba level one, level two, and the children's version — Zumbatomic.
"I have always loved the Latin culture, and I lived in Costa Rica for a time so Zumba seemed to me the perfect marriage of exercise, dance and great music," Franklin said.
Zumba has been around for seven years but Franklin says it is reaching its peak in popularity in exercise programs. She does many basic Zumba steps but creates her own choreography.
"You forget you are working out and you can dance to intoxicating music – not just Latin music but 30 percent other world music," Franklin said.
Franklin built up a following of women and men with her Zumba classes when she said she was "rudely interrupted" with a cancer diagnosis.
"Once I got over the shock and devastation and over my fear, I decided to approach it with a positive outlook," Franklin said. "I have my faith and I find that my positive energy and drawing people to me through Zumba is a gift and it's almost a ministry. I hope I inspired people."
Now her purpose is to inspire and help other patients. In the meantime, she has inspired her Zumba students with her positive outlook and some have lost weight and changed their lifestyle to get into good physical shape.
"The reason I was able to continue through most of my treatment was that I was in excellent physical shape," Franklin said. "I did not have the typical side effects and that helped me get through 16 rounds of chemotherapy and a mastectomy."
During round 15 of her chemotherapy, Franklin discontinued teaching for a little while because her white blood count was down and she needed to protect her immune system.
Her Zumba and exercise clients were able to follow her journey through her blog and website.
Meyerland resident Andy Kwartler has lost a lot of weight and has gotten into top physical shape with Frankin and Zumba. She supported Franklin through her illness and was part of a large client support network for Franklin, with many of them providing her with meals, financial help and even company during her chemo treatments.
"She never cried, she never asked, 'Why me?' and she never complained about the fatigue or the pain," Kwartler said. "She was amazing and a tremendous inspiration to my sisters and me. She constantly pushed us to work harder even when she was undergoing chemo."
Franklin, a single mom and a resident of Pearland, is works as an educational consultant and as a Pilates fitness and Zumba instructor in Bellaire and Pearland.
Her website is www.tvwconsulting.net.
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