I am sure many of you know of Zumba, but have you heard of Zumbini? Zumbini is a national early childhood music and movement program where children and their caregivers, dance, sing, play instruments and BOND! Created in 2011, by Ashlee Cramer, Zumbini has really taken off and it is personally my favorite weekend activity! I recently sat down with Ashlee and learned so much. I am truly inspired by her fitness regime and her ability to seemingly Runit all! Even if you have never taken a Zumbini class (you totally should), there is a lot here all moms can relate to and I especially love her response to my last question….keep reading. Thanks Ashlee!
Ashlee’s Runitlikeamom Run-Down:
*I have three kiddos – Steven is 14, Michael is ALMOST 13, Jennifer is 10
*I have a studio in Wynwood, Miami where I teach Zumbini classes 4 days a week, and I also go to the Zumba Corporate office 3 days a week. Just like all the other working mamas I know, I also work on my kitchen table while cooking, return calls in the car, sing new songs to myself while folding the laundry and answer emails while watching basketball!
*I think my entire life is pretty active. 7 days a week, I start the day at 5:30am with a 5-6 mile run. Everyday. Yep. The 5 days I teach are really active, VERY active! We dance, jump, bounce, run, twirl, sit, get up again, bang the floor, bang instruments, and have fun! I also teach dance 3 afternoons a week at my daughter’s public elementary school. 2d-5th grade. I do this more as a “good deed”. As a working mom, it is hard to be a volunteer for most activities, but after school I can come in and give a little dance love to those kiddos (my daughter is there, too!). I try to get in a paddle board, a canoe ride, or a swim on the weekends – my boys windsurf and sail, so my daughter and I usually end up near water of some sort!
*Short term and long term fitness goals? Short term goals – getting up tomorrow and running again? Does that count? I just feel that as long as I continue to run, to teach, to move, to dance, my overall health – both physical and mental, is so much better! I am 45 years old and have been lucky to have always led an active lifestyle. For me, being active is as much a necessity as eating and sleeping. I am never too tired to run and dance – because these are the things that actually give me energy! Plus, we know physical activity stimulates the brain, too – keeps me on my toes 🙂
I have three active kids, as well. I know children learn not so much from what their parents “say”, but what we “do.” I guess my goal is to keep my energy and fitness level into my 50s, 60s, 70s! My mom is 73 and amazing…. A great role model for me.
*Funniest thing my kids have said? Michael was 2 when his sister was born – the first time she was in the bath with him, she was only a couple of days old – he wanted to know why she was broken. “Mommy, Jennifer is broken. She has no zizi!” (French for little boy parts!)
*If I were stranded on an island with my kids I would bring -i-pod for sure, windsurf board and sail (my boys both love to windsurf, I never have the time to learn – so great opportunity, and same for my daughter) and our cat named kitty.
*My favorite indulgences are chocolate or carrot cake. They are both my favorite!
I have to ask this question first – you seriously get out and run 5 -6 miles every day on top of having three kids and working? That is so impressive, what motivates or inspires you to get out and run?
Because I just feel better on the days I do it. I honestly think I miss one day a year, and on that one day I feel ugh. I just feel better when I run. Also, for me, because I have three kids and work, it’s my moment that I am alone every day. I feel it’s my moment that’s just for me. I don’t wear headphones, I don’t listen to music when I run, I just run and my brain is free. It’s my free moment.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to moms trying to “balance” it all?
Oh boy, that is tough. I think I have to give those mamas the advice I am trying to learn myself, that it is impossible to truly balance it all. Sometimes I am NOT the perfect mama and sometimes I am NOT the best teacher/business owner. Sometimes I miss a call or an email and that is ok! And sometimes I cannot be the one to take my daughter to ballet or my sons to sailing. That is also ok. I think women feel this huge pressure to “balance” it all. We should be on top of it all at work, and yet still be there for every bandaid at home. Time for ourselves? Impossible. But we need it! I know this first hand! I am learning that I can only do what I can do. As long as my kids love me, and know I love them (more than anything!), they are ok. And they are actually proud of me and think this crazy job I have is kind of cool! The best advice I ever received was from my kids: “Live your dream, mom, you deserve it.”
You have been featured on various national/local news segments. How do your kids feel about seeing their mom on TV now?
Oh my god, they are so proud! You know, sometimes I ask them, aren’t you guys a little embarrassed about your mom being so goofy. I just had this conversation this morning with my daughter. I was like, don’t you wish you had a normal mom and not a goofy mommy. She said, what are you talking about, I’m so proud. My boys are in middle school and sometimes I think I’ve got to embarrass them a little bit because I really am, not always goofy, but I am so outgoing with all of their friends, and they don’t have a problem with it. I really think they are proud of me. I feel so lucky.
Lets go back a moment. You had been teaching early childhood music since 2004, but how exactly did the idea for Zumbini come about?
It all started in 2011…….. After so many years of teaching in the Miami area, many families began to know my name, via word of mouth. That word of mouth traveled all the way up to Hallandale and to the ears of Alberto Perlman, the CEO of Zumba Fitness. At the time he had a 3 yr. old son, and was taking early childhood music classes with him. Alberto decided he wanted to check me out! So, one Saturday, he brought his incredibly musical son to my class. Afterwards Alberto and I talked about music and children and life! I never once thought that we would eventually work together! A few months later, he contacted me and asked me to put together a proposal to Zumba Fitness for a new early childhood music and movement program that I would create for them! I laughed and said “no, there are already plenty of other wonderful programs, why do another?” But Alberto had planted a seed in my brain, and I starting thinking about it. I decided to take the Basic Zumba training to learn a little bit more about this company and where they were coming from. I loved it. Zumba is all about music and joy and happiness and moving to feel good! It is “exercise in disguise” and a big, ol’ party! This was always my philosophy as a music teacher!
From there, well, it all just kind of fell into place. Alberto hired me to “create” the program, which we soon nicknamed “zumbini”, and the name stuck. I started a pilot class and played with more movement/dancing than a traditional music class, but still keeping it age appropriate, and no, not exercise! Sergio Minski, the head of the music department at Zumba, and I met and exchanged ideas. Ironically, his wife had just given birth to their first child! Talk about good timing! We began working on music for the class – all original, all fun, all full of the zumba flavor, child appropriate, yet appealing to adults! We have now completed 3 volumes of music, 3 storybooks/songbooks, and Zumbini is growing slowly, but surely, nationwide!
My son and I have learned so much from taking Zumbini, but I want to know what is the one “take away” that you want people to get from the class?
There are so many benefits, but honestly, I think the absolute biggest one, is the bonding. Life is so busy, whether you are a working mom, a stay at home mom, a dad, a nanny, a grandma – we are all busy and we are all ALWAYS connected via instagram, twitter, email, texts, facebook, whatsapp, etc! We need to answer emails, put food on the table, fold the laundry, keep the house in order, and balance it all! BUT, those 45 minutes we spend in Zumbini class together, we put all of that aside. We connect with our children. We put the stress of the day behind us and we dance! We sing! We play! Yes, music and movement have been proven to stimulate both sides of the brain. The children are learning large motor skills, fine motor skills, learning to share instruments, share space, learning rhythm, keeping the beat…. The list goes on! The adults and children are building community, coming to the same class each week. They bond with other children, other adults……. They have fun. They come in looking tired, they walk out with a smile! THAT is the best for me. Music, dance, love, joy. They all go together.
Read Ashlee’s full bio
Want to see her in action, check out this Good Morning America clip!