Notes and Narratives goes “On the Record” with zumba instructor Krystal Jones

by: Shumara Thomas

There is a perpetuating myth that black women aren’t into fitness. In a culture where being curvy or “thick” is praised and sought after,  women of color are often overlooked in the health and fitness world. When you open a fitness magazine in Barnes and Noble, you will often not see a person of color represented within any its pages. Over the last few years there has been a growing movement to combat this erasure.  With blogs and hashtags like “Black Women Do Workout” and #blackfitness becoming more popular on social media; fitness darlings like Massy Arias gaining national attention including endorsements from companies like Target, black women and women of color are now getting their chance to shine in the world of working out. Yes, eating soul food on those visits to Grandma’s house is an important ritual in our culture and community but with “African American women hav[ing] higher rates of obesity and related chronic disease than other demographic groups” according to the CDC, proper diet and exercise are subjects that can no longer be avoided. On our local scene–with several institutions of higher learning surrounding us–it’s no surprise that we have athletes and fitness enthusiasts like Krystal Jones of Zumba With Krystal, who not only has an amazing weight loss journey of her own but encourages other women of color and people to jump in on the fitness train. Notes and Narratives not only got to photograph this Zumba instructor (We had a BALL!!), we got to pick her brain on healthy living and how anyone can make a fresh start.

 Image of Krystal Jones: by Shumara Thomas Image of Krystal Jones: by Shumara Thomas

Born in Washington, DC and raised in Bowie, MD, Krystal was an “army brat” that was heavily involved in fitness and sports throughout her youth. She played basketball, ran track and stayed active but like many women, gained weight after the birth of her child in 2010.

‘Exercise is good for your health’, is a phrase I heard several times.  It wasn’t until I went to the doctor for a check-up when it actually hit me. My primary doctor politely told me I was considered to be obese. Hearing that not only hurt my feelings but put some fire underneath me to quickly make a change.  Weighing in at 249 lbs, 5’5, and 31 yrs old, I knew that I had to make some lifestyle changes immediately. I didn’t hesitate, I walked out of that appointment and put a plan into action.  One year later, I am 160 lbs and feeling the best I have ever felt,” said Krystal. Sounds easy but so many people start off making these great healthy changes and fizzle out after not remaining consistent. A fact that Krystal completely understands and relates to.

“After losing so much weight, I have so much pressure to keep it off, eat clean daily, and work out at least 6 times a week,” she said.  “I refuse to go back to where I was. I understand that if allow myself to get complacent, unfortunately, I will pick the weight right back up.  I spend at least 3 out of 6 days doing both cardio and strength training, and the other 3 days doing a combination of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), as well as strength training.  One thing that has helped me in dealing with pressure to keep myself toned and in shape is recognizing that weight loss is an overall ‘Lifestyle Change’, and in order to maintain you must eat healthy and stay active.”

Yet other roadblocks keep people from getting healthy as well. There’s the stereotype that fit women look too masculine in appearance. We have all read the slander super-athlete Serena Williams has often received for her muscular shape, even in the midst of praising her for having such great curves shape as well. The pressure to be hourglass shaped but with a “stomach on flat flat” to quote Drake is damaging. Most of us can’t pull off having a teeny waist and thick thighs, regardless of how it seems everyone else does on social media. Krystal agrees. “Unfortunately, so many people link their self-worth to their looks.  Social media plays a heavy role in both women and men; they feel as though the amount of “likes” determine how beautiful or relevant they are. As a black woman and a mother, I want my children to embrace every stage they encounter in life whether good or bad. I want them to be confident in WHO THEY ARE versus what others or social media feels they should be.”

So how do you get truly get started when you’re ready to commit to starting a healthy lifestyle, and leave behind those false expectations to become your best self? Krystal has got you covered. She recommends four ways to ensure you are not only successful during your newfound  weight loss journey but stay committed past your first 30 days.

  1. Define YOUR body goals: “How much weight would you like to lose?  Do you want abs? Or do you just want to feel healthy?”
  2. Time management: “Being a single mother of three young, active children, working a full time job, and being a Zumba instructor requires a lot of time management and patience.  I kept the mindset that ‘[you] make time for what’s important to you.’ I knew losing weight was imperative, so I made consistent time for it and cut out all the excuses.”:
  3. Get An Accountability Workout Buddy: “This is so important.  There were so many times I did not feel like doing anything. Having an accountability partner helped when I felt like throwing in the towel.”
  4. Treat yo’self: “Reward yourself! Celebrate the small and big victories.  I would treat myself to a new pair of jeans, shoes, or even fitness attire–I’m addicted–every time I would lose 15lbs.”
  5. Another best practice Krystal suggests is to forget about those “Cheat Days” we hear about and “focus more on a ‘Cheat Meal.’ If you don’t have good self control cheat days can be super dangerous.  To keep myself out of the danger zone, I feel as though a cheat meal works best for me.”

For those us not ready for the gym,  don’t let it stop you. One great option Krystal suggests for those that don’t want to be in the gym all day but still want to lose weight is running. As a matter of fact, Krystal “absolutely LOVE(S) running.”  If you recall she ran track in her youth but: “I was a sprinter. Throughout this journey I have learned to embrace long distance running. For me I see it as a major accomplishment. Running long distance is something I just could not do since 2010; here I am 8 years later and I’m running about 4-5 miles at least 4 days a week.  Running for me is a huge stress reliever, it’s my quiet time. Running allows me to escape all of the troubles I may be experiencing; I throw my sneakers and my headphones on and I take on the world one stride at a time.” Better yet Krystal offers Zumba classes in the Raleigh area that you can attend if you need some face to face motivation to get you started. You can follow her on Instagram at @krystyle_clear for all the details on her classes, fitness tips and some inspiring thoughts!

Krystal Jones by Shumara Thomas