Middle school is hard enough – puberty! bullies! the beginning of “high math”! – but adding in a weight problem just takes adolescent insecurities to an even higher level. It’s a struggle that Andrew Hickman, from Clifton, New Jersey, is all too familiar with.
“When I was younger, I was one of the chubby kids. I loved food, still do. I never had a problem finishing my dinner – the problem was more when to quit. Going into middle school, I think I had gained a good 30 pounds over the summer.”
His weight struggle continued into high school. “I joined the swim team and the track team. I started at the bottom, then became the captain of both teams senior year of high school.”
It was a pretty impressive feat for Andrew, who continued to stay on top of his weight into college.
“While I was in college, I actually lost more weight because the food was disgusting. I didn’t want to eat it!”
But after his junior year at Caldwell College, Andrew moved back home and became a commuter.
“That’s when I fell in love with food again – all that home cooking. Everything was available, everything was familiar to me, so I had actually gained 60 pounds after moving back home and throughout that year. I really needed to do something, get back in shape, control my weight somehow.”
It was a mountain he ended up conquering.
“I was a member of the gym, but I was never really motivated to work out. I had always choreographed Sweet 15s and 16s, done Spanish dance instruction, and ballroom dance. So, I saw this class that was called Zumba. It wasn’t really that popular yet, so I asked the girl at the gym what it was, and she was like: ‘Oh, it’s a Latin dance class.’ So I was like: ‘sign me up, I’ll take it!’”
After the first class, Andrew fell in love, and he’s been doing Zumba ever since.
“I was a student for a good four or five months. I met an instructor who kind of became my Zumba mentor, and then I got certified myself. I went from taking four classes a week to teaching almost eight to nine classes a week.”
And it paid off. In two and a half months, Andrew lost 65 pounds – just from doing Zumba. He’s been in “pretty good shape” ever since.
Although he has a full-time job as the Teen Director at the Boys & Girls Club of Clifton, his Zumba career has taken off.
“I actually have a couple of friends who’ve videotaped me doing classes on YouTube. I did one for a lifestyle and fitness expo. I’ve also done Zumba down the shore, on the beach. That was actually pretty hard, but I would definitely do it again, because it was fun.”
Zumba on the beach? We see a creative Friday Fitness Tip in the near future…
In addition to Zumba, Andrew loves being active in the outdoors.
“I was a part of Boy Scouts when I was younger, and we always used to go to Stokes State Forest in Branchville, New Jersey. We went camping, and after Boy Scouts I continued going there with a couple of my friends. It’s a fun place, right by the lake. They have open areas, a nice hiking trail, and outdoorsy, fresh air.”
Since we’re all about parks and the outdoors, we decided to press him a little more.
“State parks and outdoor areas are nice for a bunch of things, but my friends and I like to actually do something there – go out fishing, go on a hike, or if we’re camping, we’re chopping down wood for a campfire, or we’re swimming in a lake, or we’re playing football. We’re staying active to have fun.”
Andrew also likes to go with friends to Garrett Mountain in Clifton, which is “ a huge mountain with a long, winding road where people go running and hiking.” To overcome his figurative mountain, Andrew heads to a literal one. We pretty much dig that.
And what does Andrew use to help enhance his outdoor experiences? Why, you guessed it! The Pocket Ranger® app!
“I have your app. It’s very useful. If I’m looking for a place to hike, or for a place to take the kids, or an outdoor activity, one quick touch and I can find a lot of places nearby. So it’s a big help.”
When it comes to his weight and staying healthy, Andrew’s now “doing it on my own terms. I would say I was more fit in high school, because I had a set routine of athletics. I had to keep a certain weight maintained; I had to do this, do that. Now that I’m doing it on my own I’m just doing it for the love of it, to stay healthy. Zumba, for me, it’s just dancing. I just love to move.”
As a success story, we wanted to know if he had any advice for people trying to get to that healthy weight.
“If your goal is to stay fit and keep the weight off, do it on your own terms. Don’t do it to impress others; don’t do it to reach a deadline because you want to look good for the summertime. Do it so you feel good. If that’s pretty much consistent, you won’t have a deadline, you won’t have a goal. It’ll just be.”
We’re thinking that those are some pretty wise words. Which prompted us to ask whether Andrew’s considered becoming a full-time fitness guru.
“I’ve thought about it. A lot of people have suggested I open up a little studio. Right now, I don’t have the time for it with my job at the club. Working with kids is not really a nine to five kind of thing. But I definitely do have a dream of at least renting a studio, and holding my own classes and having my own area that I can say is my studio. So that’s definitely on the bucket list.”
We’re pretty inspired by Andrew. In fact, we’re so inspired that we’re going to have to end this post now, because we have the urge to go to Zumba. And then hike a mountain in a state park. We think. Either way, like Andrew, we’re going to conquer our mountains on our own terms. We hope you will, too.