Humans of Miami Lakes: Virnalis Martinez-Arvelo

Thursday, September 6, 2018 0 Comments

Humans of Miami Lakes: Virnalis Martinez-Arvelo

 

Virnalis Martinez-Arvelo was born and raised in Miami Lakes and has been serving the community she loves in every way she can. Not only is Arvelo a dedicated wife and mother of two, but she is a hard-working teacher at Miami Lakes K-8 (MLK8) and vivacious instructor at Shula’s Athletic Club. For ten years, Arvelo has been an aerobics instructor and Zumba teacher at the Athletic Club. 

“I took my first Zumba class 12 years ago, and I discovered it was a fun way to help me get back in shape and lose weight. It just feels like you’re at a club,” Arvelo smiled. 

Zumba is a high-energy aerobic dance class Arvelo first started practicing when she began her weight-loss journey. On one fateful day, the Zumba instructor for a class she was attending had to use the bathroom, and left Arvelo alone to teach the class. It turned on a switch for Arvelo, and she discovered that her passion for the exercise didn’t just stop at being a dancer.

“She (the instructor) knew that I knew the choreography, and she said ‘Go! Just do it, follow her!’ and she just kind of put me on the spot. I loved it, and other instructors would do the same thing, and I developed a passion for it and everyone was just encouraging me to get certified,” explained Arvelo. 

However, Believing she was still too over-weight to teach such an active class, she was proven wrong by the creator of Zumba, Beto Perez. Since then, Arvelo dedicated herself to teaching Zumba at the Athletic Club to not only lose weight and stay active, but to motivate others into doing the same. 

“They (the community) tells me I inspire them because they can identify with me and my journey. But what they don’t realize is that they inspire me to keep going on my journey,” Arvelo said.

For eight years, Arvelo has also been teaching at MLK8. Not only does she specialize in teaching eighth grade language arts, but she also spearheaded the first Zumba elective in the school. Separate from the typical physical education course, Zumba is an elective taught at the very end of the day. 

“I’ve done it before as a club after school, I’ve also done it for the teachers as well. But just getting it as part of the actual school day is what makes it so exciting, because kids actually look forward to this class where it’s just fun, but it’s the last period of the day, so they can dress out and leave all nice and sweaty when the bell rings,” Arvelo laughed. “It’s a nice alternative for kids who don’t like P.E. or don’t like sports. For the most part, it gives them a nice opportunity to do something different.”

In addition to keeping the Miami Lakes community in shape, Arvelo also dedicates her time to four charity events a year. The Zumba community alone has raised thousands of dollars at Zumbathons for organizations like American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Toys for Tots, Big Brothers Big Sister and more. 

Arvelo says her passion for the exercise wouldn’t have flourished if it wasn’t for her supportive family. Her high school sweetheart and husband, Angel Arvelo, helps with the kids after school alongside Arvelo’s mother. 

“He’s been so supportive. He’s loved me at 300 pounds, and he loves me now, and he just supports me in everything that I do, and he makes it easier. When the kids were younger, I’d go to the gym, but he was always there to make sure they were doing their homework and taking them to all their activities,” explained Arvelo. “It’s a group effort. My mom helps as well because she lives with us, so it’s the three of us chauffeuring the kids around because they’re in so many after school activities, so if i didn’t have them I wouldn’t be able to do this.”

Arvelo teaches Zumba at Shula’s Athletic Club Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m., Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 9 a.m. On October 6, Arvelo will conduct a 90-minute free Zumba class at 8:30 a.m. to celebrate her decade working at the gym. 

For more information about Arvelo’s class, contact Shula’s Athletic Club at (305) 820-8025 or visit www.clubshula.com. If you know someone like Arvelo who has shaped the community for the better, call (305)817-4078 or E-mail kayleenp@miamilaker.com.


 

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