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Harmonix Post-Fitness Challenge Update: Jessa Brezinski

Leading up to the launch of Dance Central 2, a group of Harmonixers joined forces to participate in a Dance Central Fitness Challenge to get in better shape and improve overall health while having fun. As part of the fitness challenge the group was separated into “Crews” for accountability and motivation. One of the guidelines of the fitness challenge was to make Dance Central or Dance Central 2 a primary source of exercise (that’s where the fun part comes in). Participants were required to weigh in every two weeks and keep journals for progress tracking.

The fitness challenge came to a close last month, and whether it was reaching a weight loss goal or seeing a significant improvement in fitness levels, our participants had very positive results. The crew “Body By Jake And The Fatman” found plenty of success as part of the fitness challenge and have shared their stories.


Coming in second (and as half the winning crew!) was a nice bonus reward to the competition. The really awesome part though is that it helped me build much better eating and activity habits. When I tried to lose weight previously, the first time I’d hit a road bump, it’d be over. I’d get depressed and give up. Having this competition take place over many months meant that if I hit a bump and plateaued or even gained weight, there was still time to fix it. I had to stop berating myself and just work a bit harder.


With this fitness challenge I decided to focus more on eating what I actually need food-wise. I’ve always been bad about dangerously cutting out calories -aka "crash dieting." This time I decided to make sure I was getting a minimum 1200 calories a day (appropriate for my body size) and that this wasn’t just six pounds of lettuce, but actually incorporated healthy proteins, fats, and even carbs. And you know what? It works! I don’t get hunger headaches, my hypoglycemia is more in control than it’s ever been, I have energy to actually do things and, best of all, I feel great! I don’t feel like I’m dieting or constantly hungry. And my metabolism and body are in good shape so that when I have the occasional dessert or greasy burger splurge, it’s not a big deal.

The best piece of dieting/fitness advice I’ve ever been given, though, is simple: Be nice to yourself! I tend to get over-critical and angry with myself if I stumble or slide backwards, but that just makes it worse. Don't say mean things to yourself that you'd punch other people for saying. Appreciate yourself for trying and just keep plugging away. Baby steps are still steps and though it might take a little bit longer, baby steps will get you where you’re going!


As for using Dance Central, I’ve discovered I’m able to use it best if I set goals for myself at the beginning of the week. Spontaneous play is fun, but it’s easier for me to stick with it long term if I have it scheduled on my calendar. For instance, “45 minutes of Dance Central; learn 2-3 new songs” or “Dance Central; run through playlist #3” and so on. It’s harder for me to weasel out of an actual written-down DC appointment and goal.


I like to skip around songs a lot in general. I'll do a couple Break It Down sessions, but mostly I just jump in and dance. I have a couple go-to playlists that are just songs I know that I like. I’ve found that it’s easier to get myself to play when I'm not feeling up to it if I tell myself “I’m only going to dance these songs that I really like and know; it’s only going to take half an hour”. I usually end up dancing longer than that once I’ve started! Occasionally I’ll change up the songs on the playlist, but it’s usually some combination of:

Bust a Move – Young MC Club Can’t Handle Me – Flo Rida ft. David Guetta D.A.N.C.E. –Justice Days Go By –Dirty Vegas DJ Go Us Fallin’ In Love –Usher ft. Pitbull Down –Jay Sean ft. Lil Wayne Flava In Ya Ear –Craig Mack I Got You Dancing –Lady Sovereign I Gotta Feeling –The Black Eyed Peas Massive Attack –Nicki Minaj ft. Sean Garrett Move Ya Body –Nina Sky Push It –Salt-N-Pepa Run -Gnarles Barkley Sexy Chick –Davie Guetta ft. Akon Somebody to Love –Justin Bieber Technologic –Daft Punk

I turn freestyle mode off, but since a lot of my favorite songs are original Dance Central era, I play fetch with my dog during freestyle. Keeps me moving and her happy!


I’ve always been a fan of trying new things, so I decided to use this fitness challenge as motivation to try some new athletic classes. Tried kickboxing and hated it. I started fencing and LOVE it. I also started a semi-regular ballet class in December to compliment my weekly Irish Dance classes. Aside from being great workouts, taking classes has the added advantage of getting me off the couch. I go into hibernation mode in the winter, especially since I write, read, and knit a lot -- all of which are sedentary activities. Looking for new activities with a fitness slant kept me moving (and not carb-loading) through the dark winter months.


Getting rid of the guilt that’s often paired with diet and exercise completely changed how I approach weight loss now, not as a quick sprint, but rather as an actual lifestyle change. I now dance/fence/work out at the gym five to six days a week. I walk my dog more. I’m more aware of the types and amounts of food I put into my body but still let myself have the occasional treat. The result is that I have more energy, I feel better, and I’m just happier. Hurray!