This Reluctant Athlete is a runner first and foremost, but several years ago, when back and shoulder issues started to get in the way of my accomplishing my distance goals, I had to face the fact that I couldn’t only run. I needed to strengthen my core and upper body to withstand the toll that running long distances takes, or my running-related injuries would end all my activities.
I remembered my friend Mary raving about how much she loved Jazzercising and what a great workout it was. She also looked stunning, so I knew it must be effective. I thought I would give it a try, especially when Mary was devoted enough to the Little Rock studio to have its phone number memorized.
That was more than three years ago, and I have been going devotedly – religiously? – ever since. (Just ask my friends to whom I rave about it incessantly.) In the beginning I thought I would try it once a week just to get a little stretching and strengthening in; after all, I’m an introvert and don’t like group workouts. I arrived early to my first class to get a good spot in the back.
But over the years, I’ve made good friends at Jazzercise, and I’ve gotten a great workout every time I’ve been to class. I thought I might ask some of the other women who attend regularly about their experiences. All of these women look great, and not in a for-her-age kind of way, but in an anyone-would-want-to-look-like-her kind of way.
Let me introduce you to a few of the members of my “JazzerPosse”:
- My friend Martha, 74, is also a back-row, early-arriving regular, so we, of course, have been chatting it up ever since I joined. She has been going three or four times each week since 2003, and she has kept with it because she likes the dancing, the music (all the current hits) and the dual cardio- and strength-workout format. (Each class includes 40 minutes of dancing and 20 of strength training for a full-body workout.) Because it can be difficult to stick to a routine, I asked her why she has kept it up for nearly 10 years. She said, “I like the women in the class. There is a mixture of ages and ability, and the music helps make it a good time instead of a chore.” Martha also credits her exercise program with recovery from recent surgery. “The doctors told me that the one thing that helped me recover was that I was in good shape. I had to miss Jazzercise for about two months, but as soon as was able I went back,” she said.
- Kim, 45, also works out at the Little Rock studio regularly, four or five times a week, and has been doing so for eight years. She said, “I’m addicted to the energy that it gives me. I’m a mom of two busy, young boys and I have to say Jazzercise keeps me feeling fit so I can keep up with them; it keeps my mind clear and I look forward to learning the new routines that they bring forth on a regular basis.” She sees the classes as some of the only “me-time” she gets all week. She’s an active woman anyway, hiking and walking with her family. She said she loves it now, but resisted initially because the name “Jazzercise” made her think of the ’80s, but the workout was tough enough to convince her to come back.
- Penni, 61, echoed Kim and Martha in her comments, and she is also a frequent regular, but she’s been going the longest, since 1981. She’s fantastically fit, but says Jazzercise is the only program she’s really stuck with and still enjoys. She maintains that “Jazzercise is for everyone,” noting that people can work out at their own levels of intensity. She said the classes are “good for mind, body and soul. I can maintain my weight, relieve stress, improve my balance and exercise my brain with all the new dance moves.”
I have been a little surprised by my own delight and, well, my “addiction” to the classes, and I was gratified to find I’m not the only one. I should also write I have not been compensated in any way for this column by Jazzercise Little Rock; my primary motivation has been to find new listeners for my obsessive need to talk about how fun these rigorous dance routines make working out and staying fit.
In the coming weeks, this Reluctant Athlete is going to be following my friend Angel as she experiments with various fitness activities to find for herself what running is to me. Stay tuned…
Stacey Margaret Jones, M.S., APR, (@sharkushka) is a market research consultant and a member of the inaugural class of the Arkansas Writers MFA program at the University of Central Arkansas. She lives in Conway with her Chaucerian husband. Jones, a South Dakota native, does not play team sports, unless you consider cocktailing a competitive event.