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What? Me in group exercise classes? 150 pounds ago the answer would have been no way!


209 Living


Why do group exercise classes like bootcamp work?

I’m not an expert but I’ve been there.

Thirty-two years ago I decided I had to do something for the sixth time about my weight. I weighed 320 pounds, pounds at age 29. Years prior I had successfully lost 80 pounds the summer before my eighth grade year dropping 80 pounds to reach 190. That lasted for about five years.

I started my effort to lose weight 32 years ago on my 29th birthday with the resolve no way in hell was I going to turn 30 and still weigh 320 pounds given all the research that said you tend to gain weight at that point of your life and it becomes even harder to get off.

I dropped down to 210 pounds at the end of nine months and made a fateful decision. On Christmas Eve I bought myself the best present I’ve ever given myself — a racing bicycle. I hadn’t been on a bicycle since the eighth grade. It sat for a week until New Year’s Day when I hopped on it and went 11 miles up Highway 65 to Wheatland before taking a rest. I was hooked. Two months later and another 15 pounds lighter I was doing a story for The Press-Tribune on a new exercise program in Roseville called Jazzercise. After interviewing the instructor, Donna Shaw, she insisted I come back and try it.

No way, was my reaction. I’m a klutz, self-conscious, uncoordinated, and — believe it or not — shy.

But for some reason I showed up the next night. Donna had one of the biggest classes in the Sacramento area with 70 students in a typical class. I went directly to the back. I thought everyone was looking at me given there were only two other guys there and they were with their wives. At one point I had to take my glasses off because I was sweating so much I couldn't see. That of course made my ability to see even worse but at least I didn’t have to worry about a $300 pair of glasses slipping off and wrecking them.

Afterwards as I was trying to exit quickly, Donna stopped me.

Long story short, I was back the next night in the front row.

I took Jazzercise classes as many as six times a week and even bicycled at one point to Roseville from Lincoln roundtrip 25 miles on Saturdays to take a class.

I was hooked. I also wasn’t gaining any of my weight back.

When I moved to Manteca there was only a twice-a-week Jazzercise class. Bicycling every day would be a challenge given the Bulletin was a morning paper compared to The Press-Tribune being an afternoon paper that gave me six hours to kill before covering government meetings in the evening.

So that is when I joined Manteca Racquetball and Health Club that is today In Shape on East Yosemite Avenue. They offered a 6 a.m. group exercise course that Linda Plooh had originally started for men only.

Twenty-six years later I’m still doing group exercise classes, I’m still a klutz, and I have weighed 170 pounds for the past decade.

The last 20 pounds came off with a further fine tuning of what I eat to consume 4,000 plus calories a day.

But that said I'm living proof that if you want to keep weight off you need to stay active.

While I do a fairly slow jog around town I tend to be what might politely be called a little intense in group exercise classes even those that are essentially light weight lifting.

If you cut your eating and don’t kick up your exercise you're going to doom yourself to failure. The reason is simple. You eat less and your body adjusts by conserving fuel, so to speak. All of a sudden when you’ve reached your weight goal your body has become more efficient. That means you’ve got to keep eating less to maintain weight loss.

I guess you could do that but it has never worked for me.

Plus there are other benefits that come from exercising. For me it's kept the weight off, reduced stress, kept my resting heart rate below 50 as well as my blood pressure on the lower end, made me less susceptible to getting sick, made me stronger, healthier, and — I least in my mind as I know more than a few people would disagree — made me more mentally sharp.

So where does group exercise such as bootcamp fit into all of this?

I belong to two health clubs — In Shape and Club Cal Fit. The reason I have memberships is for one thing only — group exercise classes. I don’t touch a single weight machine nor do I step on any cardio machine. I need classes that fit my schedule and interest. That’s why in a typical week I will hit two different In Shape clubs in Tracy as well as the Manteca In Shape and the one on March Lane in Stockton plus Club Cal Fit.

You will find students who have similar stories to mine and have succeeded without being as nutso as me.

I'm pretty motivated. I will exercise every day even if it is just a 4 mile jog. I can count on two hands the days I haven't exercised in the last 31 years and that includes right after two hernia operations, ripping muscle and skin off my knee in a bicycle crash at 45 mph downhill that exposed bone, and after everyone thought I broke my neck in another bicycle crash.

Group exercise is great for a number of reasons.

You can pick things up from the instructor as well as try new things. I’m now taking Margy Nelson’s Zumba class as well as a U-Jam class from an instructor named Little John on top of Body Pump classes from Mary, cardio blast classes from Yolanda, and RIPPED classes firm Nicole all in the same week.

You also develop a group of what some refer to as “workout friends” that laugh with you and motivate you.

I'm still self-conscious but who cares. I get over it about 5 minutes into a class.

I still get in the front row or as close as I can for two reasons —I really can’t see all that well without my glasses plus I’m a natural lefty that was forced to be right handed. I have to listen and watch carefully until I memorize moves or else I'm all over the place.

The various different exercise programs and instructors have allowed me to figure out new ways to modify how I deal day-to-day with things such as a cracked shoulder, bunions from hell, hammer toes, knee issues, a slight curvature of the back and more.

The bottom line is you don’t have to be a jock or the Tasmanian Devil to enjoy moving and exercise. The benefits are endless from less stress and being healthier to weight control.

Besides, you might even get a move named after you.

If you had told people who knew me 150 pounds ago I’d be doing a double grapevine over  the entire width of the Manteca In Shape group exercise room to do it and have the move named after me they would have rolled on the floor in uncontrollable laughter.


Exercise is transforming and group exercise makes it even better.