Like a quiet magnet, the Graham Jazzercise program is drawing a small cadre of men to its daily work-out classes.
Seeking to keep fit or needing to shed pounds, these men, all 50 years and older, are “doin’ the jazz” – an advanced program of dance, aerobic exercise and a cardiac workouts – that has long been the province of women, particularly fit and agile ones.
“I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been,” said one of the guys, Marty Miller, 54, who also plays tennis and takes regular T’ai Chi classes in his hometown of Eatonville.
“My blood pressure was going up and I just decided I needed to do something more,” Marty said. “I’m a line supervisor for Tacoma Power, so I don’t get much exercise at work.
“Yeah, I’m mostly at a desk, too, said his friend, Kevin Miller (no relation), 55, who is an inspector at the FAA. “Jazzercise sure gets the heart beatin’ – it’s harder than Zumba!”
Kevin said that when his blood chemistry showed elevated signs of triglycerides, he too decided to “do something more,” even though he chops fire wood, swims and plays volleyball occasionally, and is also building a house.
“I’ve just been eating-out too much on the job,” Kevin said, indicating that the pounds were beginning to mount, “and my family has a history of heart disease.”
In addition, the jazzercise program enhances movement and strength.
“My joints all feel lubed-up,” said Kevin. I can move much more smoothly, everything is more fluid – and I need that building a house! Plus, I’ve got more breath and don’t have to stop to get my wind.”
The Graham Jazzercise program is led by Ellen Hall, a certified jazzercise instructor and a former professional dancer and ballerina. Her classes last 60 minutes and are carefully scripted for proper cardiac and physiological care, and are accompanied by a lively soundtrack of modern music ranging from Lionel Richie to Lady Gaga, and include plenty of hot pop and country tunes.
“If you can hang with Ellen for an hour, you’re gonna get a workout,” said Kevin with a laugh.
Ellen also has a secondary program imbedded in her main session, called Jazz-Off Weight Loss, and one of her new adherents is Roger Peterson, 67, who is aiming to lose a pound a week.
“I’ve gained 50 pounds ever since I got diabetes – all from the insulin – it puts on fat like crazy,” said Roger.
Roger said he had started a home exercise program, but like the others he needed more.
“I saw Ellen’s little yellow signs around town and decided to give it a try.”
Roger told the Mountain News that he started Jazzercise in February and has been attending sessions twice a week since then.
“I’d like to do it three or four times a week, but I’m just too tired,” he said. “I sure sleep good after one of Ellen’s workouts.”
Ellen’s sessions are divvied into two halves. The first is a traditional dance workout, with plenty of “pliés,” sashays, and other hi-speed dance steps. Once the sweat starts dripping, the group switches to “cool-down” routines, which are a combination of slow step movements with lots of arching, stretching and bending – and generally accentuated by gripping two pound weights in both hands.
Besides the men, there are about a dozen women in most sessions, and most participants are over 40. Their degree of fitness and amount of excess weight varies greatly, and although encouraged to maintain the energetic pace many participants slow down after a few routines, and they modify their remaining workout to suit their abilities and strengths.
As for having men in their midst, the women seemed pleased to have the guys around.
“We love having them,” said sisters Kim Kleinsasser and Kathi Miller, who is married to Kevin.
“Ah, c’mon, Bruce, women always love watching men dance,” said Ellen, with a big smile.
Graham Jazzercise classes are held in the Liberty Junior High on Monday and Wednesday evenings at 6 pm; and Frontier Junior High on Tuesday and Thursday, also at 6 pm.
In addition, morning sessions are run at Rainier View Community Church on Monday and Wednesday at 9:15 am.
For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) FIT-IS-IT.
© 2011 The Mountain News WA
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