Aerobics instructors keep community active
Teaching aerobics class for the Indian River School District adult-education program has become much more than an obligation or a task for Willa Jordan and Gail Harmon. The two women, who both work at the Stockley Center, classify teaching aerobics, rather, as a lifestyle — something they couldn’t be without.
Having been AFPA (American Fitness Professionals and Associates) members for years, they continue this season, providing a range of courses that fit a variety of fitness levels and desires.
Jordan, who has been teaching aerobics for the adult-education program since 1984, started with elements of dance. With a quick transition into aerobic workout, she expanded her classes to low-impact, high-energy sessions, as well as step-aerobics.
Harmon, who started teaching in 1997, gears her classes toward cardio workouts and toning, with her “Ripped” courses. She incorporates equipment into her classes, including medicine balls, boxing gloves and ankle weights. Students are encouraged to bring their own 2-pound, 4-pound or 8-pound weights to the “Ripped” classes and personal floor mats to both Harmon’s and Jordan’s courses, to make the workout more comfortable.
Many students are hesitant to get started in one of the classes, the instructors said, simply because they don’t always know where to start.
“Step [aerobics] might not be the right class for somebody,” admitted Jordan. “But with the variety we offer, people can usually find something that they’re into.”
“Everybody comes to these classes for different reasons,” noted Harmon. “Some want to lose a few pounds, some want to get in better shape, and others just want something more to do.” Whatever impetus might be for their students, the two have enjoyed seeing a steady increase of participants in their classes each year, which is the ultimate satisfaction for each of the instructors.
“Our classes are all about the participants,” said Harmon, who added that she gets her fulfillment out of seeing her students return. “It’s always nice to see new faces,” she said, “but when you have the same people returning to your classes, it gives you a sense that you are really doing something right.”
Jordan sees anywhere from 15 to 30 people in each of her classes, while some of Harmon’s classes have grown to more than 50 students. “The summertime brings the most people,” Harmon said, “but a lot of the time, everyone is motivating each other to come out.”
The classes have also been a great way for the students and instructors to establish new friendships. “It’s almost like an extended family,” said Jordan. “Everyone is always anxious to get back and see people.”
Harmon added that a lot of her satisfaction comes from the male students who enroll in her classes. “It takes a lot of courage for the men to get out in some of these classes,” she said of the traditionally female-dominated exercise option, “but it’s really inspiring to see them.”
She noted that aerobics classes have come a long way since the past decades, when they were at one time, almost typecast. “It’s become much more of a casual thing,” she said. “There used to be only women in classes, wearing leotards,” she said. “Now, you see men coming out, and you can go in sweatpants and a T-shirt. The atmosphere has changed. It’s a lot more welcoming.”
“The music we play really has a lot to do with the students’ involvement,” said Harmon, noting that if the songs are upbeat and motivational, most people will lose the mentality that they are actually working out. “If you keep people moving, they’re going to have a better time.”
Over the years, Harmon has learned that there are other ways to keep her students involved and enjoying the program. “You can design the workouts different ways,” she said, “and people will have fun doing it. If you just tell someone to do 10 pushups, they say in their mind, ‘This is difficult.’ All you have to do is make it enjoyable.”
The two work full-time at the Stockley Center — Jordan, the director of nursing, and Harmon, the shelter workshop production foreman supervisor and a part-time therapist at Bridge Counseling — and still manage six hours a week teaching their fitness classes.
“The one excuse we don’t want to hear is that people don’t have any time,” said Harmon with a laugh. “If we are able to work our jobs and get out there to teach the classes, anyone can find time to make it to a couple [classes] each week.”
In addition to teaching their own classes, the two stay active in their own ways, working out at fitness centers and continuing with classes of their own throughout the year. Jordan participates in an annual softball league, as well.
Jordan currently holds low-impact/high-energy aerobics classes Tuesdays and Thursdays at Lord Baltimore Elementary, from 4 p.m. until 5 p.m. In addition, she has two step-aerobics classes at Georgetown Elementary on Mondays and Wednesdays, one from 4:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. and the other from 5:30 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. Her next sessions of step-aerobics classes are set to begin Monday, April 16, and her low-impact/high-energy aerobics class will begin at Lord Baltimore Elementary on Tuesday, April 17.
Harmon currently runs her “Ripped” classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 4:30 p.m. until 6 p.m., at North Georgetown Elementary and from 6:45 p.m. until 8:15 p.m. at Lord Baltimore Elementary. Her next 10-session classes will begin on Tuesday, April 24, at North Georgetown Elementary and on Thursday, April 26, at Lord Baltimore Elementary.
Walk-in fees are an additional $4, so pre-registration is encouraged. To pre-register for any class or for more information, call the Indian River Adult Education program at (302) 436-1010 or visit their Web site at www.irsd-adulted.com.