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Group exercise class provide encouragement, deliver results

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Jennie Schatmeier, foreground, leads some of her students in group exercise.

HIME ROMERO/209 Health & Wellness/

POSTED December 19, 2012 5:43 p.m.

She’s upbeat. She’s there to help you get in shape. She’s chatty. She’s funny.

But once the music starts, she’s going to make sure you give it your best shot.

Jennie Schatmeier is a group exercise instructor.

The phrase “group exercise instructor” conjures up images running the gamut from drill sergeant to an East German woman weightlifter from the 1970s in the minds of those who’ve never stepped into such a class.

Bark directions, she does. But it is more like a friend you’re training with to make sure you do it right so you get the maximum benefit.

If you don’t think group exercise instructors such as Schatmeier aren’t effective, go talk to some of their students. Strike that. They are more like friends. And they’re friends who pack the class week in and week out.

“She keeps you motivated,” noted Terri Bazan, who has been participating in group exercise classes for close to 20 years.

Bazan - like her friend Jennie Garcia - will tell you group exercise beats doing it solo hands down.

“It’s a great way to make friends,” Garcia offered.

If you doubt that, stop by one of Schatmeier’s classes. Students start filtering in 45 minutes before it starts. Often you have to show up early to secure a spot, but it is more than that. It is a time for socializing. But once the music start, it’s down to business.

Leslie Fross knows how successful that business really is.

Before she got into group exercise classes, she hadn’t been able to shed weight after giving birth despite a daily regular exercise schedule. But with the repertoire of exercises designed to involve the entire body at one point or another and a balance between aerobic and an anaerobic styles Fross shed 50 pounds in a matter of months.

Seven years later she’s still at it.

And while one shouldn’t mention a lady’s age, Fross has no problem with it. She looks at least 10 years younger than the 50 years the calendar contends that she is.

“It (group exercise) changed my life,” Fross said.

Fross credits Schatmeier with giving her “a little push.”

Natercia Widmer is more direct.

“There’s so much accountability in group exercise class,” Widmer said.

It starts with the obvious, the instructor. Schatmeier takes it a step further using social media to keep up with those who engage in such a manner. She also takes a personal interest in those who exercise in classes and why they may have missed a few sessions.

Widmer said that helps keep her motivated.

As knowing there are regulars that she’s exercising with as well.

Widmer, like most other group exercise students, says she has developed friendships with others in her class.

There is also a third form of accountability - oneself. Group exercise students say that they have discovered they hold themselves more accountable than if they exercised by themselves.

A lot of it has to do with the fact they have a set time and place to exercise. On their own, most group exercise students said they don’t exercise as often or as intently.

But isn’t group exercising intimidating, too dance-y, or has a tendency to turn you into the Incredible Hulk?

“I thought it was going to be like Zumba,” noted Kristen Hoover.

She was surprised to find out how hard of a workout group exercise classes are that combine weight exercise and aerobic-style movements and stretching.

And while the movements were something she didn’t anticipate - and found difficult at first - she soon found herself building strength, firming up, improving her outlook and pushing herself even more. It is a virtual carbon copy of other students’ experience who try group exercise and stick with it.

As for it being intimidating, students says it is to a small degree at first, but soon you’ll be amazed at what you can do.

And as far as you becoming muscle-bound, guess again. Follow the regimen of group exercise programs and you will have overall improved health, better flexibility, strength that emphasizes firmness and not bulk, as well as better stamina. Not to mention better vitals such as lower blood pressure and lower heart rates.

If you are still hesitant, student Shanda Rickman has some advice.

“Try different classes,” Rickman said.

Some try spin and can’t stand it. But then they try a different class and they’re hooked.

Schatmeier also says you can ask for a pass to try out classes first.

But be forewarned. You could find yourself losing weight, feeling healthier, and making new friends.

“It’s addictive,” Fross said.

And as far as addictions go, it’s tough to be one that makes you feel better about yourself and makes you healthier as well.

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