JACKSONVILLE, FL -"4,3, 2 1.. Pull!" cheers Nicole Payne towards her 9:30am BodyPump class. She is an instructor for the YMCA that knows quite a bit about strength.
She's been teaching at the First Coast YMCA for three years and she can get her class laughing even when they are exhausted.
"You never regret exercise. It is hard to get up and get out the doors, but once you are there and doing it you're fine," she laughs.
Two years ago, it was classes like these that helped her gather her strength as she took on the fight for her life. With all the emphasis on breast cancer during October and BuddyCheck, she decided to do a self-exam.
"I found a suspicious lump and went to the doctor and very quickly he diagnosed me with breast cancer," she says.
Through Chemo, surgery, and radiation, Nicole kept on instructing at the YMCA. In time she was able to beat the cancer back.
Across the room is Tamara Boles. She also knows about strength. She was unhappy at work and coming off a bad break up, so she decided to give Zumba a try.
"Kept it up a couple months, in the end, over a year – lost 68 lbs and was able to keep the weight off," Tamara says proudly.
She also found a new self-confidence. She left that job and became has been a Zumba instructor for 10 months now. Nicole and Tamara say exercising isn't just about physical strength, it's boosting you up mentally too.
"It just feels good, our bodies were created to move, we are meant to move and feel that endorphin rush at any level," tells Nicole.
They hope more women and men will embrace exercise and not shy away.
"It is ok if you are shy to come to a group exercise class. If someone is staring at you, it is probably to get the correct form," jokes Tamara.
So if you want to give it a try, there will be a free, city-wide YMCA Fitness Fusion event this Saturday from 1-4pm at the Daily's Place Indoor Practice facility here in downtown. There will also be free childcare on site for kids ages six weeks or older. You can go to one class or all the classes, just have a good time!