Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Big Sarge

Meet my new Zumba instructor, Big Sarge.

My gym likes to stir things up occasionally, adding different kinds of classes, new instructors, changing class times. Some things catch on and become part of the regular schedule. Other trial programs disappoint and disappear.

A new instructor with the handle Big Sarge spent the past few weeks auditioning for a permanent position on the instructor and fitness class roster. He – yes, he – began class proudly announcing he is the only six foot, black male Zumba instructor. I do not know if that is in the entire state of New Jersey, the whole country and possibly the world of Zumba International (if there is such a thing), but I would not doubt it. His day job is Army fitness trainer. His ‘real job’ hours vary, so he is available for some morning and late afternoon classes.

I graced his class two times a week for the past few weeks. Our gym has a great policy where the purchase of a membership allows attendance at any class and does not limit the number of classes attended.

Graced is not the right word. I am not at all graceful on the Zumba floor, or anyplace else. I attend class and make a great effort to keep up with Sarge’s manic pace. My goal is not to collapse or quit before the hour is up; that would be embarrassing. I try not to watch the clock, because that can be frustrating.

I do talk to myself a lot, but not out loud. I guess I think to myself a lot. You mean that song lasted less than five minutes? Impossible! It feels like it took at least 15 very long minutes…Water, I need my water…I don’t know if I can survive another 45 minutes…half hour…we have only done three songs and I want to go home…What did he just say? Warm up is over and now the REAL work begins. I am already exhausted…I can’t think straight. It is beautiful outside today. When can I go home?
One of our Zumba songs...
Gracefulness is not attempted or considered. I have enough to contemplate watching the fast-paced master execute moves. Mimicking the steps, hand and body movements is an exercise not necessarily in futility, but a participant like me must have a devil-may-care attitude. If I cared how I appeared to others I would slink home and not return.

Luckily most of the women – occasionally one man shows up for class - are not elegant swans and are not into wearing designer outfits or spending a lot of time fixing hair and make up before dashing to class, especially those of us showing up for early morning classes. We want to exercise, if not actually sweat. It makes us feel good. 

It makes us feel less guilty about the food we eat the rest of the day.

It is enjoyable seeing friends and catching up (before and after class only – working too hard to socialize during class).

Class is fun and challenging.

If you consider exercise fun.

I like the feeling of exhaustion following the hour class, sweat pouring down my face, wondering if I have the energy to accomplish much of anything else the rest of the day, barely able to drag myself home and shower.

Exercise gurus assert vigorous exercise gives us more energy. I am leery. I think they just want us to spend more money on classes, exercise clothes and equipment. Although I must admit after a couple of days of not exercising I feel lazy and lethargic.

There are exercise mavens at my gym taking two or more classes a day. There are those who take a couple of classes and then take a long walk or run, play tennis, or participate in other active pursuits. Some play golf, but I do not believe driving around in golf carts, getting out and hitting a ball occasionally great exercise. Walking the course is different. Anyway…

Back to Big Sarge. He has a great sense of humor and runs the class not exactly as a tough-ass drill sergeant, but more like a supportive drill sergeant goading everyone to push themselves and work harder. Sort of a Tough Love exercise strategy.

Big Sarge has become a fixture at our gym. His classes draw eager Zumba enthusiasts class after class, week after week. Seniors in their sixties like me, older women too, as well as much younger ones show up. Women attend his 7:00 a.m. class then make a dash for the showers before going to work. Moms fill a later class when childcare is available.

I can go to any class I want. That is what a flexible lifestyle is all about.

And I love it.

Both the Zumba class and a flexible schedule.


  1. Gee!!! I thought The Big Sarge was my big little brother who just turned 51 and retired from the Army Reserve as a First Sarge as well as well as a civilian employee of the Army Reserve!!!!

    Have fun!!!!

  2. Where is my very own Big Sarge? He sounds like a lot of fun. We have Zumba at our gym but I've never taken a class. I took one at my sister's gym in Florida and didn't know I had to know the moves! I was like a fish out of water. :-)

  3. I admire your ability to survive the hour-long full-out Zumba class -- with a Big Sarge, yet! It's all I can do to manage the 45-minute Zumba Gold class at the Y. I do love it, but there is something wrong with those clocks . . .