When Emily Jones took her first Jazzercise class in March 2018, all she could think of was the '80s, Jane Fonda and leg warmers. Instead, she found a community that inspired her to move more, lose weight and even start leading classes herself.
"I was kind of apprehensive, because with the history of Jazzercise, you tend to think of leg warmers, and I wasn't sure I wanted to do that," Jones, 27, said. "I had a friend just on me. She was like, 'Please come, you're going to love it.'"
What finally convinced Jones to attend was the free child care that the fitness class offered. That one class was enough to sell her on the program.
"I was sold. I've taken group (fitness) classes before but this was like cheerleading," Jones said. "There was no 'Harder, harder, you're not doing enough.' It was like 'Oh my, God. You're so great, look at your body go!' And I was like 'Yes.' That was all day one. I walked in and I was like yeah, this is it, I love it. ... I just wanted to be part of it from day one."
Jones said that she attended classes from March to September, and continued to love the inclusive, community atmosphere that encouraged her to do her best each day. In September 2018, she began training to become an instructor with the program. To date, she has lost 90 pounds with Jazzercise — as a participant and as an instructor, but the other benefits of the program meant more to her.
"My emotional well-being was so important, as well as my physical well-being," Jones said. "Physically, yes, you want to be in good physical condition, but it was so much more like finding yourself and finding confidence ... Realizing that I needed so much more emotional fulfillment really just made the weight loss so secondary."
Jones said that as an instructor, she learned to "love (herself) and love (her) customers," and said that she had "the lightbulb moment" when she realized that she could impact people the way her first instructors had impacted her.
"When I helped someone feel better about themselves, I was like 'Yeah, I want to be on this side of it, making someone else feel good,'" she said.
When the pandemic hit, Jones said that she transitioned to teaching online classes.
"I've gotten to know my customers in such a different way," she said. "I teach at 6:00 a.m. No one has to get up. No one has to roll over and take a live class at 6:00 a.m., but they do. They're like, 'We want to get up, we want to start our day doing this.'"
"It's so fulfilling. We're not clique-y and 'all about me,' but it's just genuinely our own little family (at our location)," Jones said. "I've taught a woman in her 80s, and she's brought me cookies and held my children. ... It's very, very special to have a group of women come together like that on a regular basis."