Staff photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press Cathie Wallace teaches Jazzercize classes five days a week at the Rivermont Presbyterian Church.
So you thought Jazzercise was a thing of the past. Not true, said Cathie Wallace, a Chattanooga-area Jazzercise instructor.
"Jazzercise has evolved and is truly a great workout," Wallace said. "We are not the Jazzercise of the '70s and '80s that people make fun of.
"I always tell people to come and try a class. Your first one is free. It won't cost you anything but your time. If you still think it's outdated, then no harm. But I guarantee you that I will work every muscle in your body in one hour."
A dancer since age 8, Wallace said she has had several professions including hairstylist, dental assistant and preschool teacher before realizing that her passion for dance and exercising could be accomplished in Jazzercise classes.
"I struggle every day with the stigma that has been attached to Jazzercise, trying to stay positive against very negative opinions," Wallace said. "Jazzercise has kept up with fitness trends while still being one of the best, most affordable workout programs out there."
Q: When did you start Jazzercise classes?
A: I was a stay-at-home mom doing all the typical volunteering -- Girl Scout leader/Boy Scout leader/PTO president/homeroom mother -- supermom things while still trying to stay active and physically fit with various gym memberships and adult dance classes in Chattanooga. One day when we were scheduling a PTO meeting around the secretary's Jazzercise class, I asked her, "What the heck is Jazzercise?" She told me she was addicted and invited me to a class. So I went. I had so much fun. I went through the certification and became an instructor in 1997. I have a total of 21 years with Jazzercise, 14 years as an instructor.
Q: How has Jazzercise benefited you?
A: I injured my back. After three months of almost total bed rest, my doctor said I needed to get moving or else look at years of pain and immobility. I went to Jazzercise class. [I] started working slowly because I was unable to lift my arms or lie on the floor. I stuck with it until I could make it through an entire one-hour class. It took about a year.
Q: You don't hear much about Jazzercise these days. Why?
A: Jazzercise has only lost its popularity in smaller cities. There are more than 7,800 franchised instructors in 32 countries teaching more than 32,000 classes per week. Nashville, Knoxville and Memphis offer 12 to 22 Jazzercise facilities, with some of them offering 20 to 30 classes per week. With Cheryl Burke from "Dancing With the Stars" fame now as our national spokesperson, maybe that's why people have just begun to realize that Jazzercise is still around.
Q: Why do you think Jazzercise is a good exercise program?
A: Jazzercise is fun and a great way to get in shape. No matter your age or fitness level, you can do this. And because it's fun, you look forward to classes instead of dreading the drudgery of sore muscles and seemingly endless workout regimens. People all the time say, "That hour went by fast."
* Name: Cathie Wallace.
* Age: 53.
* Profession: Jazzercise instructor.
* Family: Husband, Rodney; children April, 3, Ben, 29, and Brian, 24. Cats: Mattie, Zoe, Jolie, Uma and Claire.
* Hometown: Chattanooga.
* Education: 1975 graduate of Tyner High School.
* Hobbies: Gardening, spending time with family.
* Favorite food: Golden raisins.
* Favorite TV show: Anything on HGTV.
* Favorite movie: "Across the Universe."
* Favorite book: "A New Earth," by Ekert Tolle.
Q: What's the age range of your students?
A: There are women in their 60s and 70s dancing circles around me, some who have been with Jazzercise for 30 years or more. There are young women that also go to other exercise programs and facilities but still return to Jazzercise because of the overall full-body workout routines done to today's music. There are mother/daughter pairs, work friends, college friends and church members. Our appeal is universal.
Q: Do you have male students?
A: We have had men come to class. Men are usually comfortable with more men in classes. We do have a young man in class with Down syndrome that has been coming for almost four years. (He) has lost 75 pounds. He broke his ankle in November and was out for a month but now comes and participates sitting in a chair. He is my hero.
Q: Where do you teach?
A: Rivermont Presbyterian Church on Monday-Thursday at 5:30 p.m. and Saturday at 8:45 a.m. There also are classes taught by other instructors in East Ridge and Soddy-Daisy. We are "instructor poor" and are always looking for motivated people interested in becoming instructors.
Contact Karen Nazor Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6396. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/karen nazorhill.
Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...