Most of the clients at S.W.E.A.T. know what’s coming when they see “Gina” on the monthly schedule. We know to prepare ourselves for a tough, fast paced class and a few days worth of soreness after. We know her wealth of experience and knowledge will help whip us into shape with a routine that we love to hate.
Although we know Gina has been a fitness instructor for many years, not many people know how and why she got started or what has driven her to stay dedicated to fitness over several decades.
To understand Gina’s fitness journey, you need to know a little bit her background. Gina and her family are Italian and celebrate food the way most Italian families do. On the weekends, she and her siblings visited her dad at their aunt’s house and ate a traditional Italian feast including homemade pasta, warm bread, spaghetti sauce with oil and for dessert homemade pies, cakes cookies and strudels.
As Gina reached adolescence, her mom would remind her that if she kept enjoying all those delicious foods, it would catch up with her. This thought has always stuck in the back of Gina’s mind. Although it can be a frustration, it is also motivation.
Gina’s first real experience with aerobics was during a gym class at Crestwood High School. The class was made up of calisthenics set to music. It was challenging, but Gina loved it. To continue with her new love of fitness, she joined fitness studios and took fitness classes, after high school.
Years later, Gina found herself living in Garfield, NJ. She attended a gym regularly. One day an instructor was unable to make it to class and the gym owner asked Gina to fill in. She taught her first calisthenics class and loved being in charge of the class and seeing the determination on the students faces.
In 1992, while living in Dover, DE, she began taking a class called Step. A friend suggested to Gina that she get certified to teach her favorite class and she couldn’t think of a reason not to.
While teaching Step at her gym, Gina began studying and teaching many different classes. She even introduced two: Tae Bo and Aerobic Kickboxing, which is still her favorite after 25+ years of teaching.
After moving back to Northeast PA, she heard great things about a Zumba instructor that traveled to 5 different gyms to teach. She finally got to meet the famous Jess Sands at a Zumbathon. Since Gina was putting together her own Zumbathon to promote “No Bullying,” she asked Jess to be a part of it.
Gina mentioned to Jess that she was a certified Kickboxing instructor and Jess asked her to join the S.W.E.A.T. team. Gina accepted and says it was the best decision she has ever made.
“I felt lost and couldn’t find a place where I wanted to be, to instruct. I feel Jess helped me more than I helped her.”
Being a fitness instructor has enriched Gina’s life in many ways. As her students know, Gina loves creating routines that challenge her class and herself. She loves seeing her students reaching their goals and getting the results they have been working hard for.
“Nothing pleases me more than seeing the results from someone in my class. It drives me to stay fit too.”
While she enjoys being able to help others reach their goals, Gina enjoys some personal benefits from being an instructor.
“I’m the type of person that has to work at keeping weight off. Being an instructor has helped me maintain my muscle tone, flexibility, strength, and endurance. But as we age, I believe we need to keep challenging our minds and keep them thinking. Choreographing fitness is definitely using your mind.”
Though she made the tough decision to “retire” from fitness instruction last year, Gina’s love of fitness and instruction has clearly not left her. Like many people, her life became overscheduled. She was overwhelmed by taking care of her family, working, creating fitness routines and running her non-profit called Fallen Officers Remembered.
As much as she loves the challenge of making new routines, constantly forcing creativity takes its toll.
“I can say that there were times, the past couple of years that I was totally burnt out. Only an instructor (that makes up their own choreography) can know how exhausting and time consuming it is. It is all worth it but sometimes the body just needs a break.”
Gina has gotten her much needed break from choreographing routines, but hardly a month has gone by where she hasn’t subbed at least one class. Walking away from something that has been such a part of her life has not been easy. Even when she has no classes to prepare for, she hears music and always thinks about choreography.
Since retiring from instructing, Gina has had more time to actually participate in classes. She does admit that as a former instructor, her standards for a great class are very high. S.W.E.A.T. is the only place she has found that energizes and challenges her in each and every class.
Gina credits the instructors and clients of S.W.E.A.T. as her motivation too. Like everyone else, she sometimes feels discouraged. She knows when she feels tired or unmotivated her S.W.E.A.T. family will pick her up at the studio or with Facebook posts.
Though Gina is humble and would not consider herself a fitness expert, she does have some great advice for fellow and future instructors:
- A fitness instructor needs to know how to assess their class and sometimes make changes to a routine or change a song depending on the group of participants. Always have alternative exercises/moves.
- Talk to your class, not at them. I used to have an instructor that could teach but could never really look at her class or interact with them. The class needs to feel the energy through you.
- Never call someone out to correct a form. Reiterate proper technique when you see it but some people don’t want to be noticed and called out on it.
- Always practice your moves many, many times before bringing it to a class. If we don’t have it memorized, our mind gets confused and the moves don’t flow and it shows. (Been there, done that).
- Be you! Don’t try to be like any other instructors you see. Bring you to the platform to teach.
- Take other instructor’s classes (when possible). It’s your best learning tool of do’s and dont’s.
Gina credits S.W.E.A.T. for many things but mostly giving her the drive and motivation to keep going.
“I want to thank everyone at S.W.E.A.T. for our S.W.E.A.T. family. Keep inspiring me.”
Hope everyone enjoyed this story!