At age 69, Jo-Ann Taylor provides both motivation and inspiration for the students in her exercise classes at Club Fit in Briarcliff Manor. She is remarkably fit, youthful, enthusiastic and full of vitality.
“In the 27 years I’ve worked as an instructor, there wasn’t one day I didn’t want to go,” said Taylor. “It’s a total labor of love. I particularly like making people feel good about themselves.”
The Definitions class is described in the Club Fit brochure as “a total body workout designed to improve muscular strength and endurance utilizing free weights, bars, gliders and tubing.” Taylor chose to put her own spin on it.
“I’m always looking for new exercises and music that the class will find challenging and creative.” She has, in fact, created a routine, a favorite of many, which she calls “The Circuit.” It consists of two sets of twelve repetitions. “I try to replicate what you do on the fitness machines so you get a cardiac workout as well. I’m doing it with them and they like that it is as difficult for me as it is for them. A lot of people feel there is no time wasted. They really work out. I get their minds off working out by having them use their minds to follow the routine. ” On various days Taylor alternates with other routines she has created.
Although students of all ages participate, seniors in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s are consistently present.
Eighty-seven year old Evelyn Aszmus says, “The class is marvelous. No matter how old you are you can do it. There’s not a lot of jumping around. I get a lot of satisfaction out of her class.” Aszmus added, “I’m like the Wizard of Oz. I have to oil myself so I don’t get arthritis. People my age who don’t exercise are in pain. Getting out to the gym gets me out of the house and not in the rocking chair. But I’m thinking I may have to give up using the 9- pound bar.”
At 83, Phyllis Garland, who had a hip replacement several years ago, says she goes all the time. “I’m sort of a groupie since I started going,” said Garland. “It’s the best class I’ve ever had. I think she is fantastic. I have the most fun in her class. She has a great personality. I’m alive and moving.” Though she takes aerobics and Pilates as well, Garland said it’s the [Definitions] class she enjoys the most. “For me, it’s absolutely perfect.”
Robert Dennard, 78 and a Fellow at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center of IBM, dropped out of Club Fit when he got involved in jazz dancing, but returned in recent years. In addition to Scottish Country Dancing and choral singing he takes Jo-Ann’s class twice a week and loves it.
“I look better to myself than I ever have in my life,” said Dennard. “She’s a great instructor. I admire her enthusiasm and leadership and the class is ideal for what I want. I needed to regain flexibility I was losing. I’m sure this weight stuff is pretty good for maintaining bone density. These are just the exercises I need. I stretch muscles in all the right places, maintain flexibility and stability. The cardio component is very helpful as well.” Dennard does wish it could do more for his balance. “I’m not able to stand on one foot very well.”
Taylor, who takes pride in her work, said she herself even finds her own classes motivating. “I challenge myself. If I had a teacher like me, I would be coming to the class also.”
“The best part of the class,” said Helene Rose, age 73, “is how good I feel when I’m driving home. I personally feel like I’m 50. I attribute that to this class. I’ve always had lots of problems with my back and neck, arthritis and scoliosis, and this has been incredibly good for me. I feel as though my health has a lot to do with this class. I sometimes force myself to get here because I know I will feel happy afterwards. The continuity of going makes it easier. I’m committed to it. Jo-Ann has a great personality; she’s a very positive person. She inspires people.”
“I can’t imagine someone my age looking like that,” said Richard Goodman, age 67. “She’s almost inhuman.” ©