How we work out: Jazzercise in Glen Burnie

Penny Flora exercises in a jazzercise class led by Pamela Smith in Glen Burnie.
Penny Flora exercises in a jazzercise class led by Pamela Smith in Glen Burnie. (Gene Sweeney Jr., Baltimore Sun photo)

Most workouts are built on the concept of getting fit, but they often lack a certain edge that distinguishes them from other routines. Jazzercise — a mixture of dance, resistance training, Pilates, yoga and kickboxing — combines exercising with an element rarely incorporated into workouts: fun.

According to Jazzercise member Karen Slack, the added fun helps make make it "a great experience and an awesome workout."

How it got started: Founded in 1969 by Judy Sheppard Missett, Jazzercise is a global program that holds classes in over 30 countries. Some of those classes are held in Pam Smith's Jazzercise building in Glen Burnie.

"We previously worked out at St. John's Church in Linthicum," Smith said. "We came to this facility in April, and we love it here."

Smith built up her branch of Jazzercise. Although she teaches some classes, she also enlisted the help of other instructors like Sandy Odonnell.

"Jazzercising is something fun to do and not something I have to do," said Odonnell, who has been doing it since 1988. "When I went to my first Jazzercise session, it was social and fun. It was something I could keep doing."

Who's in the group: Most of the participants are married women, but there are members of all ages. The majority of participants attend three to four evening classes a week.

"We have people in our group from their teens to their 70s," said Slack. "We had a Thanksgiving class at 8:30 a.m. and there were 20 people here. These are some hard-core Jazzercisers."

A typical meeting: Each class includes a warm-up, 30-minute aerobic workout, muscle toning, weight focused strengthening and a cool-down stretch. The aerobics portion focuses on the arms, core and glutes.

During Smith's class, Jazzercisers sway and jump to the beats of Bonnie Raitt's "Used to Rule the World" and Owl City's "Good Time." Soothing songs like "You Don't Know Me" by Michael Buble help the group stretch and slow their heart rates.

"The instructors can pick out any songs they want to in their set as long as there is a mix between fast, medium and slow songs," said Odonnell. "Most instructors change their set every couple weeks."

Why people like it: "The exercise is very important, but our members have been coming here for many years," said Slack. "We've seen each other through births, deaths, divorces, graduations and all kinds of different celebrations. It's almost like a ministry type of thing. We pick each other up and get everyone through the day and encourage everyone to keep coming to the class."

Penny Flora, who teaches a 4:30 p.m. Friday class, agrees with Slack about the camaraderie of the group. Flora added, "This is a great little spot for us."

Odonnell, who previously lived in California, talked about the importance of finding the right exercise routine.

"You have to choose the program that's going to become a part of your life," she said. "The same program won't work for everyone.

"If I could go to the gym, I'd find any excuse not to go to the gym," Odonnell added. "But with Jazzercise, if I don't go, I'm going to miss talking to people. It's more than just an exercise program. It's a support group, too."