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Aerobic advantages Weight: Ten years ago, Karen Vinson decided to exercise away 20 extra pounds. Now she's running her own company, Praisercize Fitness.


Like so many busy moms, Karen Vinson was 20 pounds overweight and out of shape.

But unlike many moms, she decided to do something about it - and wound up in a successful business venture.

About 10 years ago, when she was in her mid-20s, the Baltimore financial analyst wanted something to take off pounds and give her a night out. She remembered how much she liked aerobics when she was at Morgan State University, before her second child was born, and how she would gather whoever was hanging out and run an impromptu class.

She signed up for an aerobics class at the nearby League for the Handicapped on Coldspring Lane. She recalls: "The girl said, 'Would you like to teach it tonight?' And I said, 'Well, OK.' And she said, 'I'm kidding, but if you're really interested, I'll let you talk to my boss.'"

She did, and he encouraged her to train with him and become professionally certified, which she did when she passed the four-hour National Dance Exercise Instructors Training Association exam. She recalls that it took her about 11 months to lose the weight and get in shape.

Her aerobics took an unusual turn in 1995 when she talked to friends involved in a community health program that sends volunteers into black churches to educate African-Americans about cardiovascular disease and healthy lifestyles. They invited her to come on board, and she found herself teaching aerobics DTC in the black churches.

"I love the churches," she says. "If you go to the League of the Handicapped, you really can't pray; it's a gym." But in the churches she could pray, and she could teach aerobics to the music that moves people - gospel music.

She started doing gospel aerobics, and the next year formed her own company, Praisercize Fitness, which now has five aerobics instructors. In addition to the churches, she has a contract to provide services at the League for the Handicapped, at Liberty Medical Center and for a program run by Johns Hopkins Hospital aimed at women older than 40. She also provides aerobic instruction that serves as gym class at the Laurence Paquin School.

Since she limits the number of classes she teaches to ensure time for her family, she squeezes in extra workout time by getting up at 5 a.m. to go in-line skating in the parking lot of Security Square Mall, which she picked because of the security available.

"I love to [skate]," she says, "It's boring to walk. I have a friend who is a marathon runner, and I make her go around and around with me." She generally skates for about three miles, and that's when she finds time to pray. She and her husband and their two sons also skate and bike together.

Her transition from tired, overweight mom to energetic, fit mom has her evangelizing about the benefits of exercise. "Everybody knows how to do it," she says. "It's making that conscious decision to do it."

Pub Date: 12/06/98

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