For more than 30 years, Carl Powell has taught exercise classes on television and in gyms and spas in Hawaii, Germany and other parts of the world. For seven years, he conducted workout sessions on the Tom Joyner Morning Show's annual Fantastic Voyage Cruise.
Powell's clients have included actor Ryan Gentles, "Essence" editor Susan Taylor and gospel legend Dr. Bobby Jones. Since he moved to Laurel in 2005, the Pussy Cat Dolls have even graced his Magnificent Body studio for an intense workout.
To add to his list of credits, last week Mayor Craig Moe named Powell as the city's first ambassador of health and wellness.
"I'd heard of him for a long time and he's done a lot of (fitness) things with the city staff," Moe said. "I named him ambassador to promote people in the community getting involved in joint physical activities. This will help residents and the city, because people will be healthier and not sick as much."
"Let's Move and Keep Moving" is the name of the program Powell plans to promote throughout the city in his volunteer role as ambassador.
The program will offer free exercise clinics each month for all ages.
"I'll have a monthly yoga class at the Laurel Armory for all ages, and each month, I'll offer a new workout," said Powell. "I know everybody can't afford to sign up for classes with me, so the exercises we'll do will be ones that they can do at home and build on as we add on different workouts."
Getting the word out on workouts
As ambassador, Powell will be leading warm-up exercises at the Laurel Relay for Life and other running events in the city.
As part of his free monthly exercise clinics, Powell will teach Pilates, a routine that helps to build flexibility, strength, endurance and coordination in the legs, abdomen, arms and back. Other workouts include Barefoot Boot Camp and exercise routines that can be done while at a desk or in a wheelchair. Powell said he will also provide participants with information on nutrition and alternative health practices.
"I want more people working out and knowing the benefits of taking care of their body and not just going to a doctor to take a pill," Powell said. "If we take care of ourselves first, that could eliminate many of our health problems, such as back pain, which can be helped through stretching and strengthening exercises."
He added, "I used to have lower back and shoulder problems when I was a trainer and weight lifter, but Pilates helped me feel so much better. It changes your world."
Powell has also been asked to conduct workout sessions with rescue squad members, police officers and fire fighters.
"I'll teach them how to use the equipment they already have at their facilities and do monthly classes with them," Powell said. "Some of them are in good shape and some are starting from scratch, so I'll work with them in groups and if any wants to sign up for individual classes."
Laurel Police Chief Richard McLaughlin plans to workout with Powell as his schedule permits and said he's pleased with the mayor promoting fitness for residents and his officers.
"I'll encourage my officers to work out with him (Powell)," McLaughlin said. "Anything to encourage fitness is an incredible benefit to the officers. Most are in great shape and workout on the equipment we have in the lower level of the (police) building."
Powell, who was named to the board of directors for Laurel Cable this week, hosts two shows on the city's cable channel, "Magnificent Living Today" and "Barefoot Boot Camp." He said the "Let's Move and Keep Moving" concept was one he developed with the mayor after Moe learned of Powell's exercise classes with some city employees.
"I was teaching classes at city hall to about a dozen city employees three times a week, who were taking mainly yoga classes and some were doing Pilates and the boot camp," Powell said. "They liked it so much that they wanted to expand the classes. I talked to the mayor and he asked me to give him a proposal and I did. From that, the mayor and I came up with the idea for this program."
Moe, who started working out with Powell six weeks ago, said, "I'm pleased with this and it adds on to the things we were already doing." We have paths, have added sidewalks, bike paths, and will continue to develop other things for residents. As development occurs, we'll require developers to do more, mostly things like bike plans."
The mayor described the goal of the work that Powell is doing as being similar in scope to First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" national fitness program to fight childhood obesity through encouraging children to eat healthier diets and exercise more on a daily basis.
"Our goal is to eventually work with 'Let's Move,' " Powell said. "We haven't approached them yet. It's better to do that once we get Laurel up and moving. We plan to film one of the public (free) exercise classes and send it to the White House and go from there."