Gospel-themed exercise boot camp gets women moving
Pam LeBlanc, Fit City
Arms wave, legs kick and sweat forms on the brows of Roz Mays Davis and the dozen women pumping their muscles to gospel music during boot camp at the Dottie Jordan Recreation Center.
This isn't church, but the spirit definitely moves during the Wednesday night class, which is so rowdy and energy-packed that the room feels like it might erupt in adrenalin flames.
The amped-up sessions grew out of an exercise group that Davis, 55, started three years ago at Greater Mount Zion Church. That class sizzled so much that Davis went to school to earn her personal trainer certification.
"Cut it, cut it, cut it!" she yells in encouragement as a dozen women scissor their arms, rapid-fire, in front of their bodies. "Come on, oh yeah!"
Davis says she doesn't push God on anybody, but she opens and closes each Wednesday night session with prayer. Then it's an hour packed with dips, pushups, jogging and whatever else God counsels her to do.
"I pray over each and every movement before I bring it to the class," Davis said. "It's, ‘Lord, I've got someone to train this week. What should I do?' And then he gives me the routines. It always works out right."
Don't expect all church music, although that's 90 percent of what plays in the background. Davis tosses in some pop, jazz and R&B — as long as the music doesn't have any curse words or improper themes.
The $3 classes are aimed at senior citizens, baby boomers and couch potatoes. Most are older than 40. A lot are coping with chronic illness such as arthritis or cancer.
That includes Davis, who has had fibromyalgia since she was a child.
"I'm not supposed to be able to move like this," she said, chopping whiplike at the air. "A lot of people with fibromyalgia are in wheelchairs. I discovered through moving around I feel pretty good."
It's what motivates her to help others get fit.
"They call me Dr. Roz, like Dr. Oz — get it?" she said.
One night, she reminds her students to eat more fruits and vegetables instead of junk food. Then she passes out stretchy blue therapy bands, and the women pair up, dragging one another around the room.
By now they're breathing hard.
"Get you some water, baby," she tells one flushed face.
Davis darts to a table in the corner, where her iPod is hooked up to a pair of speakers. She scrolls through her music, tapping on "Running Up the King's Highway" by Diane Williams.
"Ooooo girl! Don't get comfortable!" Davis yells. "Keep moving your feet!"
She demonstrates some punching moves. "It's time to fight! There're some bad sisters up in this joint!"
They work on mats, they do dips on the edge of tables, they crawl across the floor on their forearms, in pushup position, all as the Mississippi Mass Choir belts out "I'm Not Tired Yet." The gospel beat eggs them on.
Before class is over, they'll fist-pump to Jessica Reedy's "Put it on the Altar," march around the room with chairs hoisted over their heads to Kirk Franklin's "I Smile" and cool down to J Moss' "The Prayers."
"I like the sisterhood — the women in the community and how friendly it is," said Pamela Dacus, 44, who joins the party every week. "It's really informal, but you still get a good workout. I wanted a group of ladies to exercise with, and I found it."
This class wraps up with a "Soul Train" flashback. The women form two lines facing each other, and one by one they strut, spin and swagger down the aisle to the Gap Band's "Oops Up Side Your Head" as the others cheer.
Everyone checks her heart rate, someone says a quick prayer, and class ends with a round of amens.
"I love Roz. She's energetic, and she accommodates everybody's activity level," said Amanda Dush, 25. "I like that it's based on Christian and gospel music. It's clean."
"I like the community, the workout, the fellowship," said Valerie Caesar, 50. "We learn it's not about being skinny, it's about being healthy."
Proof, apparently, that music moves more than the soul.
If you go
Roz Mays Davis leads community bootcamp at 6 p.m. Wednesdays at the Dottie Jordan Recreation Center, 2803 Loyola Lane. Cost is $3 per session; scholarships are available. For more information go to www.rozkz.com, email Davis at email@example.com or call the recreation center at 926-3491.