Fusing worship with workouts

 

Brilliant white light floods the dance studio at the Arts Avenue for Kids. Ballet bars, polished floors, and gleaming mirrors await the next arrival of performers. But instead of donning ballet or tap shoes, the ladies in the Fit for Worship class lace up their sneakers for an hour and fifteen minutes of aerobic dance set to contemporary Christian music.

The class begins not with participants lining up in rows, but with prayer. “We lift each other up,” says Monica Turner, assistant instructor. Led by founder Veta Stratmann, the ladies pray for those who are absent or sick, as well as for their own safety during the workout. With murmured amens, the women eagerly take their positions, ready for whatever Veta or Monica dish out.

A push of a button soon infuses the air with scripture-inspired songs. Around the room, many women silently mouth the lyrics as the sweat begins to drip onto the floor. “Just because it’s worship music doesn’t mean we aren’t working to the max,” says Veta. Noticeably absent are grunts and groans. Linda Jones, a regular attendee, attributes this absence to the freedom to choose one’s own pace. “No one cares what pace you find.  Everyone is there for however much she can get out of the class.”

The group is a kaleidoscope of ages and fitness levels, from teenagers who move with the ease of youth to—as Kristi Tsering puts it—“ages we don’t necessarily need to talk about.”

Beautifully woven into each song is a specific routine that fuses dance with traditional aerobic movements such as lunges and squats. From the front of the room, Veta calls out the next move, projecting a level of energy that cascades across exhausted limbs and encouraging her friends to finish the song and “use it all up.” By class’s end, she has managed to weave a hundred leg raises, many knee lifts, and a slew of other exercises into the spins and side-ball changes.

“What I’ve tried to do is hide the workout in the routine,” says Veta. So far, she has choreographed thirty-two routines on which she draws to make each workout a unique experience.

Intimidating? Not so, says Veta. “Honestly, two classes and you’ve got it.” Fit for Worship offers a thirty-minute pre-class review of basic steps for new students. But that’s not the only benefit newcomers receive. On entering the studio, newcomers are lavished with welcoming smiles and open hearts. “This is an extraordinary group in that there is no cliquishness or any exclusion,” says Kristi. It’s one of the motivating factors that keeps Kristi and the others coming back.

Besides the camaraderie, many participants consider this class an act of worship of the Lord. “We draw closer to the Lord every time that we go and express through our movement our adoration toward Him, and He loves that,” explains Darlene Rankin, one of several grandmothers in the class. Monica echoes Darlene’s sentiments and adds that this class has helped expand her understanding of worship. While singing songs in church she says, “It’s all I can do not to do some of the routines.”

As the final chords glide quietly through the air, Veta gathers the class again. The importance of beseeching the Lord’s presence at the beginning of the workout is not lost at the end. Before they step back out into the world, Veta reads a passage from scripture. “It refocuses you for the rest of the day,” says Monica. With that focus, the women in the Fit for Worship class embrace the day physically, mentally, and spiritually stronger.


For more information, please visit www.fitforworship.com.

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