Denise Cummings started out at the Marysville Y 17 years ago, a fit-as-a-fiddle, 34-year-old instructor, ready to kick some butt teaching step aerobics.
Today, 51 and four sons later, Cummings still gives 110 percent at the Marysville Y, teaching Fit Forever and Silver Sneakers classic classes for seniors. She still teaches step and boot camp.
It wasn’t so much a natural progression for her to teach a class for older adults, but a need that she saw. And she has been more than happy to fill that need.
“Their main instructor left and this particular senior class, they were just getting a bunch of subs and I didn’t want them to feel less important,” Cummings said. “I have a passion for them and I didn’t want them to feel left out.”
The way Cummings puts it: “I have a mature group and I am more mature, as well, so don’t let your age determine what you can or cannot do.”
In Cummings’ Fit Forever class, she has a regular group of about 25 with one woman who is 95, an 85-year-old who walks four miles, lifts weights and does kickboxing, and a couple in their 70s who come to every class.
In her Silver Sneakers class, there’s one guy who is excited about being able to tighten his bicep and touch his muscle. One woman, who comes to class twice a week, cut out white bread and high-fructose junk food and lost 20 pounds in two months.
“It takes self-discipline to cut back on their food,” Cummings said. “Number two, to come to class, and number three, to be positive about it.
“It’s up to them, it’s not me, it’s them.”
There’s some modesty there, for sure, but many come to the classes because of Cummings.
They want to see and be motivated by a person who has stayed physically fit with no extra body fat all her life. Cummings said she was always involved in some form of fitness, whether it was skiing or dancing or track. She met her husband on the track team in college.
She graduated from college and taught PE for one year, then taught second grade for three years before having her own boys.
She worked for Boeing for a while in the company’s fitness department before asking on a whim about a job at the Marysville Y, which had just been built.
Cummings said she had to find her voice as an instructor. She said that part was hard because she wanted to please everybody, and as a fitness instructor, you never know why people don’t come back.
But Cummings has found her voice and people come back.
She is high-energy, but she also can be quite consoling, like a counselor. She will tell the class, “Do what you can today” and “Think about the positive choice you made to come here today.”
Whether she is teaching step or boot camp or seniors, Cummings’ goal has always been to have people feel better about themselves and have them work hard enough so they feel good about it.
The seniors are particularly rewarding to teach.
“Knowing these seniors and knowing their life doesn’t end at 50, these seniors have inspired me,” Cummings said. “They have lived their lives and they have proved it by coming in with aches and smiling and having a good outlook on life.”
6420 60th Drive NE, Marysville 360-653-9622; tinyurl.com/MarysvilleY
Hours: 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.