The Abs & Glutes class on Tuesdays and Fridays at the Meredith Matthews YMCA East Madison is, perhaps, your typical weekday morning exercise class. Comprised mostly of well-educated, cultured, retired professional women, the class gives seniors an opportunity to strengthen and tone. On the other hand, it’s anything but predictable. Taught by a sixty-something Bostonian, Jerry, the Abs & Glutes class is, says class member (and Bluebird Grain Farms mom) Sis Woodside, “more than a class, it’s a community.”
The retired teachers, authors, public radio reporters, and other women in the class gather to work on their core strength, yes, but they also gather for the personal connections fostered by the class and in particular by the instructor, Jerry. “It’s so different from classes I’ve taken at other gyms,” says Sis. You see, Jerry doesn’t just instruct them in crunches and squats, he also peppers them with Brain Quest problems, tells jokes, and during cool-down plays a different, specially-selected piece of music designed to evoke a certain emotion. “He really makes us think,” adds Sis. (Indeed, it seems to be Jerry himself as much as an interest in staying fit that motivates the women to arrive as much as 45 minutes early to get a spot in the class.)
Before cool-down, however, comes the “announcements and sharing” period, where the women chat freely about the details of their lives. And they really share. Not in the Facebook “see how great my life is” kind of way, but honestly and openly. “You feel very safe in this group,” says Sis, “even though most of you don’t see each other outside of the class. You know you can say anything. You know the others care about you.”
“These women are amazing,” continues Sis. “They are so grounded. They’re well-traveled, well-read; they represent so many interests.” One of these interests is a common commitment to eating delicious, satisfying, and nutritious foods. Enter Bluebird’s grains. “They’re really interested in trying new things,” says Sis of her fellow workout ladies, “and they appreciate good and organic food.” It was natural, then, for Sis–who functions as an ad-hoc sales rep for Bluebird–to introduce Bluebird to the other women. “I bring bags of emmer farro and Old World Cereal as gifts and prizes,” says Sis, “and now I have many customers in the class. Everyone is impressed by how many different ways there are to prepare the emmer.”
After class, some of the women depart for volunteer work, others head to a local cafe together to celebrate a birthday or other milestone, while still others continue on to a painting class, also taught by Jerry. They’re fueled by an after-workout glow and the fulfillment that comes from spending quality time with people who matter.