Exercise plays a major role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and physical fitness is equally important for people of all ages. Fitness instructors at Mississippi University for women are a testament to this fact.

Campus Recreation is home to fitness instructors whose age ranges from their 20s to 70s. 

At 47-years-old, Melissa Parsons is a fitness instructor as well as the business and membership coordinator at Stark Recreation Center. She started her own personal quest for wellness 33 years ago and will celebrate her 30-year career in the fitness industry June 2018. Her passion is teaching fitness, educating others about fitness and speaking about the journey of wellness.

“I believe it’s important for each generation to look ahead at the one before them for motivation and encouragement,” said Parsons.

Although the fitness journey of each instructor is unique, the goal is to promote fitness and a healthy lifestyle.

Samantha Payne, who is in her 30s, is a regular instructor for Powerhouse, a Pilates inspired workout. She started as a customer service representative, advanced to student manager and went on to teach a boxing/martial arts class.

Joy Garrison, a certified personal trainer who is in her 50s discovered her love for dance and fitness while studying in college. She has worked in fitness facilities in several states and is still training, teaching and helping people to stay fit for life.

Fitness is a life-long journey that never ends. With the passage of time, ways of doing workouts may change, response of body to exercise may change but the desire to be fit never changes in the instructors.

Marion McEwen, campus recreation wellness coordinator, said, “Teaching fitness requires dedication and concern for others. When someone chooses to become a fitness instructor, it is a job for life.”

McEwen, who is in her 60s, has been active all of her life through dance, cheerleading and fitness. For more than 30 years, she has broadened her knowledge and experience as an instructor, sharing the gift of wellness to the students and the community.

Instructors are not only dedicated to teaching fitness but they also enjoy the process of sharing their passion for fitness.

Ann Buster is a fitness enthusiast in her 60s. She has been working in the fitness industry for the past 27 years. Her goal is to encourage each patron to start or continue in their own personal fitness journey to achieve a healthy lifestyle.

Campus recreation exposes students to five different types of fitness class formats: cardio, strength, endurance, dance and mind and body. Because of this, fitness classes at The W are gaining popularity day by day.

Abbey Pope is a dance fitness instructor who is in her early 20s. Her favorite part of being an instructor is knowing how much the participants express that they enjoy her class.

Terri Doumit, who is in her 40s, is a local school librarian. She explained that Zumba brought her into the fitness world and was a perfect way to facilitate cultural diversity with a colleague. “Being the busy mom of four means I need an outlet to relieve stress and maintain a healthy lifestyle.”

Doumit is group fitness instructor with Zumba and POUND certification. “Much of my work in the fitness industry is spent volunteering in the community. It's important to give back our gifts when we are able,” she said.

Bonnie Partridge is also a dance and group fitness instructor who teaches Zumba and runs several marathons each year. Throughout her 70 years, Partridge has always been a mover.

“Jazzercise prompted my love for fitness. I have owned a dance studio, taught in the public school system and have been an avid runner for 30 years,” said Partridge.

The title “Decades of Wellness” is truly relevant for these certified instructors who encourage the campus community and public to develop daily habits to improve their health and wellness.


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