Q&A with Five Fit HAC Members Turned Instructors


With the thousands of fitness lovers that walk through HAC’s doors to attend group fitness classes each month, it’s no wonder that some of our members become instructors themselves. We asked five HAC members who recently obtained the certifications to teach group fitness about their journey.

Amanda Wardell

Q: How has fitness inspired you to become an instructor? I have always exercised in some form or another but never thought I would become an instructor. That was something people started doing much younger than me! However, after my personal weight loss and wellness journey a couple of years ago, I realized that age really is just a number, and any generalizations about health at various ages are really doing people a disservice because it is so individualized. So I decided to step out of my comfort zone and give it a try!

Q: Were there any members or staff that inspired you to become an instructor?

Group fitness director Greta Fowler encouraged me to train to be an instructor. That inspired some confidence in me that it was something I could do.

Q: How has your relationship with fitness changed since becoming an instructor?

I definitely pay a lot more attention to form and body mechanics than I used to, in others and myself. I also find myself asking, ‘How can I do this better next time?’

Q: What classes do you teach?

I teach primarily Les Mills Core™ (30 and 45-minute formats). Greta suggested these, which is really great for me because core strength is so important and has helped me so much in preventing the progression of an old lower back problem. I also have been a substitute for Circuit.


Q: Are there any reasons you particularly enjoy those classes?

As I mentioned, Core strength is so important. Overall strength is important! A few years ago I was definitely a cardio junkie, and cardio is very important, but I’ve seen and experienced the outcomes of not having good strength and stability. Especially as people age, fall and injury risk increases.

Q: Do you have any messages for readers who wish to improve their fitness and well-being?

Yes! You are NEVER too old to try something new, even if it is attending a new class you’ve never done. Also, for me, having other people to hold me accountable is very important, whether I’m a class participant or an instructor. Make sure you have a workout buddy, group, trainer, whatever works. This really helps with motivation.

Jon Sargeant

Q: How has fitness inspired you to become an instructor?

I was running for a number of years, and after injuring my foot, I needed something to take the place of that cardio. I started taking a number of spin classes, saw the benefits it offered, and was hooked. I took a lot of classes, and after seeing all the different instructors and their own styles, I thought, “I can do this.”

Q: Were there any members or staff that inspired you to become an instructor?

I had been taking spin classes with Bridget Filipowski for a couple of years, and we all had a really fun time in class. It’s such a good group of people who are there because of her and how she runs the class. I would also add Rachel Evans, who is a great instructor, and the FIT group is fantastic.


Q: How has your relationship with fitness changed since becoming an instructor?

I have become more conscious of what and how I do things during a workout. I have a brand new outlook on how instructors prepare to ensure their students get the most out of the class.

Q: What classes do you teach?

I teach spin classes for either 30 or 60 mins.

Q: Are there any reasons you particularly enjoy those classes?

I really like the cardio workout you get in class and the number of calories you can burn. Plus, I really like playing my music and creating different playlists.

Q: Do you have any messages for readers who wish to improve their fitness and well-being?

I would say find a couple of things you like, be it FIT classes, strength training, or running, that makes it more enjoyable. It’s also important to set goals and something to strive for. It truly helps keep you accountable to yourself.

Gateway Garden Center

Annmarie Pawlowicz

Q: How has fitness inspired you to become an instructor?

Greta was looking for a Youth Fitness instructor and wasn’t getting any takers. I have great value for everyone staying fit, but I see a particular need in younger people who have become less active. I feel that if they embrace fitness early, they will carry it through to adulthood, so I asked if she felt I could take on the task.

Q: Were there any members or staff that inspired you to become an instructor?

The instructors at HAC all work so hard to keep the classes challenging and new, so it’s very hard to pick just one or a few. I particularly enjoy the non-scripted classes, such as HIIT cardio (Liz Watkins) and Intervals (Amy Kuplinski). However, I was also inspired by Rick McKay, who is 70 and still teaching Advanced Conditioning.

Q: How has your relationship with fitness changed since becoming an instructor?

For one thing, I’ve learned how much work goes into planning a good class! I’ve also branched out into teaching classes that were not part of my routine, which allows me an opportunity to try new things.

Q: What classes do you teach?

My primary class is youth fitness but I have subbed in many other classes that don’t require specific training, particularly classes I regularly participate in. Last week, I spent several hours online learning about Pilates in order to fill in for a vacationing instructor.


Q: Are there any reasons you particularly enjoy those classes?

As stated previously, I hope to instill a love of fitness in young people.

Q: Do you have any messages for readers who wish to improve their fitness and well-being?

Come to HAC and try all the options: equipment, aqua, personal training, and classes, and you’re sure to find something you enjoy and will want to continue doing. And I can’t stress the social aspect of it enough… you’ll meet others who have similar interests and motivate you to show up, work hard and have fun!

Jennifer Dimichele

Q: How has fitness inspired you to become an instructor?

Fitness has always been a part of my life. Whether it was seeing my parents exercise as a child, participating in sports throughout school, running, or going to fitness classes as an adult, exercise has always been a staple for me. I take classes most days of the week and walk away from those classes feeling amazing – like I know I did something really good for my body. A big part of that is thanks to the instructors who show up with so much energy and positivity and motivate me to work my hardest. As an instructor, I want to be able to do the same thing for the people who participate in my classes.

Q: Were there any members or staff that inspired you to become an instructor?

Absolutely! If you want me to list the instructors that have inspired me, I would honestly list every single one I have taken a class with. Every fitness instruction I’ve seen at the HAC is phenomenal, and I have every confidence those I haven’t taken a class with are just as amazing. The way they can take choreography and exercise moves and bring them to life is incredible to witness. I do have to shout out to Greta and Milinda, who were truly instrumental in giving me the confidence I needed to pursue getting certified to instruct and guide me along the way.


Q: How has your relationship with fitness changed since becoming an instructor?

My relationship with fitness hasn’t necessarily changed, but my appreciation for fitness instructors has! Anyone who has taken a fitness class can see on the surface what the instructor does. There really is so much more that goes into it. Instructors truly pour their heart and souls into their classes, whether it be the certification process, preparation for each class they instruct, creating workouts that are challenging, the energy and humor they bring into the room, and to the motivation they give their participants to help get them through the workout.

Q: What classes do you teach?

I teach BodyPump™ on Wednesday morning at 5:45AM.

Q: Are there any reasons you particularly enjoy those classes?

BodyPump™ is a class that I started taking in college. It is one of those classes that is such an important piece to your overall fitness. It targets all major muscle groups, the choreography is challenging, and the music is great. When I was training for a half marathon, I added BodyPump™ to my workout schedule, and after a few weeks, I noticed how much easier it was to run. BodyPump™ is such a great class to incorporate into your fitness or training routine, especially if you have a marathon, triathlon, or Spartan™ race coming up. Another reason I really enjoy it is because it is not a one size fits all class. Participants on any level of their fitness journey can take this class and get a great workout. Someone just starting out and someone who has been taking the class for years can come together in the same class and both get a challenging workout – it’s just a matter of weight selection that the instructors can help you with.

Q: Do you have any messages for readers who wish to improve their fitness and well-being?

Sign up for a class, commit, and show up! It may be your very first group fitness class, but I can guarantee you it will not be your last. When you get comfortable taking a particular class, branch out and try something new. I’ve recently tried classes I never would have taken before, for example, Zumba® or Core 45, and fell in love with them. Just like BodyPump™, every single group fitness class is not a one size fits all. The instructors have an incredible way of ensuring every participant, regardless of their fitness level, gets the most out of their workout – whether through modifications or extra challenges. And my biggest advice: the classes may be challenging but keep showing up. It will get easier, and you will get stronger! Everyone, regardless of where they currently are on their fitness journey, had a Day 1 – a day where they decided to make change. What’s stopping you from your Day 1?


Barb Buckanavage

Q: How has fitness inspired you to become an instructor?

I have had an exercise routine for most of my life. I enjoy running, weight training, cycling, and tennis, but I had never participated in any group fitness classes before I joined HAC. The first class I took at HAC was BodyPump™, and I fell in love with the program right away.

Q: Were there any members or staff that inspired you to become an instructor?

I was talking to Susan Storm one day before class and, simply out of curiosity, asked if BodyPump™ was a difficult class to teach. That conversation started a journey that I had never considered before. I signed up for the training and became certified to teach BodyPump™. I began subbing classes here and there until a regular class became available for me to teach. I was also taking a lot of Greta Fowler’s Barre classes, and she encouraged me to become certified to teach Barre. Shortly after, I became certified to teach Kettlebells.

Q: How has your relationship with fitness changed since becoming an instructor?

Before becoming an instructor, my workouts were focused only on me. Now, my focus has shifted to helping others have a good class experience and a great workout. I love hearing how a participant has improved their health or reached a goal they previously thought was unattainable.

Q: What classes do you teach?

I teach BodyPump™, Barre, and Kettlebells.


Q: Are there any reasons you particularly enjoy those classes?

I love BodyPump™ because it is a total body workout using moderate weights, repetitions, and motivating music. You can make the workout your own by selecting different weights. Barre is a low-impact class that works your entire body. It focuses on high repetitions and small range of motion movements to lengthen and tone the muscles. Barre is flexibility, strength, and core all in one! Kettlebells are another full-body conditioning tool. I love how easily you can transition from one exercise to another with the kettlebell. Most kettlebell movements engage several muscles in a single exercise, especially the core.

Q: Do you have any messages for readers who wish to improve their fitness and well-being?

Try to find a class that interests you and give it a try at least once. Once you find a class you enjoy, try to make it part of your routine. I have been amazed at how kind, welcoming, and helpful other members are to new participants. If you’re unsure, speak to any of the instructors who will be happy to guide you. Don’t be nervous – jump right in!


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