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How I Succeeded as a Fitness Instructor While Over 45 and Fat

Indianapolis-area wellness advisor and certified group fitness instructor Diane Moore shares how she defied convention to achieve her goals.
A photo of Diane Moore

A photo of Diane Moore
Diane Moore

If someone told me at age 20 that I’d score a job as a fitness instructor more than 20 years later, I’d have thought they were insane. How could that even be possible? I had nothing physically in common with workout icons Denise Austin or Kathy Smith, whose videos I first became aware of in the ‘90s. Both were attractive, fit, fair-haired women, while I was cute, mocha-hued, and fat. Oh, and I’m using the word “fat” here simply as a statement of fact.

My first experience with a gym was at 17, when my then 50-year-old aunt insisted I go with her to her gym. She thought it would be a positive influence on me. She was right! I returned, and started to enjoy the aerobic classes, even though I stuck out. No one looked like me … not the instructors, not even the members—well, except for my aunt. It bothered me, but not enough for me to stop going to the gym.

Diane Moore's first YMCA card
Diane Moore’s first YMCA ID card.

I ended up switching to a student membership at the YMCA for budget reasons, and kept that type of membership through college. I stopped doing aerobics and started to focus on the treadmill and StairMaster, although looking back at that now, I wonder how either workout was able to hold my attention and interest for so long.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

It wasn’t until a decade or so later when dance fitness formats like Zumba® came to gyms that I found my groove and my passion. I was thrilled to see the diversity in age and appearance in those classes. And that’s when it hit me: I probably could teach dance fitness! However, I had some doubts, because my size hadn’t changed. According to societal and weight chart standards, I was still fat. It took me a couple of years, but I signed up for instructor training, and eventually became a licensed Zumba instructor. I was offered my very own class at a Central Indiana YMCA in 2014. It was a full circle moment for me; I had gone from a gym member to an instructor.

During my first class, I noticed that everyone was thinner than me, and not just by a little. It appeared to be a double-digit difference. A few classes later, I realized that what I weighed was of no concern to them. They attended because they loved to dance, liked my playlists, and appreciated the easy-to-follow choreography for which Zumba is known.

Having that success in teaching spurred me to expand to other formats. I now teach a stretch class for beginners, and have been working on routines for a cardio dance toning class, which I hope to start later this year. I’ve had people ranging in age from eight to 80 in my classes, and now they are of all shapes and sizes. My goal always has been to show that exercise is truly for EVERYONE, and to encourage others not to let any perceived limitation hinder their participation.  I believe my presence as an instructor is the best possible example of that.

Diane Moore occasionally enjoys adding ‘80s dance moves into her classes and is currently learning how to do a proper “Cabbage Patch.” Feel free to share tips with her on Instagram @whatdianeloves.

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