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Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016

High-energy aerobics class benefits all age groups

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Mary Lynn Alcorn (right) leads of group of students through a rigorous aerobics routine.
SIKESTON -- Blaring up-tempo music, gyrating movements, sweating bodies.

No, that's not a scene at the local dance club. It's Mary Lynn Alcorn's high-

energy aerobics class at the Sikeston YMCA.

Alcorn, a certified fitness trainer, is the pied piper of a dedicated group of students who meet four times a week to go through a rigorous hour of body shaping and cardio-fitness routines.

"Some of these people have been with me since my son was six-months-old and he's 23 now," said Alcorn, who admits to "pushing 50" although her appearance certainly belies that number. "For someone my age to be able to do what I'm doing, it all goes back to the day I started and, God help me, knock on wood, it's rolling me down the road.

"But it's not about me," she added. "It's the benefit for these people. That's real gratification and very humbling to me."

One devoted student is Billie Jo Brusveen.

Brusveen, originally from Wisconsin, joined the aerobics class on a spur-of-

the-moment invitation from Alcorn.

"My sister-in-law and I were visiting the 'Y' when we walked into the exercise room where Mary Lynn was practicing routines alone," said Brusveen. "She asked us to work out with her and said take the one-pound weights and we were looking at each other like 'one-pound weights.' Fifteen minutes later, we're sweating like crazy and thinking where's the half-pound weights.

"After that, I started coming as much as I could. I try to come three or four times a week since I started in March. I was always in very good shape, playing sports in high school. After I got out of that, not doing anything physically active for a while, this was such a good thing for me.

"It's very hard, especially once you get a little bit older. You get out of that routine to want to go to the gym and lift weights or do something. This is so fabulous because she's there, you show up at 6 o'clock, you do what she's doing, follow what she's doing and you never get bored. I'm getting back into the jeans that I wasn't fitting into for the last two years."

The exercises, with the enthusiastic Alcorn barking instructions, are non-stop and fast-paced, but still tailored for newcomers less familiar with the routines or those in less than peak condition to work at their own pace.

"You don't have to come in here and get the crap beaten out of you," Alcorn said. "Everybody can do it, because that's the way I've set it up. Everything is on an eight-count. I'm real meticulous about that. When they get that rhythm, no matter what they do, they can always get back into it."

The classes, normally 18-20 persons in size, are primarily comprised of women, but the lone male member is sold on this form of exercise.

Chris Johnson, 43, a supervisor at Noranda, said, "I've been working out for about three years and, healthwise, it really keeps me in shape and I'm enjoying it. Coming here also relieves a lot of stress from a day's work."

Johnson augments his aerobics training with weight training a couple of times a week.

Said Alcorn, "People have to find their own niche. Some don't like to do groups. Some like to run; some like machines. It all depends on what you enjoy.

"No one thing is any better than any other, it's just about what makes you feel good. Personally, I like the agility, the music and all the apparatus we have to work with."

Alcorn incorporates stacks, steps, lunges, kicks, light dumbbells and exercise balls into her routines.

"The bottom line is cardio training, old school aerobics," said Alcorn. "I use full range of motion and very light weights, so it's more toning and cardio-

oriented. We work the entire muscle group."

Students come in a variety of ages, ranging from early 20s to middle age to the oldest student at age 64.

Of the student she refers to as "the Elder," Alcorn said, "Her joints and bones are mending."

Added Alcorn, "My kids' friends are now taking the class. What makes me feel good about that is the respect that these younger girls have for women my age, that we're all able to unify and do a workout together and there's no intimidation.

"That is pretty cool, because once you get in that room and close the doors, everyone's on the very same level -- male, female, rich, poor, black, white, fat, skinny -- and I love that."

Although, obviously, extremely dedicated to her chosen exercise discipline, Alcorn has some less-than-conventional ideas about health and fitness.

"I'm not obsessed," she said. "I believe in eat, drink and be merry. You and I can eat a bag of chips and we're going to react differently to it, so I always say use common sense. Eat what you want to eat in moderation.

"Eat a big meal once a week if you like. You don't gain 10 pounds in one night by eating a big meal. You bloat and retain water, but that's all you do. There wouldn't be food if we weren't supposed to eat it."

On diets, Alcorn said, "There's a glitch in all of them or else everybody would be doing them, successfully. The more you have to discipline yourself, the more you resent it and you're just setting yourself up to go off the deep end."

Alcorn recognizes that everyone, no matter how long or how hard they may work out, is not going to be model-thin.

"Young girls, especially, need to accept their genetic physique," she said. "Not all are going to be 5 feet-8 inches with long slim legs. Some body types are stouter than others and that's o.k."

Brusveen, asked if she would recommend Alcorn's class, said, "I would encourage people to come and just try it and go for one or two weeks before they say 'No, I can't do this.' The first week was really hard, but once you get into that routine, you start craving the benefits."

Benefits which include increased stamina, a higher energy level and improved stress relief.

Alcorn, of course, had the last word.

"Honestly, when it gets down to the nitty-gritty," she said, with that wide, infectious smile, "it's all about looking good."