What would Sarah Alexander whisper in everyone’s ear if she could? The GX24 instructor, lifelong athlete and dancer says it’s five words: Do the best you can.
It’s advice that seems counterintuitive to her fitness journey. Alexander danced ballet and jazz, played sports and began cheerleading in middle school. “In high school we became a competitive team, which just makes it worth it.” But she’s not referring to victory. “You’re working toward a goal,” she explains. And just trying, she says, is where the magic happens.
Alexander found her way to becoming a full-time instructor coincidentally. Her family joined 24 Hour Fitness as part of their own weight-loss challenge. She continued to go to the gym, and after the birth of her son by Caesarian section, she thought she needed to take it easy, so she decided to return to her active lifestyle starting with yoga.
The yoga instructor could see Alexander had a dance background and would give her more difficult poses to do, and finally suggested she consider becoming an instructor. Alexander got her certification for yoga and similarly, explored and then became certified to teach Zumba, and PiYo, BODYPUMP and Strong By Zumba formats.
Featured in 24 Hour Fitness’ “Worth It” campaign, Alexander took a break at a recent photo shoot to talk with 24Life about family fitness, her current obsession, why Strong by Zumba appeals to a classically trained dancer, and more.
24Life: You teach a diverse set of classes, from restorative to HIIT. How did you come to some of the different formats?
Sarah Alexander: I remember taking yoga, and afterward, someone said, “Oh, you should take Zumba. It’s awesome.” I said, “I don’t want to take Zumba” [because] I wanted it to be a “real” dance class. I didn’t know. Years later, I thought, all right, fine, let’s see what this Zumba thing is. [I took it and] I had the best time of my life. I was sore, no joke, from my head to my toes, because I went for it. I didn’t feel like anybody was watching me, so I felt like I could just dance and do whatever I wanted.
When the promo for Strong By Zumba came out, I thought, that is what I want to do. My problem with other high-intensity interval training classes, was that they weren’t to the beat, to the music. If you’re from the dance world, where that music drives you, that’s what was lacking—and Strong by Zumba totally filled that for me.
24Life: You joined 24 Hour Fitness as part of a family fitness challenge. There’s a saying that the family that plays together, stays together. Would you say that’s true?
SA: Family fitness goes on. We play baseball all together. Even my father, he’s 72 years old—you should see him hitting line drives out to the outfield. We all run around the bases. We do batting practice, pitching. We go hiking with friends sometimes, and family. When my son Rowan was 5, and I had just gotten into PiYo, he decided to make his own video, “Kids’ Yoga.” I videotaped him, and he even did the positions right. So he’s into fitness as well.
24Life: What makes group fitness worth it?
SA: I think going to the gym creates a whole other life for yourself, where you meet all these great people. Yes, you see results, but it’s the feeling that you get. You feel happy, you feel complete, you feel energized.
24Life: What’s one misconception you’d want to dispel about group fitness?
SA: Ballet is so structured, and I thought that Zumba [instructors] didn’t care about form. The purpose of Zumba is to get people out of their shell, so that they come in, dance, have fun and let it all go. I didn’t see that part of it until I experienced it. I think Zumba will be around forever because it is so much fun. [But] if you watch your instructor’s form, then you start realizing, “Oh, okay, this is how it should be, and this is how I can get more out of it.”
24Life: You’re a mom and you teach full time, and even though you love fitness, there must be days when other demands make it hard to get motivated. What do you do?
SA: Someone once told me, “Motion creates emotion.” On days when I really just want to go home and sleep, I take a deep breath and I start dancing, or doing PiYo, or punching for Strong by Zumba. And five, 10 minutes into it, all of a sudden I’m going full force again.
24Life: What advice would you give your younger self? Your future self?
SA: I would tell my future self, “Don’t stop. Don’t ever stop.” And I would tell my younger self, “Hurry up. Start now!”
Photo and video credit: Tom Casey, box24studio.com