waste management, water treatment, zumba . . .

There's a dance party going down at General Services

Lunchtime fun and fitness in full swing
Karen MacGregor, Christy Spaulding and Kathy Lang get down during a Zumba class at the General Services Department.
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Looks like the moves run in the family! That’s 8-year-old Lucas keeping up with mom and instructor Mariann Puopolo.

A handful of women at the General Services Department have decided to take both the lunch and the break out of their lunch break.

The women are all devoted attendees of a Zumba toning class offered by Mariann Puopolo twice a week at noon, giving the group a chance to squeeze some exercise into the middle of the afternoon and kickstart the rest of the work day.

"It's just amazing," General Services employee Karen MacGregor said. "It makes you feel so good after. It's hard, but it's a good workout, and by the time you leave you feel energized."

Puopolo visits General Services twice a week, offering six-week sessions for anyone interested. The group convenes in the building's cafeteria at noon on Tuesday and Thursdays and spends an hour sweating their way through a workout set to up-tempo tunes.

Puopolo, who also teaches Zumba classes at Let's Dance Studio, was concerned she would have to cancel the summer session because her children were out of school - and because the room doesn't feature air conditioning - and she worried about losing much of the positive momentum gained throughout successful winter and spring offerings.

But the response from her faithful students was a simple one - bring them along.

So on many of the afternoons throughout July and August, Puopolo was joined by Lucas, 8, and Mia, 6. And though Lucas and Mia are both too young to participate in the full class, they spend plenty of time shaking their groove things from the corners of the room as the music plays.

The work is paying off, too. MacGregor said she is already down two dress sizes and is more toned than she's been in years, and Karon Devoid, another General Services employee, has gained a great deal of energy from the classes.

"Everybody feels better when they finish," Devoid said. "Even if you're dragging when you come in, by the time you leave you feel great."

The class isn't just for those who work at General Services, either. Christy Spaulding is a police officer who works primarily at night, and the course offers an opportunity to get some exercise she otherwise might have talked herself out of.

"For me, this is way better than running. We have physical fitness tests every three years (as police officers), so this is great for me. It keeps me in shape," Spaulding said. "I'm definitely seeing results. And I love dancing, so it's the perfect workout."

Kathy Lang was a school teacher for 35 years, though now she's more than happy to be a student in Puopolo's class.

"I love it. It's the best workout I think I've ever had," Lang said. "I'm dripping sweat when I leave here, which is not pretty. But it's a real workout."

Puopolo discovered Zumba after taking "just about every group fitness class" there is over the last 15 years. The former stay-at-home mom immediately fell in love, as the style reignited a passion for dance that she hadn't tapped into since she was a child.

Her husband encouraged her to become an instructor, and it's one of the best decisions she's ever made, she said.

"I'm surprised at my age that I'm finding my passion. I started with regular Zumba, and now with the Zumba toning to go with it, I get the best of both worlds," Puopolo, who teaches six classes a week between General Services and Let's Dance, said. "I haven't been this toned in 15 years, and I'm not going to the gym at all. It's just the classes."

Classes, she says, that anybody can take part in, regardless of fitness level or experience. She encourages anyone interested to give it a shot and take things at their own pace.

"It's for everybody. Sometimes people see it and think, I can't do that, I'm not young and skinny. But it's really for everybody," Puopolo said. "It's not about being perfect. You can have your own flavor. It's about having fun."

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