2022 is quite the anniversary year for fitness instructor and aquatic personal trainer Sharon Steele: 15 years with Powell Wellness Center and 50 years as a fitness professional!
Sharon studied Kinesiology and Fitness Programming at the University of Houston. She taught fitness classes at World Gym, Presidents-First Lady Spa, Inc., and the YMCA in Houston, Texas. While in Houston, she offered a STEP class for several players on the Houston Oilers football team. She has also taught at community centers in Northern Virginia.
After moving to Culpeper in 1996, Sharon began teaching at Stepping Out, a studio above The Training Zone, which was located across from the State Theater on Main Street. Perhaps some of our members may recall these facilities.
As a personal trainer, Sharon has trained firefighters, police officers and even actors portraying knights at Medieval Times, a national family dinner theater experience featuring staged medieval-style games, sword-fighting, and jousting. Never a dull moment with her fitness career adventures!
Below, Sharon replies to a few questions about her fitness career.
Sharon, what drew you to become a fitness professional?
I was a member at “The Lady Spa” in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The manager wanted to add a group floor exercise class. I was offered the position in exchange for a free membership! This was in 1972.
During your time as an instructor, what are some of the fitness trends/programs you’ve seen come and go?
So many formats are still around today! Jazzercise appeared in 1968 and is still dancing up a storm. The aerobic dance movement started when Judi Sheppard Missett’s Jazz classes were hard to fill. She began offering a just-for-fun class and aerobic dance was born. Jack LaLanne brought exercise to housewives all over the country. My Mom and I worked out with Jack! Jane Fonda started out with floor exercises. When Group Fitness Instructors became nationally certified the tide turned to safe and effective classes.
Which programs have you particularly loved teaching and why?
I love programming for water classes. My TABATA interval class at PWC, Bata Bing, fills the pool. I think aquatic exercise has changed more than land. In the pool, we have so many different classes to offer, from arthritis support to water walking. Working out in the water is effective with no orthopedic downside ― you have resistance but no joint impact!
In terms of my favorite class to teach – that has always been STEP. Working out with a step checks all the boxes: cardio, strength, balance and core!
When Powell Wellness Center opened in 2007, what about the center attracted you to join the team?
The pool! I wanted to get back into aquatic classes. I worked and taught pool classes at the YMCA in Houston, Texas prior to moving to Virginia. I loved the idea of a wellness center with a pool to serve the people in this area.
Over the years, have you seen people benefiting from group exercise and their gym community in ways that go beyond physical health?
Oh yes! Becoming physically healthy empowers a person mentally as well as physically. Friendships are formed. I love seeing folks working out together and making plans to get together outside of class!
Sharon, what’s on your plate going forward? Do you have any classes that you would love to add to your schedule?
I want to expand my prehab program in the pool. Getting people ready for a whole range of surgeries and procedures is very satisfying!
PWC members can find Sharon in the pool for Bata Bing, Liquid Silver, Aqua STEP, Water Gym and Fluid Pilates classes. In the group fitness room, she teaches Fortify Your Frame, Everybody STEP, STEP, Walk, Strength & Stretch, 3 Mile Walk, Arthritis Mobility Essentials and Practical Pilates.
Sharon is certified to offer AquaStretch, a one-on-one assisted stretching and myofascial release technique that uses weighted resistance in shallow water. AquaStretch frees the body of restrictions that limit flexibility; these restrictions may be the cause of pain or discomfort with movement. She is also certified for pre-habilitation training (prehab), which helps prepare the body for the stresses of surgery and can support faster recovery. AquaStretch and Prehab are open to the public.