Amy Cunningham finds her rhythm as leader of drumming exercise class

As a college student, Amy Cunningham had no desire to exercise regularly. She always enjoyed public speaking, but she never pictured herself doing so as a fitness instructor.

Now Cunningham leads Mahomet Parks and Recreation's Pound, a group fitness class that uses drumsticks to exercise to the tune of upbeat pop music.

"I didn't expect myself to be teaching fitness classes ever," Cunningham joked, "but I enjoyed public speaking."

Four years ago, Cunningham admits she was "pretty overweight."

"I wasn't exercising at all," she added.

She discovered group fitness and felt she found her niche. But Cunningham didn't just lose the weight and move on; instead, she saw group exercise as a way to form community and became an instructor, and has done so for the last 21 / 2 years.

The Chicago native stuck around East Central Illinois after graduating from the University of Illinois with a full-time job offer working with children and families in Champaign County.

After having children, Troy, 7, and Cassidy, 5, Cunningham decided to work from home. She now continues to serve as a fitness instructor and also writes for Chambanamoms.com.

Last year, Cunningham stumbled upon a five-minute sample of Pound, and her newfound passion for fitness was reinvigorated.

"I was like, 'This is it! We need this!'" Cunningham said.

"I thought it was kind of interesting and was something that wasn't being offered in our area," she added. "On a whim, I thought, 'I need to bring this to our community.'"

Cunningham traveled to Lafayette, Ind., for an intense instructor certification. She began her training with a 45-minute master class.

"I walked in, and at the end of that hour, I was like, 'What did I get myself into?'" Cunningham joked.

But after learning how to teach the rapid movements safely, Cunningham knew she was bringing something unique home to Mahomet.

"I really liked the idea of having something that would appeal to someone who says, 'Mmm ... picking up weights and putting them down, that's not really for me,'" she said. "That was me."

"I felt like once I found something that worked for me, that it would be helpful for participants to have an instructor who was just there recently — that knew what it was like to not want to exercise or have anything that was a good fit for them," she added.

Now Cunningham teaches two 45-minute Pound classes a week at Mahomet Parks and Recreation. The group of 10 to 20 ranges from teenagers to those in their 60s and welcomes individuals of all abilities and exercise levels.

The best of all? Cunningham delights in the positive feedback.

"Most of the women that I talk to say, 'Thank you so much for bringing this to our town,'" Cunningham said.

"I feel really honored to have brought something here that just brings people together."

More than anything, Cunningham is proud of how Pound unites Mahomet.

"I think giving people fitness options right here in town, something they can do with their co-workers or their friends or their neighbors that have kids the same age as theirs, it just means a lot to people to be able to do that next area of life together," she said.

"You already send your kids on the school bus together and now you're getting to see each other in fitness class that night — it's just a comfortable environment."

Cunningham has even convinced her own neighbors to join in the fun.

"There's a whole bunch of them that leave my street at the same time before Pound," she said.

"We all go at the same time. I love that."

When Cunningham began teaching group fitness, she said this was "exactly what I envisioned."

"I wanted to do it with people who were right around me," she added. "Thanks to the opportunities from parks and rec, I have the ability to do it five minutes from the house."

Cunningham welcomes new and returning attendees to her Monday and Wednesday class at 6 p.m. with new sessions starting in January.

To sign up for the class or learn more information, visit mahomet.recdesk.com.

Categories (4):Fitness, News, People, Health

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