Dancing into shape: When Julie Rapp's husband suggested moving from Maryland to Charlotte in the 1990s, she had only one condition: that the Charlotte area had a Body & Soul fitness ministry.
There was a class, and Rapp agreed to the move. “It was a very large part of our decision,” Rapp said.
Rapp learned about the Body & Soul fitness ministry through an ad in a newspaper.
“I thought, ‘I bet I'd like that,'” Rapp said. “I like music, and I like to dance. As soon as I started taking the class, I loved it.”
Body & Soul fitness, which was started in the early 1980s in the Washington, D.C., area, combines Christian music with choreographed aerobics and strength training. Instructors are trained in new choreography and music three times a year.
Rapp and Teresa Mulcahy have been teaching Body & Soul classes in the Lake Norman area for almost 10 years. This fall, they are offering hour-long classes at Lake Norman Baptist and Independence Hill Baptist churches and Kingdom's Feet Dance Studio.
Worship and exercise: Rapp said the Christian music inspires and motivates her.
“In the gym, the music itself does not mean a lot,” she said. In Body & Soul choreography, the same motions are applied to the chorus or verse, making the routines easy to pick up after a few attempts.
“When you begin to know the routine, you can relax into the workout and appreciate what the words to the music are saying,” Rapp said.
The choreography works with the lyrics to the songs. For example, if a song says, “Lift your hands,” exercisers lift their hands as part of the routine.
“The music is very powerful, and you get to worship,” she said. “I know that sounds really out there – that we're going to exercise class and we're going to worship – but it's a powerful component of what we're doing. The class gives me an opportunity to worship with my whole body.
“That's the thing that keeps us 10 years later doing it and loving it. That's why it's a ministry and not just a class.”
Whole body workout: Rapp said Body & Soul leaders update music and classes to keep up with fitness trends.
This session, one of four seasonal sessions the ministry offers, includes classes in cardio strength, strength and flexibility, and a new “Power Strength” class that Rapp said is a like a “body pump” or “power pump” class. It's billed as a coed class.
“Up to this point, it's been a little more focused on women, but we've got lots of new stuff coming in,” Rapp said. Other classes are incorporating the ballroom dance craze with moves taken from swing, salsa and Latin dancing.
Rapp said classes are casual, and newcomers are welcome to try a class before committing to a session.