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Women find fun and health in Drums Alive

It’s just like Gloria Estefan first sang 25 years ago: “Rhythm is gonna get you.”

With the music cranked, a drumstick in each hand, and two Bosu training balls on risers to pound on at desktop level, each of the 16 women in the “Drums Alive” class Monday had everything they needed to energize their collective beat.

Leading the group inside Ladies Choice Fitness Center, across from Kmart in Inlet Square in Murrells Inlet, Gwendolyn Donofrio asked at several points, “How do you feel?” eliciting a unified “Wheeeewww!” each time.

In this workout for about an hour, the participants danced, tapped, stretched, swung, bent, reached and did all kinds of movement that got their hearts tapping, besides the occasional intervals to strike to balls like drums. Biceps, triceps and many, if not all, parts of the body had their turn.

Sometimes, the women beat a ball with sticks both hands, other times with one, and occasionally double time. Other times, the sticks were held above the head or along the side to march or run in place for a moment, and every so often, handclaps served as their metronome.

The classmates would kick their legs, then take a little hop, or take some side steps, clap and turn around. Many sequences rolled out, and like in Zumba or line dancing, no one wound up looking out of place, for everyone can make her steps work to her fitness and comfort level.

Hearing, seeing percussion

In the finale number, the late Vicki Sue Robinson’s “Turn the Beat Around,” the second line in the chorus goes, “Love to hear the percussion.” Everybody had brought her own drumsticks, many decorated with colors and stripes from contact paper and perhaps giving a better grip.

Among the certified training staff at the studio, Donofrio, its aerobic and fitness director, said she first taught Drums Alive at a women’s gym in her native New Jersey.

“It’s a great cardio workout,” she said, breaking down its bits and pieces of Zumba-step choreography and drumming that all work together to exercise “all kinds of muscles.”

Donofrio, also a fitness instructor at Coastal Carolina University, said Drums Alive also doesn’t work one’s knees hard, either, and she also sees potential in its value for all ages, including youth, whom she hopes get “more movin’ and workin’ ” for healthier lives overall, and maybe in assisted living places.

Dorothy Waterman of Murrells Inlet showed a picture on the wall where she sat and took part in her Drums Alive debut earlier this year at Ladies Choice, to ease the routine in with her pacemaker at play.

On her feet Monday like usual, the 71 1/2-year-old kept pace with her daughter, Colleen Polmateer of Socastee, next to her, as they rotated in their rows like everyone else through the workout.

Waterman, who said she has been a member of Ladies Fitness for several years and also likes belly dancing, said Drums Alive has provided her most fun to date for exercise because “I’m all worked up” and “it warms up the joints.”

Betty Brown said she loves having Drums Alive every week among her daily morning fitness regimens.

At age 70, the trim Pawleys Island resident kidded how her husband knows not to “bother me before noon.”

Brown also likes the social benefits from camaraderie with other women and to meet new faces.

‘Not work; just fun’

Drums Alive began her day Monday, and like everyone else before and after the class, she flashed a smile.

“It’s not work,” she said. “It’s just fun.”

Nancy Garner of Murrells Inlet called Donofrio “the Energizer Bunny” in encouragement for programs such as Drums Alive, because in a women’s-only setting, everyone can work out without the pressure “to have to look nice.”

Donofrio said in Drums Alive, “what really gets you going is the adrenaline and the beat of the music.”

Since beginning a career in fitness training 34 years ago, Donofrio said her attention to staying in shape resulted from a pledge she made to “live long enough to really enjoy my grandkids, as I did with my own kids.”

Although people’s genes and health conditions can reflect inherited traits, “you can’t change how your predisposed,” Donofrio said, “but you can change your health and your lifestyle.”

During Estefan’s “Get On Your Feet,” the second song of the second half of the Drums Alive session Monday, the women rolled with their bodies in various directions and worked in other step-and-clap sequences.

“The weight is off your shoulder,” Donofrio said, echoing the words sung.

Also, after one test run, she already has begun planning another class, based on more beats, blending Drums Alive and Zumba: “Drumba.”