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New fitness classes to be offered at the Averitt Center
donovan fitness
Dr. Jean Marie Donovan, in purple, leads a fitness class at the Whitaker Black Box Theater on Dec. 22. Classes in Zumba Basic and Stretch & Tone will be offered for people of all ages and levels. - photo by Scott Bryant

The Averitt Center for the Arts is known for getting the creative juices going in local residents. Now, it can add something else — getting them to sweat.

Dr. Jean Marie Donovan, an AFAA certified group fitness instructor, will be offering fitness classes at the 41 West Main building. The classes include Stretch & Tone and Zumba Basic.

Donovan has certifications in Zumba and Silver Sneakers, and pursued ballet and Jazzercise over the years, all while being a wife and mother, and having a full-time career. At the age of 60, she ran her first 5K, and began to reinvent her fitness lifestyle.

As a child, Donovan was involved in sports and dance lessons. By high school, she was on the tennis and softball teams, and took classes at the local YMCA and ran. At the age of 55, she began to realize that she needed to face the reality of aging, and she went back to her Irish roots for exercise. She did set dancing and performance, even performing in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Pittsburgh. 

After a new job brought her to Savannah, Donovan, a widow, began dating a man who she watched run the Savannah Bridge Run 10K. She wondered if she could compete — and began to train. In 2016, she won third place in the Women 60-64 category in the YMCA Savannah 5K. 

“It was a fantastic eye opener that new things were possible,” she said.

She later married her beau, Jeff, and the couple made their home in Statesboro. She continued taking fitness classes and walking/jogging. 

“But honestly, at times, I just could not keep up with the classes. So I decided that it was time to take matters into my own hands, and headed to Atlanta for Zumba training, specializing in Zumba Gold,” she said. “A new career blossomed. I had been teaching my whole life, so this was just a very new subject.”

Donovan now has an AFAA certificate in Group Fitness, and an additional specialization in Silver Sneakers. She has been teaching in the Boro for about a year.

The tie-in with the Averitt Center came when the couple took a ballroom dance class. They enjoyed the class so much that they began to volunteer as ushers, and Donovan began taking art classes.

“It’s a creative, energetic, friendly and vibrant place,” she said. “I always felt a warm welcome. I grew up in the suburbs of New York City, and it was a taste of the theater world I missed.”

Tony Phillips, who teaches ballroom dance at the Averitt, issued the invite to Donovan to bring her fitness classes to the Averitt. 

The Zumba Basic class will be an easy and fun workout for all fitness levels, Donovan said. Basic dance patterns will be taught, including swing, salsa, merengue, reggaeton and mambo. The class will use Latin styles of music and dance, will be low impact, and will feature longer warmup and cooldown periods. 

The class will be taught on Mondays, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., and on Saturdays from 10 to 11 a.m.

The Stretch & Tone class is also low impact, and is designed to increase strength, flexibility and range of motion. The cardio exercises that attendees will take part in are aimed at improving endurance and strengthen muscle tone. The will also be yoga-style stretches and poses to focus on strength and balance. Chairs will be available for use for the exercises.

The class will be held on Thursdays from 10 to 11 a.m., and on Saturdays, from 11 a.m. to noon.

Donovan says sneakers are recommended for the classes, and she encourages attendees to bring water. 

Classes are $5 per session. On the occasion of your first visit, Donovan says you should come early to complete the registration paperwork. If you have a Silver Sneakers benefit, be sure to bring your ID number. The classes are drop-in format, and there are no memberships required. Payment is due prior to the class. 

“This new exercise program just adds one more possibility for people.  If you are absolutely new to fitness, you will work on those fitness goals so important to your health.  If you bring lots of experience and strength, you should plan to increase your own intensity for a good workout. My job as your instructor is not to impress you with what I can do, but impress you with what you can do,” Donovan said. 

Call the Averitt Center at 912-212-2787 for more information.


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