CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Jan. 20, 2020) – April Mack cheerfully arrived an hour early to get in line and secure a spot in Rodney Holloway’s Nightclub Cardio fitness class at the Yano Fitness Center here Jan. 14.
“I enjoy dancing, and it gives me something to look forward to,” said Mack, who has attended the classes since Holloway began teaching them nearly two years ago at Camp Zama facilities.
Holloway has inspired class regulars such as Mack to maintain their fitness levels during the COVID-19 pandemic and has also served as a role model for those who might not feel like exercising. Holloway overcame a spontaneously collapsed lung in April 2020 to resume instructing the next month, and he battles back problems and continues to hold the hour-long, high-energy class twice a week.
“Any fitness class is great to have, but I feel that it is even more important now during the pandemic,” Holloway said. “We are locked in our houses, we can’t live the way we are used to, and we are living in a stressful time. Exercise is a great way to reduce stress, stay fit and have fun.”
On days when he is feeling lazy, down or stressed, a good workout helps him feel better, Holloway said.
Current COVID-19 rules allow Holloway to teach five in-person students in socially distanced classes, but when previous rules did not allow in-person classes, he moved his classes online for free. His regulars appreciated it.
“It helped me maintain my weight,” said Suzy Venn, who has attended Holloway’s class since he began offering it. “It helped me maintain my fitness level and my overall health.”
Likewise, Mack said the online classes kept her in a fitness routine.
“It helped me just continue moving, getting me off the couch, getting me moving, and it was something to look forward to,” Mack said. “I could continue doing it. It would have been better here [at the fitness center], but it was great that he offered it to at least do it at home.”
Holloway said leading the online classes felt somewhat strange because he was dancing alone, but he kept his students motivated by smiling, being silly and adjusting his schedule to meet their needs.
Holloway, like many who take his class, looks forward to the days when he does not have to limit the number of participants to five, but he is glad to have the opportunity to teach in person.
“It’s really about trying to help people, and that’s why I continue teaching classes even though we dropped to five [students],” Holloway said. “I didn’t feel like eliminating the people who were coming. I felt as though helping one person was better than helping zero people, so I continue to teach.”
Karen Itamoto, who has attended Holloway’s class a handful of times, said she is just a beginner, but she enjoys the class a lot.
“That’s the reason why I come so early to get in,” said Itamoto, who was second in line Jan. 14. “I like his music and his routines are very easy to follow. [They’re] very basic, but it’s fun. I love the way he teaches his class. He’s always smiling.”
When he is not instructing Nightclub Cardio, Holloway works as an English as a Second Language teacher at John O. Arnn Elementary School. He learned the value of community service in college when he joined the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., he said, and he has remained active with the organization for more than 20 years.
“One of the [fraternity’s] main initiatives is serving the community,” Holloway said. “It’s even our motto: ‘Culture for Service and Service for Humanity.’ I give back because it feels natural, it feels good, and it helps others.”
Holloway started instructing fitness classes more than 10 years ago, and has also been certified in Zumba, TRX suspension training, and “Piloxing,” a form of cardio workout that combines Pilates and boxing. His only current certification, however, is in Nightclub Cardio, which is his favorite class to instruct.
Holloway said he discovered the benefits of fitness classes when a friend “dragged” him to a Zumba class, which he hated at first but thankfully gave a second chance.
“[I] found out that it was actually fun once I stopped worrying about doing every dance perfectly,” Holloway said. “I became a regular, attending weekly classes. I was younger then, so I was even doing multiple classes in a day.”
A Zumba certification class coming up and everyone in the class encouraged Holloway to take it, so he did. “The rest, as they say, is history,” he said.
Holloway said he enjoys being a fitness class instructor because he loves seeing people smile and have a good time.
“The more smiles I have, the more energy I have,” Holloway said. “All I care about is trying to help someone with whatever reason they decided to join my class. You can come for cardio; you can come to relieve stress; you can come to just be silly—it doesn’t matter your reason. I just love to have people there.”
He also wants to help others with fitness.
“I was overweight for a long time, so I know the struggles people go through, and that is another reason that I do what I do,” Holloway said. “Staying healthy and keeping a healthy weight is a battle that I’ve been fighting since I was a kid.”
While it takes determination to get a spot in Holloway’s class these days, Holloway said he encourages people to try other group fitness classes. The Yano Fitness Center also offers Zumba, spin and yoga classes.
In addition, when it comes to fitness, there are nearly endless alternatives.
“Just take a walk, do some bodyweight exercises, play with your kids, or go over to Yano to lift some weights,” Holloway said.