We had the pleasure of talking with one of the most well known clients at uforia, who we sometimes call, Mr. uforia, John McElyea. John’s story of finding his passion for dance and fitness, losing over 40 pounds, improving his quality of life and making a lot of friends in the process is really inspiring.
We know that you commute from Pacific Grove for classes(!!!), what else do you do in your free time?
I love writing at the beach,Yoga, Hula, physical therapy sessions and school. And I love discovering an appetite for super-healthy foods without being too rigid about what I eat. I focus on getting in healthy food that I need and allow for my favorite not so great for you foods a to avoid going to extremes either way. I have been known to frequent the Mandala Tea House to get my favorite green smoothie that I customize with all kinds of bonuses like bee pollen and green super foods.Yes, algae.I really love it.
Before uforia, how would you describe your health?
I was seriously entertaining the idea of going back to school to pursue a degree program in Psychology.
I was walking from my car to class one day and was so out of breath and in so much pain I didn’t think I could make it. I was very overweight and had a new doctor. I had been prescribed blood pressure and cholesterol lowering medications and I refused, but was not behaving myself, so to speak. So my new Doctor told me she would not force me to take any medication that I didn’t want to. But she said she was just trying to keep me from dying of a heart attack, and I better DO something. I could barely walk as old injuries and serious issues with my spine were ruining my quality of life. What good would it do to get a degree and then die or be miserable?
I couldn’t seem to stay on a diet or an exercise program. Then at one point last winter I just sat down and asked myself what I wanted. And the answer was clear: I wanted to dance. To be able to move with grace and ease and joy and freedom in my body. And I wanted a boyfriend.That’s why I love the song “Dance Again” by Jennifer Lopez and pitbull. “I want to dance, and LOVE, and dance…again…”
What brought you to uforia?
I heard about Zumba and had a feeling that it would be good for me. I found out that Kelly was teaching Zumba at uforia. No way! I loved having her as a teacher in the classes I took through Stanford’s Continuing Studies Program and CCARE .
I remember the first time I walked into uforia. I felt like I wanted be a part of it.The staff was so friendly and upbeat. I was afraid I might get the “um, you know they have special gyms for plus sizes” attitude. Nope. I saw that there were special events and fun things going on all the time and I hoped I wouldn’t chicken out. Believe it or not, I really had to push through a lot of resistance. I signed up for the Halloween party and it was so much fun, then the holiday parties, the open houses, anything that would push me to stay and mingle a little or push past my discomfort and self-consciousness. Kelly’s going away party, St. Patrick’s day, Matt’s flash mob, Shane’s lifestyle series, the embrace the sweat challenge…they all meant so much to me and I am so glad that I got involved in something good that I loved, with people that I admire. There’s a recipe for success!
How has taking classes at uforia affected your health and happiness?
I have gained stamina, physical strength, agility and speed that I thought was long lost, shed over 40 pounds, gained muscle mass (my Doctor was very impressed by the weight loss because she said there was such a gain in muscle and muscle tone which is more important than losing fat from dieting) Blood pressure and cholesterol are not just better, but excellent. My “new normal” is loving coming to Uforia to sweat, laugh, stretch, spin, twirl, shimmy and shake… what’s left of my booty.
Oh, and I went from a 3X t-shirt, to a 2X t-shirt to an XL and the same girl from footlocker who sold me the shirts each time noticed the difference and the staff there all gave me high fives. How cool was that? That was great.
What are your favorite classes?
Zumba was my first love. Who ever thought I’d go from “Oh, no, how many songs can there BE in an hour?” to “Hey! Can we do that again?” Thanks, Team!
And now Revolutions and uCycle are such a great companion and help me warm up tight muscles and prepare my body for the fast paced movement of Zumba. Who ever thought that I would get to the point where I use a full workout class as a warm-up? Thanks, team!
And Bliss is such a great addition. It is so important to keep my muscles streched and stay limber and maintain core strength. Practicing my “mini-yoga” helps my personal yoga practice immensly. I love having music playing during the class and the relaxation period at the end is the perfect way to integrate all of the benefits of healthy movement. Again, Thanks, team! I love the hot towels and candlelight.
Okay, and let’s talk about GRIT. I am convinced that when this country is ready to elect a female commander-in-chief, she will come from uforia’s GRIT classes. When I see those women kick it, sweat it and crunch it I am truly inspired. Grace and GRIT. Tough and sweet.
One of my fondest memories was one Saturday I was signed up for GRIT and was five minutes late. I sat in the car and said to myself “better late than never” I walked in to uforia and was peeking through the glass door and still debating whether to go in when Lauren opened up the door, grabbed me by the hand, pulled me into the room and said “look class, John’s here!” That was so sweet. Sometimes we all need encouragement to overcome our excuses, especially when we know we want to move forward.
How are uforia Rockstars different from other teachers?
Every instructor at uforia brings a pearl of wisdom and inspiration to their class and something unique that they embody. I am so glad to get to know them all. Don’t even get me started or I’ll do the ugly cry. If I could dedicate a song to the Rockstars and staff it would be “Love can move mountains” by Celine Dion. Yes, I have a mushy side, but their enthusiasm, inspiration and holding a higher potential for me than I could see for myself while I sweat through my doubts, fears and complaints is why I drive nearly 100 miles each way just to work out. My string of pearls is growing everyday. Oh! Maybe Matt will let me wear it in one of his classes!
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done at uforia?
Besides driving my car up to the front on my birthday with my windows open, blaring the song “Vivre Mi Vida” by Marc Anthony at full blast sticking out of my sunroof waving a towel in the air and singing passionately while surrounded by beautiful dancing women?
What advice do you have for someone else who is scared or intimidated to try uforia?
If you have a hint that you can achieve your fitness goals here, trust it, weather it is just to dance for fun, or get serious.
Tell them John sent you! Really! If you ever see me, please come up and introduce yourself. I admire seeing new people come to uforia, getting over whatever is holding them back,trying something new.
At first I gave up on every class I tried. My first cycling class I was sore for ten days. I was trying to show off. Yes, and I said NEVER again.Then I bought a padded bike seat and rented shoes and went at a pace I could keep up with and I came to love it. It turned out to be some of the best physical therapy for me.
Give the classes a chance, know your body and adjust. You are not expected to be able to come in and keep up with the instructor or anyone else. That is what you are working towards. Enjoy where you are, keep your eyes on where you are headed and love the journey!
What’s next for you?
When you meet someone who has accomplished something you dream of, it makes more of an impact than all the books in the library of congress.
I heard about Shane’s journey but when I met him, the fact that he was healthy, not just that he “lost a bunch of weight” was refreshing. Hearing how his whole lifestyle went through a metamorphosis and the courage to let go of the way it was so that he could look forward and embrace what could be is something I can relate to, and must practice regularly. The immediate glory of his weight loss is over, but he continues to inspire, encourage and challenge others as he finds ways to remain committed to living well himself. This is what I hope to do.
I’m not at my goal yet, so that is yet to be realized. Continued flexibility and improvement in balance, speed and grace of movement are in order. Learning new dance moves…and learning to remember them!
I am also enrolled in a teacher’s training program for Yoga and one for CCARE so perhaps down the road I can offer what I am practicing for myself and in my life in a way that can help others develop a practice of their own. And since I feel great when I’m wearing my uforia t-shirt and love wearing it, I am sure you all will see me around the studio. I’ll be singing and dancing to love songs. And who knows?