If you’d like a no-guilt way to carve out some fitness time for yourself, just tell your friends and family you’re going to WERQ. When you say it out loud, it sounds like you’re headed off to your job. Who can argue with that? But if you’re actually headed to a WERQ fitness class, you’re about to spend an hour dancing to high-energy hip-hop, pop and rock music.
In the Quad-Cities, you can find WERQ classes at QC Underground Fitness, in Bettendorf. But don’t let the gym’s name fool you — there’s nothing dark or underground about the place. The brightly lit studio is spacious and open, and features polished hardwood floors, perfect for the new dance moves you’ll acquire in a WERQ class.
Patrice Williams, of Bettendorf, has been teaching the classes since the beginning of this year, shortly after receiving her WERQ certification last December. Prior to that, she had been teaching Zumba, but was looking for a change. She found it at the Empower Fitness Convention in Chicago where she discovered WERQ.
“It’s a fiercely fun dance workout,” Williams says. “It’s muscle memory. Many of the same routines stay in for a while, and each routine has about three to four basic moves. You hear it, it’s familiar to you, and your body moves.”
For many people, the fear that everyone will judge them keeps them from attending group fitness classes. Williams says not to worry.
“In WERQ, everyone gets caught up in the music. They’re watching themselves in the mirrors and feeling like they’re in their own music video — they’re not watching other people,” Williams says.
If you ever happen to take a class and find me in it, rest assured, I’m not watching you. If you’re the instructor, though, that’s another story. I tried one of Williams’ WERQ classes recently, and although I didn’t find myself watching the other students, my eyes were glued to Williams.
As she called out the various steps, I did my best to mimic her movements. She gave tips to help everyone follow along, offering variations to make the steps accessible to everyone. For some, that meant easing up on the jumps to keep the routines low-impact. For others, it meant leaving out the arm motions until the footwork came naturally.
I’ll be honest — dance classes make me nervous. A skilled dancer, I am not. I am, however, pretty comfortable with letting myself look silly, as long as I get to bring along a wingwoman.
In Williams’ class, however, I flew solo in a roomful of strangers. The laughter in the class and the quick camaraderie made the group feel like friends pretty quickly, though, and apparently it isn’t just me who feels that way.
Evangeline Geist, from LeClaire, had been taking an online course called Courageous Confidence Club. One of the challenges in the course was to do something you had always wanted to do, but were afraid to do. For Geist, that something was taking a group workout class. She initially tried Zumba, but didn’t care for the moves. Then she tried WERQ.
“It’s a very relaxed atmosphere, and everyone is so friendly and inviting. The moves are relatively simple, but still challenging,” she says. “Patrice is an amazing instructor who does a great job of pulling you in and getting you to push yourself harder, but also not letting you feel bad if you can’t get a move right away.”
WERQ also is suitable for all ages and fitness levels. On the night I attended, Geist was there with her mother, Liz Whisler, and daughter, Gillian Lindstrom, also of LeClaire.
For Whisler, the class addresses things that will become issues for everyone at some point.
“Getting older and staying fit and keeping my sense of balance is a big challenge,” she says.
For the younger generation, it took a bit of bribery to encourage attendance. “The first time I went to (a) WERQ class, my mom forced me to go by promising me pie from Village Inn,” Lindstrom says. But she’s found reasons to keep coming back. “I like that it is all dancing, and that it’s moves anyone can do, but it’s still challenging.”
For other students, the class is not only a way to stay fit, but a way to find some “me” time.
“The thing I enjoy most about this class is the fact that, for one hour, I am completely out of my head,” says Nicole Hinman, of Hillsdale, Illinois. “I am a working mother of two boys, and my brain is constantly going. What meetings do I have tomorrow? What activities do the kids have this week? What am I making for dinner? I need to do this, I should do that. … It never ends! But the moment the music starts in class, all that is silenced, and I have 60 minutes to just be.”
During class, Williams says “You’re really working everything.” The choreography is “cardio-based, so we’re always working the heart. But we’re also doing lunges and squats, working the glutes and the hamstrings. We’re doing arm movements. Plus we’re dancing, and dance works the core.”
The key to any workout is to find something you enjoy so that you can stick with it. For Hinman, whose fitness journey has led to a 70-pound weight loss, fun is the key.
“Personally, if I’m going to work out on a regular basis, it needs to be something that I enjoy, or I know I’m not going to stick to it. WERQ is so much fun that I forget I’m working out. I love the camaraderie that comes along with a group fitness class; that just adds to the fun,” Hinman says.
“We cheer each other on, laugh with each other and push each other. You don’t get that on a treadmill.”
Chris Cashion is a writer on staff with Radish. Check out WERQ classes every Tuesday and Thursday from 6 to 7 p.m. at QC Underground Fitness, 2383 Cumberland Square Drive, Bettendorf. Classes are $5. For more information, visit facebook.com/qcundergroundfitness.