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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Interview: Hensley Akiboh of S.W.A.G. Fitness

Have you ever walked into a nearly empty gym when your favorite jam comes on in your ear buds, and you think to yourself, "I'm going to go buck wild and bust a move on this treadmill right here!"  Maybe you have been a sweaty spectator during one of those crowded days where you see a brave soul jamming out on the treadmill doing a choreographed dance precisely for that machine followed by a twinge of envy. Let's just say I've been on either side of those scenarios. Music tends to allow me to lose myself to the point where I believe I'm a main character of 'Newsies' the musical. A jog with the right playlist can easily turn the illuminated streets into a stage. Ok. I've probably said too much... Last year, to my delight I was introduced to a fun and energetic man named Hensley Akiboh and his class: S.W.A.G. Fitness. During the first class I felt a bit lost with some of the choreography but lord knows I love to move to music. I was excited to be a part of such a large group of people in the dark studio, with a disco light flashing and the music blaring. There were people of all ages, shapes and sizes that attended. I once saw an entire family having a fun night of movement together!  From that first night I was hooked! It was a great feeling. I was permitted to step outside of my comfort zone and into an uneasy space of possibly making myself look foolish. This has become my church. Dancing has become my religion. You know the saying "Dance as if no one is watching"? Well, I prefer: “Dance first. Think later. It's the natural order.” ― Samuel Beckett
Without further ado, I'd like to introduce you all to my friend Hensley and his house of S.W.A.G.

When did you first get into dance?

Throughout most of my life, I had never been much of a formal dancer. I've never received any professional instruction and hardly ever took much of what's considered a "dance class" throughout most of college. I have, however, always been a social dancer. I love going out on weekends and dancing to great music. When did you start S.W.A.G.? S.W.A.G. Fitness was an idea sparked by a great friend of mine, Zaq Lawal, back in 2011. The idea came to him while he was working out in the gym one day. He enjoyed staying fit and healthy, liked lifting, but just did not enjoy what was available as far as cardio. Running on the treadmill, using the elliptical, biking....none of them were exercises he enjoyed doing. Having a background minoring in dance, a light bulb came on. When you dance, and you dance hard, you work up a pretty good sweat! Why not utilize something that people enjoy as a means of getting exercise?! S.W.A.G. Fitness (Sweating With A Goal) was born.
Who inspires you to continue to S.W.A.G.?
SWAG Fitness has been in full swing since March of 2012. I look forward to teaching class every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Who inspires me to continue teaching? The people who attend my class! I see people coming in week after week all because they say how much they love the class! When's the last time you saw so many high fives, smiles, and laughter in the gym!? There is so much positive energy in that studio, it can turn some of the worst days around and make them great days. I know you have several jobs, how would you describe the double life you lead? How do you balance them?
I actually have three jobs! I am a benefits consultant working for Aflac. I DJ weddings, parties, and events for Party-Time Productions. AND I teach S.W.A.G. Fitness at Pittsburgh Dance Center. It's a busy life, but it actually works out pretty well. During the day, I am working with business-owners and companies helping them with their employee benefits through Aflac. Monday, Wendesday, and Friday evenings, I teach S.W.A.G. Fitness. And I DJ on weekends! Rarely do I have a timing conflict, which is nice. Why do I do all three? The one thing all my jobs have in common is they each provide me with positive interactions with other people. With Aflac, I am helping small business owners and families protect themselves against the financial burden of an accident or illness. When I'm DJing, I'm usually celebrating with families on the happiest day of their life. And every time I get in front of a group of my SWAGsters, I get to share and enjoy what has really grown into a community of friends who all love my class! Where do you see dancing fitting into your life down the line?
I'm not too sure how dancing will fit into my life down the road. I have no intentions of leaving S.W.A.G Fitness anytime soon! I occasionally get the opportunity to share my class at various dance conventions and programs, which is always a lot of fun. Who knows? What would you tell people who have never taken your class before?
Don't be too nervous to try it. First of all, my class is only $5. What fitness class exists that only costs five bucks, no membership required?! If you're one of those "...but I can't dance" people, then this is perfect for you! The moves are easy, and it's a great way to have fun and dance your butt off to your favorite music! I don't claim to be a great dancer by any means, and neither will many people who regularly attend my class. By the end of my class, I only promise two things: 1) you'll be happy, and 2) you'll be sweaty!!  #SweatyHappyPeople #SWAGfam #SWAGFitness
Stephanie Telep is a co-founder and health coach at Sweat and Butter.  She received her training at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Duquesne University.  She is inspired to help others make necessary changes in their lives while fostering a positive and healthy path. She can be reached at stephanie@sweatandbutter.com


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