Peace, love, unity, acceptance ... and sweat. 

The first four seem like faraway values in today’s culture–both in and out of the gym. So when I saw students leaving a U-Jam Fitness class a few weeks ago, drenched in sweat and glowing with smiles, I knew I had to try it.

Upon taking my first class at a 24 Hour Fitness in Houston, I was hooked. U-Jam has cultivated a social environment and a sense of community and belonging for its students. The athletic, urban dance fitness workout combines choreography and high-energy music. It certainly got my heart rate up, my body moving, and I worked up a sweat—plus, I had fun.

Creators Susy C. and Matt Marks launched U-Jam Fitness in January 2010, and it’s taken the dance-fitness world by storm. The choreography developed by Susy C. is accessible and easy-to-follow, regardless of your skill level. U-Jam now has 1,300 instructors worldwide, and classes are offered all across Houston. 

“A huge plus for our students is that the choreography will be the same around the world in any class,” said Chin Sonesing, aka Chin Solo, a world-class traveling U-Jam trainer. “If you are traveling anywhere on the planet, you can jump into one of our classes and always know the same routine as the person next to you. U-Jam is practiced throughout the world and continues to grow, enforcing a sense of community for all of us.”

Founder Matt Marks, aka DJ Makaio, has created funky world beats for each song that are unique to U-Jam classes. Marks has released mixes from artists like Beyoncé, Bruno Mars, Missy Elliot, Prince, Maroon 5, Christina Aguilera, and more favorites. He’s also incorporated K-pop and never-before-heard cuts. Trust me, I’ve combed through the internet searching for his mixes for my own personal playlists.

Aside from the excellent sweat and calorie-burn in a U-Jam class, I also noticed the diversity of its followers. When I looked around the room, I saw all shapes, sizes, races, gender identities, and fitness levels. The variety of dancers partying to such a degree in one class offers solid proof of U-Jam’s mission to create a family–or, as I’ve learned it’s called, “U-Jam Fam.”

“We all come to get in shape and de-stress and end up finding friends and feeling like a part of the community,” said Denita Bruer-Robinson (D-Bop), Texas’ first U-Jam instructor—and this writer’s guide to the U-Jam craze.

No matter who you are, you’ll encounter peace, love, unity, and acceptance in this workout class. This writer left drenched in sweat and overwhelmingly encouraged by self-healing and acceptance of fellow human beings, with a new goal to better my best.

U-Jam classes are offered at 24 Hour Fitness and some YMCA locations. Find the most up-to-date information on class offerings in the Houston area online.

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