A1 Ajah: From the Basketball Court to the Group Ex Studio

For Ajah Stallings, working out at the JCC is a family affair, in more ways than one. She grew up coming to the J, playing basketball and sitting in on the step classes her mom Reatha taught in the Mordoh Fitness Center’s Group Exercise Studio. Now, Ajah’s the one teaching HIIT classes (with Reatha always in attendance), and she considers the JCC community a family. “It’s felt like coming full-circle for me, to go back into that room and do the same thing she did,” Ajah said. “I feel so welcomed by everyone here.”

From Hoops to HIIT

Ajah came to fitness in a somewhat roundabout way. “I grew up playing basketball – as soon as I was able to walk, I was dribbling the ball. So I was a fitness girl because I was a sports girl; they go hand in hand. Then coming out of basketball, I didn’t want to see a lot of changes with my body. I personally know what a healthy body looks and feels like, and as a pharmacy student I know statistically what a healthy body should look and feel like, so I made the switch to fitness,” she said.

High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is Ajah’s favorite way to work out. “Weight lifting is fine, but sometimes I like to get my heart rate up really high. I like cardio, but sometimes I don’t want to stay in that high heart rate too long. With HIIT, I can get a good lift in and also good cardio, and my heart rate goes up but also has time to come back down. It allows me to get a little of everything in,” she said. When Ajah’s not teaching or subbing for a class, you’ll still find her in the fitness center at least four days a week.

Ajah’s still got hops!

In Your Fitness Era

Ajah ready to roll

When asked what her advice would be to someone looking to incorporate fitness into their New Year’s resolution, Ajah said, “There will be a lot of ups and downs, but stick with it! If there are days I don’t feel like coming or am in a slump, the biggest thing is finding some type of motivation.” Luckily, at the J that’s easy. Maybe it’s as simple as seeing your name on the “Top Scanners” list every month. If you need accountability, the JCC community can absolutely give that to you. “You start running into the same people over and over, and when you miss a workout, the next time they’ll ask you, ‘Where were you?’ They’ll realize if you haven’t been in the gym,” Ajah said.

As with several things in life, fitness is also all about the little things. “No exercise is too small,” Ajah said. “If you feel like you don’t want to come to the J and run on the treadmill for an hour or 30 minutes, getting a walk around the track is still beneficial. Coming in and doing something is still better than not coming and doing nothing.” Ajah also makes sure that the content she consumes on her social media feeds is pertinent to her goals. “Following the accounts where people push healthy living keeps reminding me all the time, ‘This is where you need to be.’ Feeding your body, feeding your mind with all the positive things that you want to have, that you want to embody, I think continuously feeding yourself that information helps keep yourself accountable,” she said.

Come Together, Right Now

Ajah is a ball of energy as a Group Ex instructor, which is amplified even more by having her mom Reatha in the class as a student. “She keeps my classes lively – she sings, she’ll dance, she’ll encourage, so she definitely helps boost morale. That helps me feel more comfortable teaching, and it helps the class be more engaged in what I’m doing,” Ajah said. As a former Group Ex instructor, Reatha doesn’t hold back in her constructive feedback, but Ajah welcomes it. “She’s a very honest source of how she thinks my exercises are going: ‘Ajah, you were talking too much. Ajah, this was a tough class. Ajah, you could have explained that better.’ It helps me become a better teacher. I love working out with her and having that relationship where we can both do something we love together,” Ajah said.

Ajah and Reatha demonstrating squats

Ajah credits the JCC with introducing her to people from all walks of life that she might not otherwise have had the chance to get to know. “The JCC is a melting pot of all different kinds of people that are willing to talk to you,” she said. “It’s sweet, getting to know people from different cultural backgrounds and ethnicities.”

Take a page from Ajah’s book and try a Group Ex class today! Ajah teaches “Abs & Mobility” on Thursdays at 6:30 pm and HIIT on Sundays at 1 pm, and she also substitutes for other instructors, so keep an eye on JCCindy.org/schedules for when to pop in.