Zumba for a cause

Personal trainer Ike Henry gives back to breast cancer research the best way he knows – in sweat

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The rush of competition, the feeling of sweat dripping off his forehead and the surge of every muscle pulsating towards a common goal is how Ike Henry connects to who he is and what he stands for.

“It is important that people know and understand that the body is like a machine. If you don’t keep it in shape at all times, then trouble
begins,” says personal trainer and BaM Zumba instructor Ike Henry.

Since he was in high school, Henry, a personal trainer and sports massage therapist, has engaged in as many physical activities as possible. Whether it was cricket, rugby, long-distance running, volleyball or dance, Henry yearned for the natural rush of endorphins that only exercise can deliver. To this day, the thought of being physically active remains an irresistible pull.

Henry, originally from Kent, England, will play a major role in the Bust a Move for Breast Health fundraiser this March, as he returns to reprise his popular Zumba sessions. Bust a Move is fundraising to help fast-track innovative research ideas and projects from the laboratory directly to the health-care system.

Henry’s work is based out of Any Body Fitness, where he encourages people of all ages to find ways to remain active in their everyday lives. He notes that physical activity is in decline, and that society has opted for the quick fix option rather than pursuing a difficult but enriching fitness objective. For him, too many men and women use age as an excuse to no longer push themselves to new fitness levels – a justification that he is tired of hearing.

“It is important that people know and understand that the body is like a machine. If you don’t keep it in shape at all times, then trouble begins,” he says. “Every year people add a limit to what they can do, instead of saying ‘I can do more because I have been taking care of myself to this moment.’ ”

Henry is all for progression. He encourages clients and class participants to push themselves and see what the body is capable of doing, making him an ideal instructor for the BaM initiative.

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Bust a Move originally began in Halifax, but the annual fundraiser now travels across Canada and even dips into Australia It was first held in Edmonton in 2012, when Henry was asked to deliver the opening session before the guest presenter of the weekend, the iconic Richard Simmons. Although he admits he felt nervous to open the event before one of the pioneers of the fitness movement, Henry took on the challenge with the tenacity that has made him the successful instructor he is today, and the experience made him even more motivated to help with the BaM campaign.

The event is six hours long, and participants need not prepare before taking it on as three levels of participation are presented. Henry recommends BaM participants pace themselves, but he assures that, with mini-entertainment slated for in between workouts and refreshment stands everywhere, it’s six hours that are sure to be unforgettable.
Zumba is a fitness program that fuses Latin dance with aerobics, creating a dance-heavy workout. Becoming a Zumba instructor was never a planned career move for Henry, but his enthusiasm and enlightened mind fit well with the course.

He spent 15 years dancing ballet before slowly made the transition to the Zumba movement. “I became involved with Zumba because I wanted to add a little bit more repertoire to my fitness ability,” he says. He was also enticed by the freedom and “height” that one can reach in this athletic dance. “We do 150 squats in one session – participants are having fun and giggling, and they don’t realize that they are working out,” he explains.

Henry relishes the post-workout atmosphere in the studio, when many participants believe that anything is possible if they push themselves hard enough. “Not knowing what you just did can elevate your spirit and take your body to a new stage and your mind is just continually active and getting stronger as well,” he says.

Recently, Henry became certified to train cancer patients and survivors by completing a six-month course and gruelling three-hour exam. He was drawn to helping cancer patients because of the immense toll disease takes on a person, not just physically, but emotionally as well.

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Henry has taken it upon himself to persuade those with cancer that physical activity is vital to their survival. “Staying active will improve their chances of surviving. And creating new blood cells, or making the blood cells stronger, helps fight cancer,” he explains.

He says many people begin to shy away from exercise during chemotherapy because their strength begins to drastically decline. “This is where I come in – to provide that motivation and that physical component to keep them going,” he says.

It’s all unchartered territory, but Henry is interested in exploring it. Jumping jacks and push-ups are great options for people with a clean bill of health, but what about those with severe spinal injuries or crippling arthritis? Henry says too many people are sent to a doctor only to find that there are limited ways for them to fulfill their urge to sufficiently exercise.

“It’s about making progress and having goals and creating an understanding that we can assist those who are suffering from specific diseases and injuries in their lives,” he says.

Bust out your Gear

This year’s Alberta Cancer Foundation Bust a Move for Breast Health is slated for March 21 at the Edmonton EXPO Centre, and there’s still time to grab your runners, call a few bosom besties and join in. The six-hour fitness extravaganza will see participants sweat it out with pros like Ike Henry, the Blitz Conditioning team, Carrie Robinson, Philip Ndugga, Joe Lomnicki, Megan Clark, and wind down with some meditation with Sheena Mason. All required equipment, such as yoga mats, are provided!

BaMers must raise $1,000 to participate in the 8 a.m. through 3:30 p.m. event, with all proceeds going to research and clinical trials the Cross Cancer Institute. Bust a Move for Breast Health started in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 2010 and has since spread to seven other participating cities.

For more information about how to participate in the Edmonton iteration, with all proceeds going to the Clinical Trials Unit at the Cross Cancer Institute.

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