By Michaela Gibson Morris
FULTON – Calories should be afraid of Anna Thames. Very afraid.
The Fulton native leads 21 exercise classes a week at five locations in two counties.
She makes sure people laugh and sweat their way through Zumba in the water and on land. She also teaches Insanity, a high-intensity interval work out, Piyo Strength, which combines elements of Pilates, yoga and dance, and Piloxing, which combines boxing and Pilates.
“It’s so much fun,” said the infectiously energetic 47-year-old. “The people are so great. All your students become your family.”
Her weekly class schedule takes her to North Mississippi Medical Center’s Wellness Center and SNAP Fitness in Tupelo, SNAP Fitness in Saltillo and Anytime Fitness in Fulton.
She doesn’t mind the drive between Tupelo, Saltillo and Fulton. Her last job as a sales representative for a biochemist had her traveling the nation to present at trade shows and conduct training sessions.
“It doesn’t phase me at all,” Thames said. “I used to travel seven states in a car.”
Her classes are split between mornings, lunchtime and evenings, with all but one of the evening classes close to home in Fulton. The flexibility means that her afternoons are free for daughters Parker, 14, and Sydney, 10.
“I’m home when my kids get home in the afternoon,” Thames said. “I go teach a class while they do their homework.”
Before she found Zumba in 2008, the gym wasn’t a place Thames aspired to spend time.
“Don’t put me on a (stationary) bike or a treadmill – anything inside,” Thames said. “I get bored really easily.”
Zumba, which pulls together world music and dance moves, appealed to Thames, who studied ballet for 13 years as a child.
“Zumba is what started all of this,” Thames said of her fitness instructor career. Zumba teacher Liz Martin encouraged her to get certified as an instructor.
“‘You catch on really fast,’” Thames recalled Martin telling her.
Thames caught the Zumba bug, getting every Zumba certification available and then expanding to Piyo Strength, Insanity and Piloxing.
“I love continuing education,” said Thames, who earned a degree from the University of Mississippi and is a licensed aesthetician.
These days, she’s particularly excited about the high-intensity water classes she’ll be able to offer when the new Tupelo Aquatic Center opens.
“I want people in the United States, not just Mississippi, to realize water exercise is not just for older adults,” she said. “It can wear you out.”