Building community through dance

This is part of the series Shore Stories: Life Along the Lakeshore columns by local residents about their lives.

Exercise, fitness, training and working out — to many, these words ignite a negative emotional response or a fierce no-fun-at-all association. They can come with feelings of “I can’t do that,” “I’m too tired,” or “It just doesn’t feel good.” Can you relate?

As a fitness professional, I have been leading group exercise classes in West Michigan for more than 29 years. I believe my life’s work is to encourage everyone, the active and inactive alike, to find enjoyable ways to move their bodies.

Our physical bodies were created to move. Fitness can feel good and we can get a number of health benefits from it. We just need to find our thing. There are no rules about what you “have to” or “should” do.

The truth is, you don’t have to “exercise” or “work out” if you don’t like it or won’t stick with it.

However, the most important component for living a vibrant, physically fit life is that you stay active, consistently using your body in the way it was designed or, as we  have all heard before, if you don’t use it, you will lose it.

The great outdoors

Personally, I love working out because it helps me maintain and boost my body's functionality and fitness level as I age. The classes I host are mostly outdoors because we live in such an amazing area. I lead walking and running classes all year round, and in summer, I lead yoga and paddleboard fitness near the beach.
Heather Winia
My classes meet at different parks and trails throughout the area, providing fresh air, natural beauty, and plenty of room to social distance while still being in community with others. Being with people is imperative to our social and emotional well-being; we all benefit from this connection. Meeting new people and creating new friendships is icing on the cake.

I also currently lead Groove classes on Zoom three times a week. Truly, it’s the most fun-filled high-intensity interval training I’ve done.

My favorite mode of movement, which connects West Michigan to a much larger global community, is a simple, fun dance fitness class called Groove. Locally, this happens at various indoor locations — and outdoors whenever the temperature gets above 40 degrees (side note: there is no bad weather, just bad clothing).

If you get pumped up hearing make-you-wanna-dance music, this might be a great option for you.

No wrong way

I believe in fostering a positive, back-to-the-basics attitude around wellness. Enjoying our movement experiences and enjoying the amazing capabilities of our bodies will take us far.

Even if you think you can’t dance, you can. You cannot get this wrong — your way is the right way. I encourage you to join us this spring. Your body, mind, and soul will be happy. Our bodies are a blessing, and our ability to move and groove is a gift. We were born to thrive, not just survive.

I am grateful to be able to encourage people in West Michigan and all over the globe to get up and get moving in the most fun ways possible.

Heather Winia is a featured facilitator on the international streaming app called Body Groove On Demand and has released three Body Groove DVDs. She also provides corporate workshops or one-on-one coaching for nutritional wellness, stress management, and positive mindset education. Learn more at