She Volunteers for Community Fitness and Health

Artsy exercise

–As Seen in the August 2018 issue of Journal Plus,

After a 34-year career with the Los Angeles Times that eventually landed her in London as managing director for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate International,  Maryann Grau swapped her business suits for fitness wear.

But Grau hung on to one thing from her years in advertising sales — grit and spunk. And that’s her gift to the hundreds of Cambrian residents, many of whom are retired, and have improved their health and mobility by joining a dance/aerobics and weight training club voluntarily led and choreographed by Grau. And the sweet spot about Grau’s “club” is that contracts, leotards or swanky fitness wear isn’t essential nor expected. Come in your sweats and t-shirts and shake that booty for just $1 per session.

Wait. Wait. Wait. Something must be wrong here. There isn’t. 

After Grau busted through the glass ceiling at the LA Times, rising from classified sales to outside sales and then into management, she left the weight of her career behind in retirement. Not one to atrophy in retirement, Grau embraced weight training. And it shows. This 76-year-old woman is fit and has those kind of arms that flatter sleeveless shirts.

Like other retired folks, Grau left big city life for Cambria’s quiet but active lifestyle. 

“I love to dance, so with a few of my friends, I exercised to the Richard Simmon’s videos,” she said. A few friends grew into too many friends for her living room, and that’s where Cambria’s Joslyn Adult Recreation Center (JARC) came into play.

The volunteer, community operated Joslyn Center sits in the heart of Cambria’s Main Street. It’s where white-attired lawn bowlers compete on the greens in a locale where you would expect to see retail instead. 

Seven years ago, Grau applied to establish a new club for her fitness routine at JARC. Approved by the JARC board of directors, the half dozen or so Richard Simmon’s fans vacated Grau’s living room for the activity room at JARC.

“I developed the concept, downloaded music, etc. from I-tunes and choreographed steps for a few friends and myself to get some exercise.  It grew over the years to the current membership of about 80 members.  Many are women but we have had a few men as well.  It’s successful because it is healthy and fun,” Grau said.

“The Joslyn Center is key for our group, as many of the women never have or never will join a gym.  The space will accommodate 30 dancers, which we frequently have in many sessions,” Grau added. 

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Her  Dancersize Club grew from one weekly session to now hosting several sessions during the week. Besides the healthy aspect, it’s affordable to most any budget — $50 to join the Joslyn Center, and just $1 per session. 

“I set a cost to participate at $1.00 a session, explaining that the use of the room, the sound system, etc. was well worth it and that all proceeds would be turned over to the center. Everyone thought it a bargain.  I have not changed the rate over the years but I put a large change jar out for ‘voluntary’ loose change,” Grau said.

That “voluntary” loose change, raised just over $4,700, the most raised by any of the clubs at the center in 2017, and has positively benefited JARC, that like many volunteer 501(c)4 nonprofits, is financially challenged to manage the everyday and long term maintenance of the facility. 

Grau added, “Everyone wants to see us reach a $5,000 donation in 2018.”

Grau wears success well, just as she appears to manage the health issues that have come her way. 

“I developed pancreatic cancer in 2016. To keep the dancersize club  going, I had asked for volunteers to lead the music, and five or six stepped up to the plate.  They have done a wonderful job and I’m proud to say in seven years, we only cancelled one session and that was because of the smoke in Cambria from the Santa Barbara fire.  I had an operation, went thru chemo and then a hip replacement but after a year, I am back full time but still rely on the subs to fill in when/if my energy level is low,” she explained.

Low energy?  Grau participates in Cambria’s flash mob dancers, has taken parts in local theater productions, and you will see her this year in the Pinedorado Follies. “We’re in rehearsal now,” Grau said. In her spare time she says that she is writing a book about her cancer experience. 

“Why do all of this work as a volunteer?” I asked Grau. 

She replied, “I’m inspired by the good news that so many of the participants have shared about the health benefits that they attribute to both the aerobics and strength training sessions. When I hear statements like ‘My doctor said if I keep this up, I can go off the meds,’ or ‘He’s so happy with the weight I’ve lost,’ or ‘The weight sessions have made me much stronger,’ and ‘My balance has improved,’ I’m motivated to keep moving forward.”

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“I’m inspired when I see all the smiling faces dancing their hearts out or following perfect form while lifting weights.  The sessions are a way to have fun (not a word most associate with exercise) while keeping fit.

“It’s a rewarding experience and I intend to keep it up as long as I”m physically able.”

Clearly, the Cambria community has benefited now that Maryann Grau wears workout clothes instead of business suits.  

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2 thoughts on “She Volunteers for Community Fitness and Health

  1. Truly a lovely awakening of the human spirit. I would love to meet this woman who now devotes herself to others.

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