Aerobics instructor/personal trainer
When people enter Elaine Talevi’s aerobics class at 8 a.m., they might find themselves warming up to anything from the sounds of Duke Ellington, to Mick Jagger, to Taylor Swift. Lately, Talevi has been playing some “wonderful” African drum CDs. “Right away it gets you mentally prepared for moving,” says Talevi. “It’s energetic and uplifting.”
Energetic and uplifting could describe Talevi, who has been teaching aerobics in Cape Elizabeth for 30 years. She also holds classes at Sea-Vu in Wells, the campground she and her husband bought 40 years ago when they moved to Maine.
Talevi started her aerobics business, Body Dynamics, after earning a degree in fitness instruction. With her background in dance, she hoped to create a workout that went beyond Jane Fonda – which in 1982 meant cranking up the disco and warming up with 500 jumping jacks.
“My mission was to improve the health of the whole body,” Talevi says. “I didn’t want to run people into the ground. We use weights, fitness balls, bands. There’s lots of stretching. It’s challenging but fun.”
Talevi regularly swims, walks and lifts weights, and leads two hours of aerobics classes every day. She isn’t competitive, she says, and is motivated more by a desire to stay fit and to inspire others to maintain their health. Like many baby boomers, she is redefining what it means to be 60-something.
“The older we get, the stronger we want to stay,” she says.“You don’t want to let that go.”
Though she doesn’t consider herself an athlete, Talevi possesses the athlete’s ability to face challenges and overcome adversity. After her husband died suddenly of a heart attack two years ago on July 4th weekend, she was devastated. She curtailed her summer classes and gave notice that she might not be coming back to Cape Elizabeth in the fall.
“I didn’t think I’d ever do anything joyful again,” she says. “But friends said, ‘Please try. We’re here to support you.’”
So Talevi tried. And what she found was that moving to the music helped her heal. She realized that for her – and many of her clients – aerobics is as much about nurturing your spirit as it is about staying fit.
Her aerobics classes, which consist mostly of women from 30 to 80-something, become like athletic teams in terms of the bonds that form. Talevi is the trusted coach who gives people the tools to succeed and gently pushes them to accomplish their goals. They also participate in social activities, such as auctioning off “old stuff” for a particular cause.
“One day we raised $400 for breast cancer just by buying each other’s stuff,” she says. “All of that really sets the tone.”
Setting the right tone is what keeps people coming back year after year, says Talevi. Keeping it fresh also doesn’t hurt.
“I’ve got a collection of music you can’t believe,” Talevi says. “And I definitely take requests.”