Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Hip-Hoping you a healthier New Year.  As a wife, mother and businesswoman, Kristy McCarley understands that no matter how sincere a New Year’s resolution to exercise is, finding the time — and will — to follow through can be tough. Moreover, as a Christian, she knows that, even when the workout beat is motivating, lyrics that run counter to her values can be a turnoff. So, in 2012 she created Shazzy Fitness as an easy-to- learn cardio exercise DVD series that fuses modern hip-hop dance with faith-based contemporary music, including Gospel Hip-Hop & Christian Rock.  The series is currently available via Christian Library on Demand as well as at the Shazzy website.

JWK: What sets Shazzy Fitness apart from other exercise programs.

KRISTY MCCARLEY: Shazzy Fitness is a Christian hip-hop dance workout. The inspiration for the idea came to me about ten years ago when I went to  an aerobics class, a spin class which is where you ride a stationary bike…and the instruction played Christian music. He played a Kirk Franklin song. I had been going to aerobics (and to) different exercises classes for years and it was the first time an instructor played a Christian song. You know, Kirk Franklin is very high energy…I noticed at that time the difference in my own feeling after the workout. As I was doing the workout I felt different and after the workout I felt differently. I thought it was a pretty cool thing for (the instructor) to do. It was very interesting given that it was in a gym where you don’t really know who’s in the class at a time when everybody is often trying to be politically correct. So, I think it was a bit of a risk for him, actually…I don’t even know if it was “courage.” I probably shouldn’t use that work. I’m sure he didn’t think about it one way or the other. He just thought he was teaching a class and he was going to play the music he wanted to play. So, he probably didn’t see it as “courageous.” He probably plays that music all the time…but at the time, because it was so new to me, I decided that it was interesting and I’m glad that God put me in that position on that day.

JWK: When did you decide to turn the concept of Christian exercise classing into a business?

KC: In late 2011, it was the end of the year and I was laid-off or, (rather), the position was eliminated. I had been thinking all that year about this idea of doing something like a dance workout and using Christian music…All 2011 it was kind of in my head. I was thinking about different ideas but I was working full-time and enjoyed the job I was working at. So, when that job ended I felt like God was telling me, you know, it’s now or never…Because the seed had been planted years ago, I needed to either be obedient and step out on faith and do what He was leading me to do or go back to trying to find another job in the industry that I worked in which I enjoyed but never really had the same kind of passion as I have for what we do today.

JWK: What did you do before?

KC: I worked in IT for 20 years. I have a bachelor’s degree in computer systems engineering. I have a masters in systems engineering. I have an associate (degree) in multimedia web design. I’ve been working in the IT industry for 20 years.

JWK: What has the public reaction been to Shazzy Fitness?

KC: Overwhelmingly positive.  Moms love it because a lot of moms — I don’t want to say only moms, women — are looking for a workout that they can get excited about, have fun with and get passionate about but feel comfortable with the lyrics, feel comfortable with the music and feel comfortable doing the moves in front of their kids or with their kids — or actually having their kids sing the songs and not be concerned about what their kids are saying or singing. So, we’ve had a lot of positive feedback from the video.

We also do live events. I just had a woman last week I spoke to who said she really didn’t exercise, hadn’t exercised in years. She came to an event that we did and she said she felt so comfortable and not self-conscious. She wasn’t worried about anybody looking at her. She wasn’t worried about perfection or trying to do the moves perfectly. She felt very comfortable and accepted — and that’s really what we’re trying to do, to teach people that you don’t have to be perfect. We just want you to move, be healthy and get that heart rate going. You don’t have to be a perfect dancer but you can have fun with it, dance with it and do it with music that makes you feel good from the inside out.

JWK: Does the Christian music you employ somehow make the workout more effective?

KC: I would not say a more effective workout.  It feeds your spirit and it feeds your soul. While you’re doing the workout, physically you’re going to burn calories. You’re gonna lose weight. There’s science to that. If you put out a certain amount of energy you’re gonna burn a certain amount of calories. But, if you’re looking to get more out of it then just burn the calories — and that’s fine if that’s all that people want to do — you can get a little bonus from it where you actually…want to do it again because you feel good spiritually, emotionally (and) mentally you feel more uplifted. If you basically have a choice between a regular video and this video, I think most people would choose the one that has that added value.

JWK: What do you see as the future for Shazzy Fitness — over the next, say, five years?

KC: We’re actually in the process of working with churches and nonprofits to get classes in local communities. We’ve been approached by several people who want to offer this in their dance studio (or) offer it as a way of fellowship in their church. Several youth ministers and youth organizations want to offer this to their kids. We’ve appeared at actually public and private schools that really just like the positive message and that kids can have with it in a way that leaves positive messages in their spirit.

JWK: Nobody’s objected to the program in the public school?

KC: No, they haven’t. We don’t go in preaching. We don’t walk in with The Bible and pass out Scripture. We’re there to teach a dance workout. Even on the video, we’re teaching a dance workout. Now, we’re using music that is Christian and that is very empowering, uplifting music — as Christian music is — but we’re not going in their preaching the Gospel….When were going out — especially in the public where you do have different faiths or some people with no faith at all — we don’t roll in with the intention of being evangelists in the typical, traditional sense. We just go in and share with people another way that you can workout.  We’ve got some good music and the kids might enjoy it and so far (everybody’s) been pretty receptive to that.

JWK: And, again, where do you see your company in three or four or five years?

KC: We see classes all over the country, workshops all over the country, instructors getting certified nationally and internationally. We’ve had responses from people in the U.K. (who) have talked about the video. We have people in Australia that have the video and are enjoying it. So, we see this as not just being a U.S. product and a U.S. workout, but also international.

JWK: Anything else you’re like to mention?

KC: I will mention that we’re going to have a live event at a church in Harlem in January. We’re trying to get as many people as possible to come out and take a look. We’re gonna teach a live Shazzy class.

JWK: When and where?

It’s gonna be Saturday, January 24th at 9:00 AM. It is at Community Christian Church of New York City.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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