Joy Millard’s curly blonde hair and stunning smile is a familiar site at Wilson’s Fitness; for 22 years she’s been here teaching group fitness. Since 1994, Joy has taught a variety of classes at one facility or another, including the ‘old north’ on Vandiver, and the ‘old Forum’ location behind Schnuck’s. Her experience in aerobics, as it was called then, began before she came to Wilson’s; in 1987 at Bodyworks on Broadway. Think high/low impact aerobics, Jane Fonda, and the phrase, “no pain no gain.” She and her cohorts exercised on deep foam mats without shoes for 30 minutes of free-styling cardio and 30 minutes of callisthenic exercises. And when step aerobics hit the fitness world, a local contractor made steps – wooden boxes really – and the classes followed the national trend. Joy stepped up from participant to instructor when she was needed to fill in for the teacher. That was in 1991, and three years later, in 1994, Joy came to Wilson’s at the urging of Fran Welek. As they say, the rest is history. Fast forward 25 years and she’s still having a blast helping her members work hard, change their bodies and get healthier, all while having fun. A bit of a clown, Joy loves to have a good time and she encourages people in her class to enjoy the workout.
“I’m really an introvert. But in a fitness class, I love to interact. And now at my age, I love being a role model for both young and seasoned fitness enthusiasts.”
In the years since coming to Wilson’s, Joy has created long-lasting relationships that extend beyond the gym. One group of members enjoys happy hour together at least twice a year, and would do it more if they could. Inside the gym as well, Joy is a big part of building the program. When she started teaching BodyPump, the format she has taught longer than anyone else at Wilson’s, and only three people showed up, she was worried. Now, she routinely runs out of equipment because her classes are so packed; people are drawn to her. Even years later. Not an early-morning person, by self-admission, nonetheless, she taught at 5:30 am for a time, and while Joy wonders how she managed to motivate others at that hour, her members still compliment her on what a great time they had training with her.
Joy holds a group fitness certification from Aerobics and Fitness Foundation of America (AFAA). She added a Les Mills Body Pump certification to her credentials in 1999 when she was looking for a new challenge, which the barbell workout delivered. Joy rounded out her skills with YogaFit in 2003, and Les Mills BodyFlow in 2009.
Centering her life around her faith and her family, Joy says of her beliefs, “it’s who I am,” and of her loved ones, “they’re who I depend on.” She taught through two pregnancies and both sons were toted to the gym throughout their childhood – they even helped their mom with choreography and cueing – so when they pursued athletics in college, it came as no surprise. Joy emphasizes, however, they were students first, and athletes second. Spending time with her boys and her husband, being active outdoors, is among the things she loves best in life. And while her husband doesn’t quite understand why she exercises so much, he knows if she doesn’t, tension gets pent up and that’s not good for anyone; working out is Joy’s release.
Professionally, Joy has been at the University of Missouri for 33 years and is currently in administration in MU Extension. She loves its mission of improving people’s lives through the resources and research of the University; the breadth and scope of programming is far- reaching, from rural to urban, from youth to life-long learners, spanning agriculture to nutrition.
In her second career, in 25 years Joy has amassed plenty of ‘instructor moments,’ like forgetting shorts, or socks, or shirts, or bras, or music, or hair ties or even one time, shoes (luckily the person working front desk wore the same size). She tells one particularly humorous story about how members watch and emulate every move she makes. During a step class, she tore her calf muscle, coming down hard on the step. She abruptly came down to the ground with her back to the class, and when she turned around, half her members had followed her visual cue and were crouched down on the floor.
These days, Joy balances a fast-paced life through yoga. “I am getting better at sitting still. Yoga has brought me more peace – to be okay with myself as I age. I understand that I can’t do all that I used to, and modification is okay (and not a four-letter word). Slowing down is not giving up.”