Marisa Stani got her license to teach Zumba at age 16 – before she even got her driver’s license – though she wasn’t that excited about the prospect at first.
“One day, my mother popped into a class, and said afterward, ‘You have to try it, you're going to love it; it's dancing and a workout,’ ” Stani recalled. “I'm like, ‘I don't work out at all,’ so she dragged me into a class, and I was hooked.”
Cindy Stani, a lifelong fitness fanatic, gave parental consent for her daughter’s Zumba training, and took it herself. Mother and daughter have become nearly inseparable in the decade since.
The duo taught up to 15 classes a week for nearly eight years at World Gym in Cheektowaga before it closed about two years ago. Afterward, the two opened Fit Happenz, with Marisa as owner, first in a small warehouse near Buffalo Niagara International Airport, then alongside Sherwin-Williams in the Wegmans Plaza on nearby Dick Road.
“The first place was too small,” Marisa Stani said, “and the second place, we make a lot of noise. We would actually shake the paint off the shelves.”
Their newest fitness space took shape during the last several months inside a gutted former 7-Eleven at 2540 George Urban Blvd., in Depew.
The new digs lend more privacy, and space, for classes that include traditional Zumba, Zumba Step, Zumba Toning, Zumba Kids, Zumba Children and Zumba for Babies. Mother and daughter plan to add Zumba Gold, for seniors, in the fall.
The classes have helped regulars better deal with pregnancy, changes in relationships, and cancer treatment and recovery. Collectively, fitness club members also have lost “many thousands of pounds,” Marisa Stani said.
Classes are 95 percent women, she said, “but I have this guy who’s part of a motorcycle club. He rides his Harley here. He gets in here and he does his thing and he tells me, ‘I do Zumba so I can drink more beer.’ ”
Fit Happenz two years ago also was the first in the region to introduce Rebound, high-intensity group fitness workouts that use small trampolines making it easier on the joints.
Today, Marisa Stani describes Zumba as “an unexplainable joy.”
“One hour, you're freaking out thinking about laundry, dinner,” she said. “This is one hour for yourself, and you're going to be Jennifer Lopez on the floor. There’s no wrong way. We tell people that you're marching in place for an hour and you still feel good. That's all that matters.”
Marisa Stani also has a corporate job with the group cardio-dance fitness brand. As one of about 200 Zumba Jammers in the world, she often leaves town on weekends to teach fellow instructors how to choreograph classes.
Next weekend, she’ll stay home with her mother to lead a “This is Me” Zumbathon to benefit Make-a-Wish of WNY. It runs from 2 to 4 p.m. April 28 in the Sports Performance Park at the Eastern Hills Mall, 4545 Transit Road, Clarence. A basket auction starts at 11 a.m. Cost is $15 in advance at fithappenzllc.com, or $20 at the door.
Find out more about fitness center classes and rates at the website, too, or call 688-4155.
Stani-led Zumbathons during the last half-dozen years have raised more than $125,000 for Make-a-Wish Foundation of WNY.