Joan Kaim and her husband woke up early on Saturday morning and were pulling up to The Lake House at Sun City Carolina Lakes by 9 a.m., a full hour and-a-half before Richard Simmons would take the stage.
Sun City residents were about to get their pulses racing - literally and figuratively - by the fitness guru. By 10:30 a.m., the room was filled with more than 150 people sweating along with Simmons, dancing and singing "Come on baby, let's do the twist."
Kaim had a prime viewing spot up front. Before going into the class, she worried that she might not be allowed to enter because no spectators were allowed. Kaim, who uses a motorized cart to get around, quickly learned that despite being seated, she would not be a spectator in Simmons' exercise class. Kaim moved her arms, shook her legs, and kept time with the beat along with her friends and neighbors.
"I feel fabulous," she said after the workout. "Better than fantastic. I feel like I could get up and run right out of here."
Simmons, a weight loss and exercise personality who has produced a number of exercise videos, visited Sun City Carolina Lakes for a private exercise session with residents and a public session as part of Pulte Homes' health and fitness sales event.
Guests to the age 55-and-over community, as well as Sun City residents, were able to see Simmons in action, talk with local health practitioners and tour model homes. In his 36-year career, Simmons' quirky personality has inspired people to lose more than an estimated 1 million pounds, and his motivational words and upbeat exercise routines have encouraged countless couch potatoes to put down the chips and get up and moving.
Staying active is easy in communities like Sun City Carolina Lakes, Simmons said in an interview before his appearance.
"What a healthy thing it is," Simmons said. "You have all the things you need. The walking, the gym, all the things to keep you active. That's what you need. Here you see all the people and get very inspired."
Simmons said he receives between 30,000 and 40,000 e-mails per month from overweight people wanting to share their stories with him and requesting help. At Sun City Carolina Lakes, residents also gathered to talk with Simmons.
"The sad thing, for me, is that my generation, how many people in their 50s, 60s and 70s don't have it together and aren't exercising, aren't eating right and don't have positive thoughts," Simmons said. "It kind of ruins the golden, platinum years of their life."
Kaim was one of the residents who spoke with Simmons after the event, but wanted to keep his words to her private. Still, the impact of Simmons' words were clear.
"They motivate me to get to the next level," Kaim said.
And Kaim wasn't alone. Residents throughout the Lake House talked about their old "Sweatin' to the Oldies" videos they used to enjoy, and how they planned to dust them off and begin exercising again.
"Most people don't love exercise but if you can make it fun, forget the MasterCard bill and their 7 year old, if you can just take them away like Calgon, clean their mind, tone their muscles, strengthen their bones and make them have a good time all at once, that's fabulous," Simmons said.
"And that's what I'll do until God takes me to the exercise studio in the sky."