Living Well

Keep moving: Huskey helps women get healthy

lw coverSussy Huskey has learned that life can take you in many directions — some planned and others unexpected — but the important thing is to keep moving. 

Those are the words she lives by and the advice she gives to her students at Studio Rumba in Whittier. 

“If you don’t know the dance moves, make them up,” she joked. “It doesn’t matter what you do — you need to keep moving. Life is too short to just quit.”

Huskey’s life has moved her from Costa Rica to Cherokee. It’s taken her from a steady and stable career with Harrah’s Casino to operating her own fitness center for women. Most importantly, life has taken the 37-year-old from an unhappy and unhealthy existence and made her into the happy and healthy woman she is today. 

“Having the studio makes me more independent because I can spend time with my son,” Huskey said. “I’m able to have fun and get in shape while working — not everyone has that opportunity.”

But she says the best thing about her job now is that she gets to help other women accomplish their health goals. She can relate to their struggles because she knows exactly how they feel. 

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Motivated to move

It wasn’t that long ago that Huskey didn’t like what she saw in the mirror every day. 

“I thought to myself ‘I don’t have energy, I’m grumpy all the time, I don’t feel like myself’ and that’s because I wasn’t healthy,” she said. 

That feeling intensified when she returned home to visit family in Costa Rica. While it’s hard to notice a few pounds here and there when you see someone every day, Huskey said her family noticed — and didn’t hesitate to let her know. 

The reasons for the weight gain were common — pregnancy, poor eating choices and not enough exercise, but she was finally motivated to change her lifestyle so she could set a good example for her child and be able to keep up with him. 

“Since moving here (the U.S.) I started eating more — I craved Big Macs when I was pregnant,” she said. “I gained 10 pounds during my last month of pregnancy alone.” 

Zumba — an aerobic workout using Latin dance moves — seemed like a natural fit since she was familiar with Latin dances like Salsa and Rumba. 

Zumba classes can be found everywhere now, but that was not the case seven years ago. With only one class being offered in Sylva, Huskey decided to try it out in the comfort of her own home. Within one year, the 5-foot-nothing Huskey went from a size 10 to a size 2. 

“I did it one hour a day every day and got hooked,” she said. “And after about two months, people started noticing.”

Then a few months later, people started joining her at her home to do Zumba — that’s when she realized she wanted to do it professionally. 

 

Growing a business

Huskey grew up in Costa Rica and graduated college in 1999 with a degree in journalism. When Harrah’s visited Costa Rica to recruit employees for its casino in Cherokee, she jumped at the chance to have an adventure before starting her career. Without knowing any English, she moved to Cherokee. She never thought she would end up living in North Carolina for 14 years working as a casino host, let alone operating her own fitness studio. As her Zumba workouts started showing results, and more people started coming to her at-home classes, she began to think about the possibilities. She decided to become a certified Zumba instructor and started teaching a couple of classes on the side in Cherokee while still working at the casino. 

“Once I saw people getting inspired by my story, I wanted to help them more,” she said. 

Huskey’s passion soon morphed into a career, and Studio Rumba celebrated its four-year anniversary June 6. She steadily added more classes and quickly outgrew a location in Bryson City. She moved it to the old Whittier School, but it was difficult to keep classes going through the cold winter and hot summer without central heating and air. 

That’s when one of her students, whose husband is the pastor of Cherokee Bible Church, offered to let her rent space in the church. While it is great space and offers a central location for her students, her long-term goal is to find her own place and expand the business.

Huskey also has expanded to teach more than Zumba. The studio now offers 212 small group training, Piloxing and Piloxing knockout classes. The 212 classes help women build strength and endurance using a number of different low-impact exercises. Piloxing is an intense and high-energy combination of boxing and Pilates that helps women reduce fat, increase metabolism and build endurance. 

With the help of two other instructors, the studio offers 13 classes a week. Each night class usually has 25 to 45 people.

 

Empowering women 

Classes were open to men and women when Studio Rumba started, but Zumba is a female dominated workout and very few men ever showed up for classes. So when Huskey added the 212 and Piloxing classes two years ago, she made it into a women’s fitness center. 

“I want the women to feel comfortable and free,” she said. “I want them to find a place to have support.”

The ages of the women taking Huskey’s 8:30 a.m. 212 training class last week ranged from 16 to early 70s. Some of them have been coming to the studio for four years while others only recently started their fitness journey, but all of them agreed that Huskey gave them the motivation and support they all needed. 

Kathryn Ossoff said she has lost 40 pounds since starting Zumba a year ago and 212 a couple of months ago. 

“Zumba really helps clear the cobwebs out of your brain through dancing,” she said. “When I first started coming I expected everyone to have flat tummies and be wearing mid drifts, but I was surprised to find people who looked like me.”

Kim Smith enjoys the studio because she can bring her young children along with her to class. 

“Zumba is good for your soul — it’s a stress reliever,” she said. “And Sussy always makes me smile.”

Huskey said she started a Facebook group for her students to keep them motivated, to celebrate their accomplishments and to remind them of upcoming classes. They celebrate each other’s birthdays, weight loss and other milestones. For Huskey, her exercise programs are not just about losing weight — it’s about living a healthy lifestyle. She is thrilled to see her students stop having to take medication for high blood pressure or depression because of the progress they’re making in her class. 

“I don’t want skinny girls — I want healthy women,” she said. “Having this studio has changed me because I feel responsible for many people now — I want them to be happy.”

 

 

Studio Rumba class schedule

Monday

  • 8:30 a.m. — Zumba
  • 5 p.m. — Piloxing
  • 6 p.m. — Zumba

Tuesday 

  • 8:30 a.m. — 212 small group training
  • 5 p.m. — 212 small group training
  • 6 p.m. — Zumba

Wednesday

  • 8:30 a.m. — Piloxing

Thursday

  • 8:30 a.m. — 212 small group training
  • 5 p.m. — 212 small group training
  • 6 p.m. — Zumba

Friday

  • 8:30 a.m. — Zumba

*Class times are subject to change weekly. Visit www.studiorumba.com for more information.

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