‘I went from teaching four classes a week to none overnight when gyms closed’

Turnd Up Fitness instructor Wendy Tartarai talks about the impact of lockdown and shares how she took her classes online during the pandemic

Wendy walking through an autumnal park
Alongside her Turnd Up Fitness classes, the bouncy brunette is juggling freelance art work and a part-time job in a local Italian restaurant
Listen to this story:

Wendy Tartarai is bubbling with energy, which helps her thriving career as a Turnd Up Fitness instructor.  The fitness dance class created by Shekira Johnson combines RnB, hip hop and dancehall music, and can burn as many as 900 calories in an hour – a feat Wendy herself certainly manages, judging by her post-workout snaps.

Originally from Greece, the petite 24-year-old brunette has lived in Cardiff for three years. She has a varied dance portfolio to show for herself, including dabbling in belly dancing, Latin dance, and the popular Dominican social dance bachata. Wendy’s dance background inadvertently kickstarted her career when the JD Gyms manager discovered her dancing prowess and encouraged her to teach classes.

“I’d always wanted to combine dance and fitness,” Wendy explains. Once she was qualified as a Turnd Up Fitness instructor, she kept perfecting her technique, until a leg injury incapacitated her for a month. 

Wendy’s Turnd Up Fitness break came when she filled in for the Zumba teacher. “There were 40 people there! But I had practiced these routines so much, and I was so ready for it,” she shares. After that demo, over 30 people showed up for the first official session. 

Now, after just two years as an instructor, Wendy has a dedicated Turnd Up Fitness following. In fact, she runs all dance classes in JD Gyms Cardiff – a responsibility she loves, and one that made the pandemic even more devastating. 

Four classes lost to lockdown

With gyms shutting for lockdown in spring, Wendy went from running four classes a week to none overnight. But despite the demand from her trainees, she couldn’t simply move to Zoom. 

Taking classes online could mean a drop in subscribers for Turnd Up Fitness On Demand, the digital sessions by programme creator Shekira. But when lockdown stretched on, it became clear that more virtual sessions would bring new people to the community.

Wendy in sports gear sitting on stairs
Wendy doesn’t sit still – in her spare time, she is studying to be a personal trainer and polishing her bachata moves
Doing it for the girls

Even with Shekira’s blessing, the situation was strange. “I wasn’t sure about online classes at all,” Wendy confesses. After all, people go home to relax, so she worried they wouldn’t be as motivated to join the class remotely. 

Eventually, Wendy embraced the new format for the sake of the girls in her community, who wanted to keep dancing. “I was getting 20 people on Zoom,” shares Wendy. “I was very nervous, because technology can go wrong, but the classes went very well.”

The recent firebreak lockdown found Wendy much better prepared. Backed up by technology and past experience, she jumped on Zoom right away and kept her community moving. 

Still, there’s nothing like the real thing. “It was crazy, the live classes would get so full,” says Wendy. “I loved having so many people, because the energy is really high.”

What you feel inside, you put out

For Wendy, a friendly environment is key, and she feels like part of the group. “I have fun in the class,” she adds energetically. “I don’t see it as work.” It’s all about inspiring people and boosting their confidence. 

“What you feel inside, you put out – people can feel it. If you’re not a good person, it’s harder to succeed as an instructor,” she muses.

The next steps

Despite the growing demand for her classes, Wendy’s future plans are low-key. She gives 100 percent to each session, but also values carving time out for herself. 

That said, PT work is definitely on the cards. After all, she already has so many followers who know and love her. 

If you’re not a good person, it’s harder to succeed as an instructor

Wendy smiling on a path covered with fallen leaves
Dancing keeps Wendy active and healthy,
allowing her to release the energy bubbling inside her

What are the three things you love most about dancing?
  • The feeling you get from the music – the emotions every song can stir in you
  • How music connects people together, even if they’re perfect strangers 
  • Expressing the music and the beat through your body like it’s an instrument