If your New Year's resolutions include health and fitness but you find yourself unable to face the doldrums of the treadmill, Georgetown has an innovative class to try: Sambabelly. A combination of dance and targeted toning moves, creator Valerie Poppel promises more than the mundane in her class.

Every January, people whole and half-heartedly take stock of where they are with their heath and fitness goals. But, if logging miles on the treadmill seems like a hellish chore and lifting weights looks intimidating, keep in mind there are other options.

And, believe it or not, Georgetown is actually the epicenter of a whole new fitness craze that's spreading outward from Delaware to Maryland, Florida, New York, Kansas and beyond.

Sambabelly, a fitness routine and technique created by Sussex County resident Valerie Poppel (known in some circles as Neferriti), combines the fun and creativity of dance with targeted and modified moves that tone some of those ever-jiggling trouble spots.

Poppel took time this week, in between dance moves, to talk to us about sambabelly, exercise for "women of a certain age" and the life-changing benefits of a few new moves.

Q First and foremost, what is sambabelly?

A Sambabelly is a dance-fusion fitness class. It combines samba, salsa, belly dancing and other world music. It's designed so that participants do 900 crunches in one hour. It tones a person's hips, thighs and rear end and also builds stamina.

Q Nine hundred crunches? Please don't say you have to lie on the ground and do 900 of every woman's worst gym class nightmare.

A Absolutely not. I hate crunches. I am not on anybody's floor. But, what I do is that I teach a technique for vertical crunches that happen as you're dancing. And, it's really good for women of a certain age, which I am. It really targets that menopause weight. I danced and worked out all my life but when I got to be 50 years old, my stomach developed this pouch that just wouldn't go away.

Q But, don't a lot of experts and doctors say that the pouch is just a fact of life and is supposed to be there.

A Yeah, they do. But, that's not true. It's so not true. You have to target the area, though. Women, especially women of a certain age, who take the class find that sambabelly really can get rid of that menopause pouch, as I call it. When I started doing it, I found an increase in my energy level, my libido came back and I started seeing results.

Q But, you didn't just start doing this exercise. You created it. Is your background in exercise science?

A My background is actually in business. I've owned several types of businesses. But, my hobby and my passion has always been belly dancing. I've been a professional belly dancer in the area for about 15 years. And, I recently lived and studied it in the Middle East in Egypt. While I was there, I used to dance and teach at a Gold's Gym in Cairo. So, one day, I went in to teach my belly dancing class but I didn't have my music. All I had was some Latin music. But, you have to make the best of it so I put it on and the ladies went crazy for it. And, I realized immediately that the belly dancing moves and the Latin music was a great combination that created a great workout. So, then I devised a program around it. I consulted some experts who helped me design a program that could really help me and help women of a certain age.

Q. So, what are you doing then? Are you dancing the whole time?

A It's not a class where you just dance. I actually teach you the technique to make the movement to benefit the muscle [in the pelvis, lower stomach and upper belly]. But, it's sort of hidden in the dance. So, you're working but it feels more like fun. The first few minutes are about technique. I break down the movement. Then, I teach you how to incorporate that into the segments. There are four 15-minute segments that have strength, endurance and cardio opportunities. So, you're getting this intense workout. And, of course, these types of workouts have obvious benefits. But, you should also see an improvement in your self-esteem, your libido. And, hey, you know, I'm a belly dancer so we can dress up and workout at the same time. A little bit of sparkle, a little bit of glitter never hurt anybody.

Q So, where is the class headed next?

A It is spreading. We're in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. We're in Long Island and Rochester, N.Y. We're going to Pennsylvania. We're in Wisconsin, Maryland and Kansas. So, if people take the class and they like it, I also made it as a way for people to make money. I have a unique payment model and people could make a nice extra income by teaching the class.

Q How long is the process to become certified to do that?

A It's a two-month course. It includes bookwork in anatomy. I use a third party to teach that. I don't claim to know everything about everything. We also teach the actual technique. There's a person who teaches the Puerto Rico styles of Latin American dances. We give advice on business plans. And, the ladies are absolutely making money at this. We've also incorporated life and fitness coaching into it.

Q Is this only for "women of a certain age?"

A No. My youngest instructor, Phyllica, is 19 years old. She works with me at the gym in Georgetown. She actually works a lot with young women. She was overweight in high school and bullied a lot, but, through the program, she's probably lost about 40 pounds. Now, though, she's one of my star trainers and she's coaching other young women who are overweight and being bullied. It's really amazing the impact you can have on a person's life. And, I just want to keep being that impact and seeing that impact, you know?


Sambabelly classes are held in Georgetown at Flex World Gym on Wednesday nights at 6:30 p.m. Non-members can pay $5 at the door. For more information, visit www.sambabelly.com.