Popular fitness instructor builds loyal following

July 17, 2019

This paid piece is sponsored by GreatLIFE Golf & Fitness.

Missy Ragon grew up “an Air Force brat” who lived in places such as North Dakota and Utah before moving to the Rapid City area. She graduated from Douglas High School, got an undergraduate degree at the University of South Dakota and a graduate degree at Oklahoma State University. 

Then, she came to Sioux Falls to complete her nursing degree at Augustana University.

She has lived in Sioux Falls ever since, more than 25 years now. But to say she has stopped moving is not true at all.

With three jobs, a husband and two kids, Ragon’s hardly ever not moving. That’s the way this popular GreatLIFE group fitness leader wants it.

“I’m a busy person,” she said, acknowledging the obvious in this case. “I only have one hour every day. I want to make the most of that one hour. I try to do the same thing for the people who come to my class.”

Five times a week, Ragon spends an hour with a group of devoted followers at the GreatLIFE Woodlake facility with classes in Zumba and group fitness.

She began leading informal exercise groups while at USD and began teaching actual fitness classes at OSU. Since 1993, she has been a vital part of the fitness menu at the Woodlake GreatLIFE facility.

“The thing that GreatLIFE has done is honor the commitments that Woodlake had,” Ragon said. “They knew that group fitness was very strong at Woodlake, and they’ve made that one of their hallmark pieces. They’ve done a really good job to support us. They’ve offered us more training and the opportunity to do more classes for what is becoming a huge GreatLIFE family.”

A few minutes of conversation with Ragon and you know it is not a coincidence that her classes tend to fill up quickly. Nor is it surprising that those who participate in her classes tend to keep showing up.

“It’s about sharing my joy with everyone who comes into the class,” she said. “If you can count to eight, you can do this class. I only have two expectations: You’re going to smile, and you’re going to sweat.”

It is not just a daily class, and it is not about learning to count to eight. It is much more about creating a positive environment for a constructive activity that fosters a sense of community.

“That’s the peace, right there,” she said. “It’s about seeing the joy. Every member who comes in — no matter what their age, fitness level — whenever they come through the door, we bridge the gap with music. And they have so much fun. The smile I give them and they give back is the super reward for me. And then they just keep coming back, just like a super passion. That’s what makes me do it.”

Ragon works part-time as an RN case manager at Sanford Children’s Hospital and is a full-time coach for Dakota Spirit and All-Star cheer programs. She coaches three cheer teams and also teaches classes there.

So she’s adding her fitness classes to what is already a pretty full day in most instances. While the idea of daily exercise might seem a challenge in itself, Ragon takes it on while also packing a lot of other things into a typical day. Her life in that regard gives her insight into how one goes about combining regular exercise with a hundred other things.

“It’s just like going to church; it’s a commitment,” Ragon said. “Doing fitness is a commitment. That has become part of my regular routine. As soon as you can make something a regular routine, you don’t go without it.”

Not every person who gets involved in her classes does so for the same reason. Generally speaking, it’s all about getting healthy, but beyond that if 30 people show up, they have 30 different motivations for being there.

“If they want to go harder than me, they sure can — I’m going to show them every variation that I can,” Ragon said. “If they need to go softer than me, that’s OK too. I just want to make sure they’re moving. If they’ve never been off the couch and they’re in the class for the first time, it’s like ‘Hey, this is better than watching TV.’

“For the ultra-marathoner that is coming into class, it’s that I’m going to give them the greatest cardio workout they can have in that timeframe, but they’re also going to have so much fun they’re going to be thinking ‘Oh my gosh, an hour went by already? That went so fast!’ ”

And together, to hear Ragon tell it, they do indeed become a team. Not in a competitive sense, but in a community sense? Yes.

“We become a huge family in the classes that I teach, and we experience life together,” she said. “We celebrate people coming in and out of class, we celebrate having babies. Whatever it might be, there is a lot of support in that studio.”

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Popular fitness instructor builds loyal following

“I only have two expectations: You’re going to smile, and you’re going to sweat.” Get to know GreatLIFE’s Missy Ragon, and it’s easy to see why her classes fill up fast!

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