Project Summer: Meet Susy Marks, Co-Founder and Creative Director of U-Jam Fitness

We asked the dancer and fitness instructor for her go-to workout and her top stress buster.

Co-founder and creative director of U-Jam Fitness®, Susy C. Marks has been inspiring and motivating people of all ages and dance backgrounds through her dance fitness choreography. The former Zumba instructor started U-Jam with her husband, Matt Marks, whose passion for music has helped blossom U-Jam into an internationally recognized urban dance fitness program.

We asked the life-long dancer to share her go-to workout and where she finds inspiration.

24Life: What’s your go-to source for inspiration?

Susy Marks (SM): There are too many amazing people to name who bring inspiration to my life, but I am so thankful for each and every one of them. I can say that my husband, Matt Marks, who has the gift of communicating with people, inspires me ALL the time. Everywhere we go, he can strike up a conversation and find common ground with anyone! He is one of my heroes.

24Life: What do you teach and why?

SM: I currently teach U-Jam twice a week, but I cherish the great memories from when I started teaching fitness, with cardio kickboxing as my first format. I’m a dancer, so it was hard NOT to incorporate booty popping in my kickboxing classes! Of course, I will always be thankful for Zumba Fitness. They gave me my first master trainer opportunity here in Northern California back in 2007 and I was fortunate to spend time learning from Beto Perez. It was a great experience and taught me a lot about myself as a speaker and how much I truly needed to work on that skill. As a matter of fact, I’m still working on it.

24Life: Why is fitness so important to you?

SM: Dance has been my passion since the age of seven, and I started teaching and choreographing at the age of 16. Fitness has always been a part of my life, since my teenage years, and it has always been my “go-to” for balance of mind, body and spirit. When I’m not dancing or doing my crazy intense workouts, you’ll find me in a yoga class getting my namaste on.

I feel so blessed that my husband, Matt, and I had the courage to start a company that brings both our passions together (dance, fitness and music), along with fulfilling our ultimate passion of helping people.

24Life: What is your ideal workout (that is 24 minutes or less)?

SM: My ideal workout happens with my awesome trainer, Zach. If only he were a dancer, because I would definitely recruit him as one of our U-Jam trainers! He is so passionate about helping people and training them safely.

I remember doing a 20-minute workout with him. We did four stations—TRX, kettle bell, ropes, boxing with a bag—for four sets of 15 reps at each station and one minute rest in between. I think I was done fifteen minutes into the workout! This is my favorite type of workout. It makes me feel like I’m training to be an American Ninja Warrior!

I love summer because it’s an opportunity to take your workout outdoors. My favorite move for on-the-summer go is from our U-Jam routine called “Like That.” It takes care of upper body, lower body and core all at the same time. Check it out!

24Life: What’s your greatest passion, outside of the work that you do?

SM: My next greatest passion aligns with the work that I already do. I’m a nut about what I put in my body, so I am very passionate about eating clean and getting as much nutrition as possible from CWF (clean, wholesome food). I do have a dream goal for U-Jam to partner with the people at Food Matters. That would be so awesome for U-Jam Nation!

24Life: Describe your perfect summer day.

SM: I recently had a perfect summer day! Matt and I stayed at my girlfriend’s beach home at Pajaro Dunes. We took an early morning walk on the beach together, and had a light breakfast while we spent time talking about things we wanted to accomplish outside of U-Jam. Later, cuddled up on the couch with a blanket, we watched a few documentaries. (I love documentaries!) In the evening he started a nice cozy fire, while I cooked a yummy gluten-free spaghetti dinner. We ended the night by the fire with some quiet reading while listening to the ocean waves…ahhhhh.

24Life: What’s your power food?

SM: I think everyone is on this power food kick of avocados! I use them in our smoothies. I also make tons of guacamole and we’re now hooked on having it in our salads to replace cheese. Don’t get me wrong, I still love cheese, but I’ve switched to a raw grass-fed cheese that is so creamy and delish! Can I hear a nom nom?

24Life: What’s your number-one stressor and your surefire stress buster?

SM: When we first started U-Jam, I struggled with trying to help everyone and also make sure no one ever felt excluded. It was easier when we started because we only had five people. But as we started to grow, I struggled with not being able to be there for everyone all the time. It’s still hard for me, but I do my best to balance through prayer, meditation and yoga. This truly helps me stay grounded in keeping God and Matt at the top of my priority list.

24Life: What is one thing people might not know about you?

SM: I don’t think I’ve ever shared my story, but I had an eating disorder from my teens all the way to my early twenties. First, anorexia. My body was always “curvy” and I hated the fact that I didn’t look like the other ballerinas. Later, bulimia seemed like the better deal because I was able to eat, and then run to the bathroom, thinking I was saving myself from getting fat…so WRONG. I struggled a lot with low-self esteem and lack of confidence throughout my journey, and I still battle self-doubt from time-to-time. When my students or instructors share their stories of their struggles, and I say to them, “I understand,” I truly mean it with all of my heart, because I’m no different from them, and I’m on the same journey with them.

24Life: What’s your secret to getting stuff done?

SM: Wow, that’s a great question! I’m a creative person and my mind goes in so many different directions with ideas and the vision of doing so much more aside from U-Jam. I can honestly say that I’m still trying to find balance with the personal and business “to-do” list! I guess I should just say that I’m a work in progress.

24Life: What is your power song for summer?

SM: My power song for this summer is from our new U-Jam Slow-Jam (cool down) called “Stronger” by Jordan Armstrong. The song brings me to tears, but in a very positive way.

24Life: What book is on your night table?

SM: Right now I am finishing the book “The 5 Second Rule” by one of my female heroes, Mel Robbins! I’m always amazed to hear about other women who, on the outside, seem to have it all (incredible education and career) but they still battle fear, anxiety and low self-esteem. I guess the tests and trials to overcome and strengthen our own “limiting beliefs” is part of the journey for every human being.

24Life: What’s your secret for a great night’s sleep?

SM: I have a ritual that I’ve been doing since I was 17 years old. I cannot go to bed without my hot chamomile tea. Seriously, it makes me so happy to be cozy in bed with my tea. I’ve added a few things in the past couple of years, and that’s my diffuser with essential oils and adding “calm” powder to my tea. It truly relaxes me and knocks me the heck out!

24Life: Any interesting performance rituals that you have before you teach, work or train?

SM: Well, this is not a performance ritual, but I am a prayer warrior, and I don’t do any of the aforementioned without the power of prayer. We are all on this planet to serve, so I feel I have to be prayed up, along with praying for those I am serving. I was always involved in ministry with my church, so U-Jam feels very similar to serving in ministry. I call it the “message behind the workout!” Peace, love and unity…and the greatest is unconditional love.

24Life: Do you have a quote you’d like to share?

SM: Here is one that resonated with me at the perfect time in my life when I felt like I lost my voice in U-Jam. I now understand that anyone who chases a dream and tries to do something to make a difference runs the risk of being scrutinized. I am far from perfect, but I am grateful for the experience, because I’ve learned so much about myself in the past seven years, and I’m also grateful to have much thicker skin!

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” –Brené Brown

You can follow Susy on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Photo credit: James Mak from Joysco Photography