Fitness instructor brings new beat to Encinitas

Fitness instructor brings new beat to Encinitas
Jen Dagati, who teaches Drumming Fit through the Encinitas Senior Center, was featured by The New York Times and CNN late last year. Eventually she hopes to use her technique to help veterans with PTSD. Dagati is able to teach cardio fitness drumming despite the fact that she was born without a right hand. Courtesy photo

ENCINITAS — For 12 years Jen Dagati has been on the cutting edge of cardio fitness drumming, training instructors across the United States and Canada in techniques she developed that benefit children, adults and seniors as well as those with ADD, Down syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.Shortly after relocating to Carlsbad last year, Dagati was featured by The New York Times and CNN.

Two months ago she decided to introduce Drumming Fit to North County residents beginning at the Encinitas Senior Center. She believed so much in the benefits of the program that she purchased the equipment herself. That includes stability balls, which are used as drums, baskets to hold the balls and the drumsticks.

“The first session was small and intimate, and each class has grown since then,” she said. “The majority of seniors hadn’t participated in an aerobics program before. They noticed right away that they were breathing harder, sweating and that their heart rate was up. It also gave them a sense of balance.”

To break the ice, she instructed students to drum while announcing their name, age and other personal information.

Enthusiasm for the new program was reflected in the fact that students returned the following week.

“By forming this tight, social group, fitness adherence is extremely strong,” she said. “Students look forward to coming back because they know they have a group of friends. It’s such a beautiful thing — people come in and shake hands and hug.”

Dagati explains that Drumming Fit works because it taps into a primal instinct that begins in the womb when a fetus first hears the heartbeat of the mother.

She describes it as a common language people share that can transform the meekest person into someone who is empowered.

Music selection, which she tailors to each group, can bring about additional benefits as she found when she chose the Big Band Music of Glenn Miller for a drumming class at an Alzheimer’s unit.

“The music seemed to make a strong impression on them and they came to life remembering where they first heard it,” she explained. “Some sat and played the drums to the music.

Some drummed and sang because they could remember the words.

Others chose not to drum and instead stood up and danced.

It brought them back to a very happy time in their lives and brought tears to my eyes.”

Dagati says cardio fitness drumming is also effective in treating obesity as students can start the class by sitting in a chair. As they make lifestyle changes, such as improving their diet, students gain endurance and eventually stand, and move around, burning more calories.

“A 300-pound woman in a chair came to a point where she finally had to stand up because she felt like she was missing out on something,” she added. “Now she’s standing and moving, and all of a sudden it comes together. It’s not a piece of cake, but (obese) students want to do it again. I think this is a population that really needs us and would love us.”

Dagati has been a certified personal trainer and a group fitness trainer for 30 years.

What some might find amazing is that she became a drumming guru despite the fact that she was born without a right hand.

“I was at a fitness conference in Chicago in 2001 when I first saw cardio fitness drumming,” she explained. “I used a strap that I had adapted for lifting weights and strapped it around the drumstick. I didn’t think anything about it. I just did it.”

Dagati is looking forward to making the program available to a wider population through the Encinitas Community Center. She has also set a personal goal of introducing cardio fitness drumming in the treatment of veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder.

“Jen is upbeat, creative and very energetic with a passion for teaching the innovative program Drumming Fit,” said Nancy Roherty, recreation supervisor, City of Encinitas Senior Center. “The class is noncompetitive and nonthreatening. It provides physical and mental benefits while having fun.”

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