Esther GutiÃ©rrez-Sloan is beloved for the zest she brings to her weekly SALSArobics classes at the Lake Forest Fitness Center. Now she’s getting recognized on a much broader scale: On March 14, she’ll be inducted into the National Fitness Hall of Fame, joining the ranks of exercise gurus Jack LaLane, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jane Fonda, Richard Simmons and former Mr. Universe Bab Gajda (to name a few). Esther was chosen for her pioneering work as the creator of SALSArobics more than 20 years ago, and for introducing authentic Latin rhythm and dance steps into aerobic exercise.
“This is such an honor, and it’s such a humbling experience to be part of this,” she told GazeboNews.
Esther is a role model not just for the fitness-inclined, but for anyone who wants or needs to switch careers after years of staying home with kids or working at a traditional job (click here to read an Associated Press story about how Americans are unhappy at work).
Long before she founded SALSArobics, Esther was a manufacturing systems consultant who spent many years working on computers. She decided to “stay home” when her two daughters were young, but being a stay-at-home mom hardly meant staying at home. “I was a mom with two young daughters, and I was doing everything from being a room mom, CCD mom, president of the board for their school,” she said.
She always knew she would return to the work force when her daughters reached school-age. The only problem: doing what? “When it came time for me to go back to work, I didn’t want to go back into computers,” she said. So she did the polar opposite of sitting at a computer every
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day. She created a unique fitness program that blends aerobic exercise with Latin dancing, or as her website states: SALSArobics puts the fiesta into fitness.
“I lived in Columbia for the first 12 years of my life and there we always danced. But the training there was very different. We didn’t go to a dance studio for a tap or ballet class. Dance education was part of the school curriculum. We didn’t say we were studying dance–it was just what you do. Dancing is a big part of who you are socially in my culture.”
When she was developing the idea for SALSArobics, Esther gave free dance classes to her neighbors in Lake Bluff, testing out her routines and then treating her friends to a margarita for their efforts. Once she established a full workout, she created a video that would introduce her concept of Latin fitness dancing to the world. “SALSArobics was the first fitness video with Latin music and traditional Latin dance steps. It also was the first video presented in an outdoor format,” she said. Her husband, Walt Sloan, helped her launch the video, and his PR and marketing efforts resulted in at least 100 articles, as well as numerous TV appearances by Esther.