Being called porky by a colleague was the incentive that busy working mum Caroline Cunningham needed to take up exercise.
“I was mortified at the time,” she says now. “But, looking back, it’s the best thing that could have happened. In fact, I’d love to find her and say ‘thank you’ – because without her I’d still be overweight, unhealthy and miserable.”
Two years on, not only has Caroline lost four stone and dropped four dress sizes but she has quit her corporate, stressful, job to become a fitness instructor (working fewer hours and earning more money) and found contentment and job satisfaction beyond her wildest dreams.
Caroline’s career as a retail manager – which involved eating on the go while driving to countless meeting - had taken its toll on her waistline and happiness levels.
“I had a great salary and company car but life, motherhood and full time work had stopped me looking after myself. I was forever eating on the go and nibbling snacks in the car.
“My workmate joking I’d gone ‘a bit porky’ was the push I needed to do something about it.”
Within just months of taking up Boogie Bounce – exercising to funky music on rebounder trampolines – Caroline, now 39, of Buckhaven, had become slim, fit, healthy and happy.
“The best thing about it was having fun,” she says. “I came out of every class breathless and buzzing. I also loved the fact that it was so inclusive – which I’d never experienced in a fitness class before. Every shape, size, age and ability is made to feel welcome and comfortable.”
Caroline was so inspired she became an instructor hoping to run the occasional class. But, unable to keep up with growing demand, she quit corporate work in August 2016, to run Boogie Bounce classes full time.
Better still, she has inspired her two sisters, old school-friend and hairdresser to come on board with her.
Between them, they run one of the biggest Boogie Bounce franchises in the world - leading a staggering 1600 bouncers through sessions each week.
“It’s great to know that I’m making a difference to so many people,” she says. “My GP says to me ‘you’ve transformed so many people’s lives with your classes.”
Initially, Caroline’s sister, Maureen Barker, 32 - a full time mum - helped out behind the scenes while loyal school-friend Michelle Mann attended every class diligently.
“When I asked them to become my shadow instructors they were both really apprehensive and said ‘I don’t think I’m fit enough’ but I assured them they’d be great.
“It’s not about fitness. It’s about being able to get up there and motivate the class and show the correct moves. If you have got the right positive attitude, and are keen to learn – that’s all you need.”
She was right. Maureen and Michelle passed the qualifying exams with flying colours – and were quickly joined by Caroline’s other sister, Norma Lawrie, 33, and hairdresser Claire McDonald.
“When Maureen and I went on holiday, Norma and Michelle ran my classes and did an absolutely amazing job. They kept sending me pictures and videos to assure us that all was well.”
Two more bouncers, Cheryl Walton and Susan Fox, have also launched their own Boogie Bounce classes in nearby towns. “I encouraged and helped them every step of the way,” says Caroline. “There is no competitiveness or jealousy. It’s all about paying it forward and helping each other out. The world is big enough for us all.”
Touchingly, the Boogie Bounce family support each other during bad times, as well as good.
“Sadly, Cheryl lost her 11-year-old son, Owen, to cancer last October - just five weeks after diagnosis. She didn’t feel able to run her business but I insisted ‘you’ve worked too hard to just let this go’. Between us we covered all of her classes until she felt able to return – and also organised a sponsored Boogie Bounce-athon which raised £3,500 for the family.
Now, Caroline wants to spread the joy of bouncing throughout Scotland. “It’s a fun-filled exercise suitable for all shapes, sizes, ages, levels and abilities,” she says.
“My bouncers range, in age, from four to 72 and have experienced astonishing results – from huge weight loss and confidence boosts to an unprecedented improvement in conditions like arthritis and joint pain.
“Because the exercise is low-impact, it offers cardiovascular, toning, fat burning and strengthening benefits with far less chance of injury than other forms of working out.
“It’s like no other exercise class you have ever taken part in; a fun, energetic, way to get fit, make friends and feel fantastic. It’s like one big, happy, healthy family.”