Valerie Beeler’s intensely challenging, unique brand of cardio is creating hardcore WERQ-aholics
It’s 6 pm on a Monday night at the Jewish Community Center (JCC). Upstairs from the gym, the studio is packed with students: men and women who are young, old, and all shapes and sizes. The lights go down, the music turns up, and Valerie Beeler is at the front of the classroom to kick off one of Memphis’s most intense, high-cardio classes. It’s called WERQ, and if you haven’t heard about it yet, Valerie is happy to tell you how it all, well, works.
Founded in 2011 by Haley Stone, WERQ is an athletic cardio dance class based on hip-hop and pop music. Classes are an hour long with no breaks. New songs are added each week to keep the mix fresh. Memphis is the only city in the region that offers the class, and Valerie is the area’s only certified member of the WERQforce.
Looking at her now, it’s hard to imagine Valerie as anything other than the positive, high-energy 48-year-old her students know. But her story is one to which many—especially parents—can relate.
Six years ago, Valerie was living in Illinois as a wife and full-time mother of two, always putting her family’s needs above her own. “I didn’t feel good. I just sort of forgot to take care of myself while I was taking care of everyone else. I got out of breath easily. I gained weight, and I knew something had to change.”
She eased into Pilates, and as her core strength increased, so did her confidence, and she added cardio into the mix. “I like the dance aspect of Zumba classes, but it still felt sort of awkward. My first time trying WERQ, I hid in the back row so I wouldn’t embarrass myself. Three songs in, I knew that this was exactly what I had been searching for. It was perfect!”
Within two weeks, Valerie had become what she laughingly describes as a front row groupie.
“I went hard at it! I loved getting totally lost in the music and was always surprised when the hour was up. Even though I was exhausted and drenched, I felt amazing and wanted more.”
Her passion and ability to quickly master new choreography was apparent to her classmates and instructor Karen Osborne. Karen suggested to Valerie that she might like to teach, but she resisted.
“I was still focusing on myself and my needs, which I’d neglected for so long. I wasn’t ready for that just yet.”
Over the next six months, Valerie shed the 20 extra pounds she’d put on and was starting to rethink her life outside the dance studio.
“I changed my life in almost every way. When I began demanding more from myself, I started demanding more from those around me.”
When her daughter, a competitive gymnast at the time, was offered an opportunity in Memphis, the move felt like a natural punctuation mark for the changes she’d been making. Valerie and her husband divorced, and then she and her daughter moved to Memphis.
“I was here, unemployed, broke, and doing WERQ alone in my apartment gym. It was tough,” she recalls. When her friend and former instructor Karen reached out and offered to pay for Valerie’s WERQ certification, she gratefully accepted.
In 2017, freshly WERQ certified, Valerie looked for a place to teach. She approached the JCC, and they eventually agreed to give her a try.
JCC Program Director Rosalyn Knox laughs now when she recalls the eager force of nature she met two years ago. “She promised me if given the chance, she’d have people lined up outside the door trying to get a spot,” laughs Rosalyn. “And sure enough, here we are today. Her energy and spirit are off the charts and are so infectious. People can’t get enough of her positivity.”
Valerie, who is now the Executive Assistant to the CEO of West Cancer Center and Research Institute, teaches three classes a week at the JCC, each full of devoted, self-proclaimed WERQ-aholics. Dancing to everything from Drake to Missy Elliott to Ariana Grande, classes fill up as fast as the JCC can add them.
Says Rosalyn, “Val has made a huge impact here. Her class is really a life-changing experience. One of our members who struggled with diabetes is now off insulin and feeling much better since she began working with Valerie. There’s something about WERQ that lift people’s moods and attitudes.”
“I just encourage everyone to try it,” smiles Valerie. “Yes, it’s challenging, but if you can move your feet and like music, then step out of your comfort zone just once, and I promise you’ll be back.”
WERQ classes are currently available to JCC members. Valerie Beeler also hosts pop-up classes and fundraisers for various organizations in the Mid-South.
Keep up with her class schedule on Facebook at MematWERQ or check out sample videos and playlists at WERQFITNESS.com. For information about joining the JCC or attending a class, call 901.761.0810.
Mary Helen Randall is the Executive Vice President at Burson Cohn & Wolfe, a global public relations agency and a self-admitted WERQaholic.