The woman wants to lose weight a lot of it. And she knows that no matter what kind of diet or even surgery she has, she'll have to find and stick with a good exercise program.

"I'm shy - and embarrassed about my size," she said. "I don't want my name used in a newspaper article. So you can bet I don't want to go to an exercise class where a bunch of size-6 women are working out."If your image of aerobics classes is that of lean people straining and strutting to maintain their lithe forms and you don't think you'd fit in, Corine Cyphers says she has the exercise program for you.

"A lot of women want to exercise but won't go into a fitness institute because they feel so self-conscious," she said.

Cyphers runs a "plus-size" exercise program Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the YWCA, 322 E. Broadway, at 7 p.m. It's a low-impact aerobics class that was designed for people who have undergone gastric bypass surgery. But everyone is welcome.

"I want people who come to class to feel comfortable and build up their self-esteem," she said. "I want them to feel better about themselves. And once they start exercising regularly for 30 days, I guarantee they will feel better."

Mike Pearson, 40, agrees. The day he went in for gastric bypass surgery, he weighed 402 pounds.

In the last three months, he has lost more than 100 pounds, but he has a way to go before he reaches his goal of a lean 225 pounds on his 6-foot-1 frame. He showed up for the class two weeks ago because "my stomach's getting flabby from the weight loss, and I'm hoping to tone it up."

Pearson also walks about a mile a day and rides a bike occasionally.

At 40, excessive weight has plagued him on and off for decades. He's tried all the diets he could find. And some of them worked, for a while.

"I've been a yo-yo," he said. "I'd lose weight, but when I put it back on I put on a little more each time. When fen-phen (a combination diet drug that was pulled by the FDA last year) went off the market, I had lost 70 pounds, but I put back on 90."

That yo-yo process is one Cyphers, 45, knows well. At her heaviest, she said she weighed 387. And like Pearson, she tried a variety of diets to lose the weight. She did manage to get down to 279, then decided she needed to try gastric bypass surgery. In four months, she's lost 87 pounds, and if she can lose another 50 she'll be very happy, she said.

Several years ago she was part of a "large women's aerobics class' in Modesto, Calif. In that class, she "got healthy, but I didn't lose weight." Now she's determined to help people get healthy again, and more than 90 percent of those who have had a gastric bypass will lose weight if they follow their post-operative diets and exercise, the experts agree.

The class is "low-key," Pearson said. People are allowed to exercise at their own paces.

Cyphers said situps are not part of the class, because they are harder to do for larger people and put "a lot of strain on the lower back and shoulders." She's "very protective of the knees, too. Very little jumping, with emphasis instead on walking and dancing.

The music changes day to day: western, disco, '50s. Participants choose their own page. If they can do high-impact aerobics, she said, "Great." But no one's forcing them. The class does a lot of stretching and arm exercises. They can also share their experiences with surgery and weight-loss.

The class is also ideal, she said, for people who have health problems and want to exercise but are not comfortable in a regular class.

Cost for the class is $48, plus a yearlong $25 membership to the YWCA, which includes access to other programs. Cyphers said that limited scholarships are available for those who can't afford the class. For more information, call 474-0473.

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Additional Information

More information about the class

Cost for the class is $48, plus a yearlong $25 membership to the YWCA, which includes access to other programs. Cyphers said that limited scholarships are available for those who can't afford the class. For more information, call 474-0473.