JAHS in the News

The following article appeared in several Maryland local editions of The Gazette:

The Gazette
Thursday, April 10, 2003

Fitness program thrives on mystique

by Julia Oliver
Staff Writer

The dozen or so women in Margaret Dureke's studio are pounding their feet, flailing their arms and shaking their shoulders.

"Do the jiggy dance here!" Dureke shouts, leading them in a hip-twist maneuver. "Gimme love!"

Dureke calls the style "Odiche," a word that means "different" in her native Nigerian language, Ibo.

But Dureke won't explain "JAHS," the name for her Hyattsville-based exercise program.

"I don't want people to know. It's part of the mystique," she said, laughing.

And maybe it's the mystique--or Dureke's obvious delight in creating it--that has been most instrumental in molding her innovative weight-loss program.

Dureke's story is one of success that came from rebellion.

"I used to be morbidly obese," she says frankly, pointing to the before-and-after pictures in her office. Unhappy with her figure, she launched into an exercise program while she was working toward her law degree at American University.

"I joined one of the conventional fitness centers," she said. But she hated it, because after she paid her dues, no one seemed to care whether she came or not. "I felt very unwelcomed."

Dissatisfied with the public weight rooms and boring aerobics classes, she knew she could do better.

"When I quit going there, instead of getting mad at them and calling them names," she started her own program, she said.

The 20 dance routines she made up in her basement were the foundation for the classes she now runs in Hyattsville and at the Washington Hospital Center. Dureke turned her routines into a business when she discovered law-firm life wasn't for her. After eight years, she has served hundreds of women.

"For three years I had no penny to my name. But it didn't bother me. I had an objective. I knew where I was going," she said.

The moves, rhythm and spirit of her approach have African roots. In addition to Odiche, Dureke and her instructors teach dances to Caribbean and gospel music. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the program, her patrons say, is the attention she gives each student.

"She cares. If you don't show up, she's calling you," said Brandie Revell, a Hyattsville resident who said she's lost 10 pounds during her three months in the program.

Veronica McKune agreed.

"She's really good," she said of Dureke. "She really makes you feel like you're accomplishing something and she really keeps you motivated ... . At home I have the whole gym in my basement, but this is so much better."

Monique Meadows, a Laurel resident who has been coming to classes for a few weeks, said she had tried "about a million" other exercise programs before settling on this one.

"Everyone's really friendly. It's like a support group," the development director at a District nonprofit said. "It really grounds me."

Dureke said she can't help but care about her students.

"The hospitality part of it is part of my spirit, as an African," Dureke said. "You talk to people to figure out what's going on with them ... . You go beyond just the physical."

JAHS Odiche Fitness & You Inc. holds classes from 6 to 8 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays and 7 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4206 Gallatin St., Hyattsville. For information, call 301-864-2800 or go to

E-mail Julia Oliver at

To purchase Margaret and John Dureke's books or for more information on JAHS, visit or call 301-864-2800.

Other Recent News Stories...

"Entrepreneur Has Dreams to Spare" (By Krissah Williams, Staff Writer), Washington Post, Thursday, July 10, 2003.

Margaret Dureke featured in Sister 2 Sister Magazine, July 2003.

"Couple's JAHS Publishing Group looks to follow in the footsteps of successful fitness center," The Gazette Newspapers, October 24, 2002.

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