Words by Lisa Collins-Haynes
After 25 years of dance experience, 20 years of dancing in the yearly Junkanoo in Nassau, Bahamas, and 12 years as a personal trainer and leading group exercise classes, it all culminated to 1 win for Macumbia “Comby” Smith. Last month Smith participated in the Bahamas Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation (BBFF). Although the thought to compete in previous competitions had entered his mind before, he says he never had the urge to enter until now. With competitors nearly half his age, Smith, age 42, made his debut and walked away with a first place divisional fitness award.
When he’s not being a showstopper on stage, Smith runs a successful fitness experience known as Caribbean Sweat. The fitness dancer leads high-energy workout sessions that often need crowd control because of the overflow of participants. POTENT sat down with Smith to get to know more about “The Bahamas’ Fittest”.
POTENT: Fitness model, trainer, dancer – you’re a triple threat. How did your career begin?
SMITH: I joined the fitness industry after performing for years as a cabaret dancer. After enrolling in an AFFA group exercise certification course sponsored by Bally’s Total Gym, I was offered immediate employment upon completion. It was natural for me to inject my love for dancing into my workouts and my Caribbean-styled workout routines quickly became a hit. It wasn’t long before my fitness classes were filled to capacity. Since that time I’ve envisioned taking this unique style of Junkanoo, Soca, Dancehall and Rake N’ Scrape aerobics to the world!
POTENT: Can you tell us about the conceptual idea behind Caribbean Sweat? Is it a dance and fitness class? Is it a movement or an experience?
SMITH: Caribbean Sweat is an experience and it began the day I realized that the average gym in Nassau could not contain my classes. Over the years, I’ve worked at every major gym in Nassau and every single one reached attendance not at maximum capacity, but past it. On some days we had up to 85 persons packed in a standard size aerobic room with persons on the outside not able to get in. On those days – of which there were many – the classes seemed like a big party rather than a workout session. The energy in the room is amazing. It was at that time, that I had the vision of taking my workout beyond the gym and having thousands of people jamming with me in one, big, aerobic party.
POTENT: What can people expect when they participate in Caribbean Sweat?
SMITH: When people come to my class they can expect to have the most fun they’ve ever had in a workout session. They can expect a high energy atmosphere. They can expect to get a taste of real Caribbean culture and learning exciting dance moves while sweating Caribbean style.
POTENT: How many followers and members do you currently have?
SMITH: Currently I have about 1,000 followers and I hope to increase that number through exposure in the U.S. and the rest of the world.
POTENT: As a fitness trainer, what’s the hardest part of your job?
SMITH: My class is a dance party, so the hardest part of my job is taking care of myself. Making sure my body is ready to deliver what is expected of me. And keeping up with proper nutrition and minimizing the wear and tear that comes naturally from instructing multiple aerobic classes.
POTENT: What fitness advice do you give most often?
SMITH: The most frequent piece of advice I give to class attendees is to ‘remember to have fun’ because you won’t stick with anything you’re not enjoying. Second, drink water!
POTENT: How do you keep people motivated to keep up a workout routine?
SMITH: Everyone who knows me knows I’m a “people” person. As much as possible, I try to make a personal connection with everyone in my class. That one word, one handshake, one smile could be the motivation they need to stay on this fitness journey one more day. Sometimes I take off my shirt (laughs) . I try to get them to forget that they’re working out. I want my people to have fun, to keep coming and in a few short weeks (if they’ve listened to my water and portions advice) I want to hear the stories on weight loss while they weren’t even paying attention.
POTENT: Describe your workout regiment and how you stay fit, including eating habits?
SMITH: My workout regimen is not the typical one. I dance hard every day, sometimes twice a day. I try to get strength training in 3-4 times a week. My diet is not as strict as others due to a crazy metabolism and the fact that I love food. My struggle is keeping weight on rather than off. I try to eat natural over processed foods using an 80/20 ratio. I don’t believe in diets; I feel like they’re a set up for failure. I don’t see food as my enemy, it’s just fuel for the body to power it to do whatever you need to do all while treating your taste buds. My nutrition tips are short and few:
- Eat in portions. Eat to be satisfied, not filled.
- Make sure your calorie expenditure is more than your calorie intake.
- Eat more of what the earth produces naturally and less of man-made foods.
- Most importantly, knowing your purpose here on earth is vital to understanding the construction of your body and serves as a great nutritional guide.
POTENT: There’s a Junkanoo element in Caribbean Sweat. Explain how it plays a role and what other dance and musical elements do you utilize?
SMITH: Junkanoo is a Bahamian street festival. The two biggest parades are held annually on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. Thousands of locals form into competing groups in an explosion of cultural music, costumes and dance. I’ve been dancing in this Junkanoo festival for the past 20 years. In 2014 I was named Junkanoo King at the Goombay Summer Junkanoo Parade. I’ve incorporated the “spirit of Junkanoo”, the Rush, that same energy and enthusiasm from the streets into the studio. Another popular class is “Socamania”, which I’d describe as a carnival style experience, where we shake, jook and whine to the hottest Soca music. Then there’s the “Dancehall Style”. This is where the room comes alive to Reggae tunes and the hottest dancehall moves.
POTENT: From your YouTube videos, your style of fitness is popular with the ladies, but what about men? Do you find that a lot of men sign up for Caribbean Sweat as well?
SMITH: As of late, a lot more men have migrated to the classes, especially the “Junkanoo Rush”, maybe its because there’s a huge percentage of men that participate regularly in the annual Junkanoo parade, or maybe it’s the large group of women acting as natural man magnets, lol.
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POTENT: What about fitness for children? I read somewhere that you do a television show for them. Can you explain in detail?
SMITH: Caribbean Sweat has been contracted by the Ministry of Education for the past three years to shoot 30-minute workout videos with various primary schools from around the country. The first ever nationally televised kid’s workout is called “Get Floored”. This is an initiative to promote health and wellness in the youth of the country. The workouts are aired at 4pm weekly on our local TV station and enjoyed by thousands of students around the country.
POTENT: Tell me more about being the lead dancer for one of the Junkanoo parades.
SMITH: I’ve been a “free dancer” in the annual Junkanoo parade for the last 22 years. It’s now a part of my makeup and ignites a cultural fire that takes me to a place of total freedom and self-expression! The music motivates, inspires, and helps me to release all the cares of the world as I enter an arena that reminds me of how beautiful life can be. Junkanoo has opened many doors for me as it has helped me to sustain myself financially and to experience other culture as I travel the world as a cultural ambassador. Through the Ministry of Tourism I’ve been given the opportunity to represent The Commonwealth Of The Bahamas in Virginia, Atlanta, Washington, and Florida just to name a few. I also was invited to do special events at Tyler Perry’s studio and Coretta Scott King’s birthday celebration!
POTENT: What else would you like to share with our readers?
SMITH: Regarding the BBFF, I wanted to say that this competition allowed me to display a few of my strengths in endurance, flexibility and dance (entertaining). Winning my division at the competition qualifies me to participate in the Central American and Caribbean Competition (CAC) on September 24th which will be hosted right here in the Bahamas. Being branded as The Bahamas’ “Fittest” is an awesome feeling and has definitely inspired me to explore fitness on a deeper level. I’m truly looking forward to representing my country on an International level.