Finding More Than Fitness Through Community Exercise Classes
That’s how Terri Raymond, a semi-retired teacher from Abington, described finding out about South Shore Health’s Community Exercise program.
Raymond said she was walking around the medical building at 780 Main Street, “getting her Fitbit steps in,” while waiting for her husband to get out of his doctor’s appointment. That’s when Community Exercise Program Director, Jen Logan popped her head out of her fitness studio to ask her if she was lost, and Raymond found a new workout routine.
A 20-year member of the Weymouth Club, Raymond said she stopped going to the gym during the pandemic. “I just wasn’t comfortable working out in a crowd,” she said.
Still, she had missed the routine and was looking for a new exercise outlet. “I had been doing some physical therapy,” she said, “and my therapist suggested I take some classes.”
Logan’s well-timed introduction to the exercise offerings at the Center for Physical Wellness turned out to be just what Raymond needed.
Since August, Raymond has been taking the Mindfulness and Movement and Women’s Stretch and Strengthen classes and finding great benefits in both programs.
“I’m a nervous person and suffer from anxiety,” said Raymond, noting she practices mindfulness every day and had previously practiced yoga.
Mindfulness and Movement combines several yoga elements -- including dynamic movement, stretching and meditation with a goal of improving flexibility, mobility and balance. Raymond, who has episodic vertigo, said improving balance through the class has been “huge” for her.
It’s also a great way to destress from the day, she said. “You leave there with a lower stress level than when you came in,” said Raymond, noting the quiet meditation and calming lavender oil applied to the temples, bring each class to a relaxing end.
Women’s Stretch and Strengthen gives Raymond the strength training she’d been missing at the gym. A self-described “gym rat,” Raymond said she loved working out with weights and wanted to get back to it.
“But the classes at the gym are not for seniors,” she said. “I’m 69. I wanted something that would challenge me, but respect where I am.”
And Stretch and Strengthen fits the bill.
“It’s a workout,” she said. “I can see it in my Fitbit numbers.” Raymond said she can also see it in her midsection. “It looks smaller and feels tighter, said Raymond, noting that she’s dropped some pounds while gaining core strength and flexibility. The latter is important as Raymond is a professional guitarist, which requires good core strength.
Both classes also provide camaraderie and connection, which Raymond and many others have been craving amid the isolation of the pandemic.
“I enjoy the camaraderie of the classes,” she said. “That’s important for mental health.”
When COVID-19 case numbers began to decline earlier in the summer, Raymond said she debated whether to go back to the gym. But she said she likes her instructor, the people she works out with, and the small classes -- generally about six people, well-spaced out in the studio.
“Hospital protocols are followed for cleaning the studio between classes, so I feel very comfortable,” she said.
The class is also a welcoming space.
“I find the groups very friendly and accepting. It’s a comfortable place to be,” she said.
“And Jen is so good with everyone. You don’t feel out of place if you can’t do something.”
Now that the COVID-19 case numbers are back on the rise, Raymond is glad to have the comfort and connection she’s found through the program. “I’d like to continue to go in person, but I’ll keep my eye on the numbers,” she said.
She does have virtual options, including Body Moving and other online classes that Raymond and others can do in the comfort of their own living rooms, Logan said.
Those unfamiliar with the Community Exercise program, can get an introduction by trying a free class through the end of January, Logan added.
Raymond said she has tried four classes so far – including some of the aquatic programs – and enjoyed all of them. Anyone looking to be more active and practice some self-care in the New Year, would benefit from the program, she said.
“I would tell a friend don’t be afraid to try a class. Any fitness level is fine and it’s not going to be over your head,” she said. “You’ll have fun and you’ll benefit if you go.”