Fitness, Fun and Friendship Found in Morning Class

When Connie Dodson started attending the 8:15 a.m. group exercise class last fall at the Don Sjogren Community YMCA, she immediately felt welcome.

She had retired from providing child care in her home for 42 years and was used to getting her exercise by walking outside, usually on her own.

But, she has found the camaraderie and accountability of attending the every weekday class at the YMCA “wonderful.”

The 8:15 a.m. class is taught by a different instructor and varies each day: Dance Fusion on Mondays, Fit for Life on Tuesdays, Move & Groove on Wednesdays, Weights 101 on Thursdays and Instructor’s Choice on Fridays. The classes have changed throughout the years, but the participants have remained the same with new ones joining in.

The gals, and sometimes a guy or two, who attend the class are mostly retirees with the oldest being in her 80s. Some younger participants attend on a regular basis, too.

Friendships have blossomed among attendees as they gather for coffee and social time after class to share pictures of grand kids and snapshots from recent travels. Sometimes, they find their way to the gym for a few games of pickle ball after their socializing.

The class helps attendees stay fit and active so they are able to “get down on the floor with the grand kids,” class participant Terry Krohn said.

But, more than the physical benefits, many class members enjoy the social and emotional aspects of the group.

“We just keep each other accountable,” said JoAnn Everett, who has been attending the class for more than 10 years. She said if someone misses class, several text messages will be sent from the other class members to find out if everything is OK.

Janice Erickson said the class helps her stay motivated to exercise. “If I didn’t have this class, I wouldn’t be up here every day,” she said.

Patsy Johnson, another faithful attendee, said the class gives her something to look forward to each morning. She said make-up and overachievers are not allowed.

“You are just expected to do what you can,” Patsy said.

Rhonda Johnson said she enjoys the new friendships she’s made and old friendships she’s nurtured among the class members, but she also appreciates it for the exercise intensity and variety. After participating in boot camp at the YMCA for seven years, she still finds a challenge with the 8:15 a.m. class.

“It’s a tough workout, and it’s free,” she said. (YMCA group exercise classes are included in membership fees.)

Beth Allmand, YMCA group exercise instructor, teaches the class on Wednesdays. She said her goal is to keep class members moving and keep them coming back. Each participant works at his or her own pace.

Beth said it’s inspiring to see how faithful the group’s members have become and the commitments they have made to their health and to their fellow classmates.

“They just care so much about each other,” she said.

And, their caring extends out of class. The group’s members have bonded over Friday night movies at the Sun Theater. Members have also encouraged and recruited volunteers for local programs, such as Meals on Wheels and Backpack Blessings, from the class.

Anyone looking for a committed and caring group to support exercise accountability and to provide fun and laughter is encouraged to try the 8:15 a.m. class every weekday at the YMCA!

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