Try something new at Island Fitness

Fri, 04/07/2017 - 2:30pm

In my opinion, the hardest part of any fitness class is walking through the door for the first time.  It is fear of the unknown – what if I cannot do the class; what if the instructor is not friendly; what if the other members laugh at me? Well, at least those were the thoughts that went through my head.  I am so thankful I took that risk, got out of my comfort zone, and walked through the door to the group exercise room.  It has been an absolute life changing experience leading me to bring Island Fitness to Block Island.

Almost fifteen years ago, I had another life changing experience when I suffered a series of seizures, and three strokes, while seven months pregnant with my youngest son.  After waking from a coma and having to relearn how to do basic tasks, I found myself easily overwhelmed.  I also found myself weighing over 240 pounds after fertility treatments and back-to-back pregnancies.  How did this happen? I knew it was time to do something about it, but I was afraid.

Step class was my first group exercise class.  I could barely go five minutes without needing a water break.  Each week I saw my endurance build, and within a few weeks, I could do the entire hour!  After years of participating, I decided to go for my certification to become an instructor.  I am so grateful to the three amazing mentors (and friends) who coached and helped me with my success.  One mentor was also my first group exercise instructor; I was convinced she was going to judge me based on my weight and inability to keep up.  I could not have been more wrong, and she remains my best friend to this day.

Sharing the success
To understand my passion behind bringing Island Fitness to Block Island, a little more background is needed.  I spent almost twenty years in the insurance industry, and I was very fortunate to enjoy what I did.  I met an incredible man who shared my love of Block Island.  We were married on Block Island, on July 4th, in a hurricane – and had a blast!  During our first full summer on the island, I ate my way through June, July and August.  When I returned to my “normal” routine, I discovered fifteen extra pounds and my cardio capacity at an all-time low.  While I was incredibly fortunate to cover some of the seated strength classes that summer, I missed my spin and barre classes.  My husband encouraged me to combine two things I loved – fitness and Block Island.

When planning Island Fitness, my biggest goal was to ensure every single person who walked in the door would feel welcomed, challenged, and successful. The class offerings had to be easily adaptable to all fitness levels, and diverse.  Next came finding a location - I am so incredibly lucky to be able to call the Block Island Maritime Institute home.  The view is just spectacular. There’s a great breeze in the summer months.  While a bit chilly during the winter, most people forget they are cold within ten minutes.

The classes
Perhaps the most often-asked question I hear is, “what is spin, barre, strength and stretch and step class?”  For someone who has never taken these type of classes, it can be very intimidating to try something new.  No one wants to fail at something, so the easy way to avoid such a feeling is to avoid trying it.  These are the people I want to talk to – I cannot say it enough that I never want someone to feel crushed.  My goal is always to challenge someone but never to push to the point of crushing them.  That’s no fun for anyone!

Spin class is a cardio and strength class on a stationary bike.  It is different from riding outside on the road in that the rider ultimately controls the intensity level of his or her ride. We will simulate hills, flat roads, sprints, and jumps, set to music picked to help motivate and inspire you to push your effort level. Whether on a flat road or climbing a hill, there is a dial where the rider adds and removes tension (gears) and always maintains control of the ride.  What is really cool is that when spin came to Block Island, most people had never taken a class before.  It has been so incredibly inspiring to watch every single person progress each class. There is absolutely no expectation that any rider do the entire class, rather than what (s)he can handle.  If a rider needs to sit during a standing hill, they are still doing more than if they chose to sit at home!  This class is about getting out of one’s comfort zone and building physical and cardiovascular strength!

The Strength & Stretch class is one of my favorites to teach.  It is perhaps the best class for someone just starting on a fitness journey or nursing an injury.  There are so many different tools available – hand weights ranging from 2 pounds to 14 pounds, as well as different weighted balls and tubes, balls and bands and new equipment is added almost monthly.   It is equally challenging for someone who has a high fitness level.  I love suggesting a higher weight level and watching the sense of pride and accomplishment when that challenge is hesitantly accepted and conquered.  A big part of this class is stretching.  From personal experience, I know how critical stretching is when recovering from an injury and building balance and stability.

Ahhhh Barre class … this is one class that is an absolute game changer.  I always considered myself to have strong legs.  Barre is focused more on core and lower body strength, and it has brought new levels of tone and definition to my life.  There are two big misconceptions about Barre – it is only for women and you need to have dance experience. This class is perhaps the most difficult for me personally to teach – it is challenging and I struggle at times.  However, I love the challenge and know that after each class I am stronger than before class started.  If someone needs a break (including myself) during class, it is absolutely okay – I only ask that comfort levels are challenged.

More fitness, more fun
Island Fitness’ first class was in May, 2016, and I was the sole instructor.  I am beyond thrilled to have the pleasure of working with Susan Stayskal Schuyler and Jill Seppa in 2017. Susan is a powerhouse who is already known to the boating community as the manager and launch operator for Oldport Marine Services and may have helped dock your boat at the Boat Basin.  In addition to Spin and Barre, she is bringing Pilates and Boot Camp to the island.  She has a down-to-earth and approachable personality; I am excited to personally take her classes. You may recognize Jill if you’ve visited Koru Eco Spa. Her spa’s pedicures and massages are the perfect stress reliever or vacation starter. She is such a generous and kind person; I feel blessed to have her bringing yoga to our schedule. Yoga is new to me, but I am excited to work on my practice with Jill. These two women are incredibly motivating and have inspired me; I am fortunate to be able to work with them.

Moving forward
My personal experience with Island Fitness has been so gratifying.  As the new kid on the Block, bringing a new concept, I was not sure how it would be received, especially during the winter season.  I have watched people walk through the doors with the deer-in-the-headlight look the first class and walk out with their shoulders down and head high, smiling.  I am watching people transform not only their physical health, but their mental health too.  I have personally talked to some who just did not feel like coming to a scheduled class because they were in a funk. To see that funk melting on the floor is amazing to watch.  One of the best parts of a group exercise class is the social aspect – it may be a workout, but it is also an adult playdate. There is energy in group camaraderie. One of the funniest comments I received was right after a woman met me for the first time. She said: “Well, you’re not intimidating.”  After I busted out laughing, I thanked her for one of the best compliments a fitness instructor could receive.

There are many wonderful fitness options available on Block Island – Yoga, Pilates, Nia, Tai Chi, and Tabata.  I always tell people, “I don’t care what you do, just as long as you do something.”  I know how exercise helped me recover after a life altering health issue, and I am thrilled to be able to help others either start or continue on their fitness journey.  You have to take the first step, which I know is usually the hardest, but the rewards will make you quickly forget your fears.  My sincere thanks to all of the wonderful people who have welcomed my family and me to this little slice of heaven called Block Island.