I have been moving my body my entire life. After all, our bodies are made to move. Unfortunately, in the quest to make life more convenient for ourselves it is very easy to get through a day without moving our bodies much at all. This phenomenon doesn’t discriminate and affects people of all ages. Not long ago just getting through everyday activities was enough to keep us all active. We had to walk more to get places, may be even ride our bikes, and even longer ago ride horses! Many families lived on farms and did a lot of manual work raising animals and growing gardens. People had to chop wood to stay warm, sweep and vacuum floors instead of using the robot vacuums that are now available and the list goes on.
We now need to purposefully make our lives more inconvenient so we can incorporate more activity into our daily lives. How do we make our lives more inconvenient? We can park further away from entrances so we have to walk farther, use a push lawn mower instead of a riding mower, use a rake instead of a blower for leaves and again the list of inconveniences goes on. Of course, there are other ways to include more activity in your life. A person could join one of the many fitness centers that are now part of the landscape. Most gyms have cardiovascular equipment like treadmills and stair climbers, strength training machines and free weights; some even have pools available for swimming and water activities. Indoor group exercise classes are also offered. Unfortunately, the pandemic hit in March of 2020 and the whole idea of exercising indoors with others wasn’t possible. Many fitness centers had to close their doors for a while. People had to find other ways to get their workouts in.
Teaching group exercise has been one of my favorite things to do for almost 40 years now. Since 1982 I have led classes in school gyms, church basements, conference rooms, and even in a hotel lounge. You name a venue and I’ve probably led some type of fitness class in it! When COVID hit and we couldn’t gather inside for group fitness classes I simply took my groups outside. I had already been taking several of my personal fitness training clients outside for workouts and I was also leading outdoor yoga classes. Who participates in these classes? Mostly women between the ages of 50 and 80, but we also have a few younger folks join in periodically, along with the occasional man. A mom and daughter come together when they can. We call this “intergenerational fitness” because the class is for everyone of all ages. Some younger participants initially think the classes are for “elderly” people. Once they join in, however, they realize it’s about what you put into the workout that counts. Seeing people of all generations getting fit at their own pace has been such a positive experience.
When these outdoor classes were first offered, I invited people who had attended my classes in the past. They invited friends and the class grew. We typically meet on Friday mornings between 9:30 AM and 10:00 AM on what we refer to as the outdoor yoga deck at Mountain Challenge on the Maryville College campus in Maryville, Tennessee. The area is a great place to gather outside and workout together. We generally workout for about an hour, incorporating cardio work for the heart, toning and strengthening activities for our postural muscles, and, last but not least, stretching for flexibility. Music is a must for me so I use a Bluetooth speaker and we have fun moving to the beat. You are probably thinking, “What about rain, etc.?” Obviously during dangerous weather, we usually cancel class, but we also have a covered area we can go to if needed. Of course, spring and fall in East Tennessee are ideal months to be outdoors and the participants really enjoy being outside while they workout.
As the weather turned colder, toward the end of fall, everyone was willing to dress in layers and keep coming to class outside. One participant said if you would have told her when she was younger that at 69 years old, she would’ve put on a coat and gone outside to meet a group to workout, she would’ve told you that you were crazy! Yet at 69 years old that’s exactly what she did and looked forward to it. She admitted it felt really good to get out in the fresh air, and, once she started moving around, she often peeled off some layers.
One morning in late fall, I started to set up for class, and realized that the surface of the deck was more like a skating rink. I didn’t want to risk anyone falling so I changed gears and we did a walking workout outside. Each participant was given an exercise band for toning and strengthening exercises. I turned on the music and led an interval workout using walking around the Maryville College campus and the exercise bands. The morning was beautiful and sunny with a clear blue sky, and we warmed up very quickly. The great thing about this type of workout is that the class members got to chat during the walking phases, which they don’t usually do during our regular workouts. We all had a great time getting fit and having fun at the same time. We all decided that the walking interval workout added good variety so we included it as a workout option.
I thought about trying to find a place indoors to continue the workouts through the cold winter months. After discussing it with the class, we realized how much we enjoyed being outside and decided to continue having the workouts outdoors. The combination of fresh air, being out in nature, and moving our bodies keeps us fit. We feel better and are happier. It also makes us want to take care of our surroundings so we can keep going outside and having fun. Yes, we are Fit.Green.Happy. people. And you can be one too! Come join us!
Wendy Magee Guillaume graduated in 1981 from Maryville College with a degree in Science Journalism. She has been in the health and fitness field since 1982. Currently, she is the Fitness Director for Mountain Challenge, the outdoor adventure company that is an integral part of the Maryville College experience. She is also the head trainer for her personal fitness training business “Workouts With Wendy.”
**Featured image courtesy of Wendy Guillaume