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Times' editor tests Fit-for-Life class
Low-impact aerobics aims for fun, healthy activity
Aerobic instructor Sally Pavao leads a low-impact aerobics class Fit-for-Life on Thursday morning at the J.A. Walters YMCA in Gainesville.


When: 10:30-11:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays

Where: J.A. Walters YMCA, 2455 Howard Road, Gainesville

Sedentary at work during the week and coach potato at home on the weekends. Two phrases perfectly describing my non-active lifestyle.

So, when I was reminded it was my turn to try out an area fitness class, I inwardly groaned. I had not exercised since I took a water aerobics class – which was in June – unless you count shopping at an area outlet mall. And I’m pretty sure just walking up and down aisles and trying on clothes does not count as actual exercise.

But I was determined to do my part, especially since my fellow reporter is taking the much harder classes in my humble opinion. Therefore, I carefully reviewed classes at the J.A. Walters YMCA in Gainesville and selected a low-impact aerobic class, Fit-For-Life. The key phrase being “low impact.”

The Fit-for-Life instructor Sally Pavao told me the class was good for beginners or those who are sedentary. Hearing that eased my mind, because it was a perfect description of my lifestyle.

With a lackluster attitude, I attended a Thursday morning class and positioned myself directly behind Pavao in the back row, of course. No need to show to the entire class how much I lack in rhythm. But the women around me kindly smiled and welcomed me to the class, alleviating some of my nervousness.

Then Pavao called the class to order with her New Jersey-accented voice. She pointed out myself and one other new person to the class — Casey Crisp, a 16-year-old girl joining her mother and grandmother — and specifically told us to “go at your own pace.”

She said we should not try to keep pace with the class veterans, but work at our own comfort level. In fact, before each new section of exercise, Pavao introduced a modified version for newcomers or those unable to do the exercise because of health restrictions.

“Also, do you have any medical complications?” Pavao asked me directly.

I shook my head no. Later, she explained she likes to be aware of anyone’s limitations to keep an eye out if a problem arises.

“I like to know what (my class members) can do and can’t do,” she said.

The Pavao turned on her heel, headed to the front of the three-wall mirrored room and started the class.

The first exercise was marching in place as the rhythmic thump-thump-thump of our feet hit the hardwood floor, pacing the class. Marching alternated into walking forward and backward followed by stepping side to side. Most of the steps were coupled with pumping our arms, lifting our arms over our heads and simulating arm curls. The unison arm-lifting reminded me of a flock of newborn birds preparing to take flight, fittingly appropriate for me since I was trying out my first exercise class in two months.

But before I could think any further, we had a quick break. Pavao instructed us to grab hand weights and water if needed. I was relieved to see I was not the only one reaching for my beverage first.

After a swig of water, I selected the lightest weights I could find — two 3-pound hand weights. Pavao carefully looked at mine, nodding in agreement to my choice.

She then demonstrated the “modified” version of an arm exercise. Instead of having your arms parallel with your shoulders, she said we could keep our arms at chest level if needed. I tried the original version first, thinking I would switch to the modified version. But I surprised myself by staying with the original version. I must not be as out of shape as I thought, or at least with this particular exercise.

And that’s how the class went. We strutted our rhythmic stuff with cardiovascular exercises, switched to some weight work and back again. I found the alterations relieving, because it allowed for water breaks.

Pavao told me later she did not use weights when the class first started. But as the course continued, it added some resistance training.

The group fitness instructor and certified personal trainer explained she gears the exercises toward functionality of life. She explained squats mimic sitting down in a chair and rising from a seated position. The cardiovascular exercise also helps with different facets of life.

“It helps to slow down muscle loss and increase muscle gain, which prevents osteoporosis,” she said after the class.

To end the class, everyone grabbed a mat to perform a cool down or relaxation. Pavao said the stretches help keep people from being sore. That is probably true, but my bottom was sore the next day from the squats.

Fellow newcomer Casey Crisp said it was actually her second time in the class.

“It works your body out and you feel good for the rest of the class,” said the homeschooled teen, who uses the time as a P.E. course.

Her mother, Jennifer Crisp, has been attending the class for a month. Since joining the YMCA with her own mother, Christine Cottrell, in May, she has been experimenting with the different classes.

“Our goal is to try out every single class together and pick our favorites,” the mother of four children said. “And all of the classes are my favorite because it’s me time. It’s promoting my health, physically and mentally.”

Pavao added the class is also good for social interaction. She noted most of the women have coffee after the class and attend one of her later classes. Then once a month, class members meet for a social outing such as a pool party, eating out at a restaurant and of course a Christmas party.

“I encourage socializing,” Pavao said. “We want to have fun.”

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