Fitness class survives pandemic

by Ruth Griffiths

For more than two decades, a host of dedicated older adults have met weekday mornings for a group fitness class. Many of the senior women have been attending the class since it began … a testament to their desire to maintain health and fitness.

Marliss McIntyre was one of the original instructors of the morning fitness class at the Margo Fournier Centre. She has been teaching fitness classes for 42 years.

She continued to lead group fitness classes after she moved to Red Deer in June 2001.

Diane McDuff led the class for several years and called it Faithfully Fit.

In 2009 I started leading the class each Monday. When Diane’s work schedule changed in 2010, I inherited the class and renamed it Easy Adult Fitness.

This drop-in class is offered by the City of Prince Albert each Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning at the Margo Fournier Centre. Attendance has been as high as 33 but averages 15 enthusiastic participants.

In 2014, the group fitness participants were angry because the City was considering selling the Margo Fournier Centre. But Terra Lennox-Zepp helped us lobby City Council to continue a program that was an important part of our lives.

The class continued with enthusiastic participation until fitness classes halted on March 17, 2020. due to the Corona virus pandemic. For several weeks the City offered no fitness programming but then it moved on-line. From the safety of my own home I was helped to videotape three short fitness programs that were free on the City’s website.

When fitness centers were able to reopen, the class sprang to life again on July 13 but at Alfred Jenkins Field House. We were glad to be able to exercise together again but we missed our downtown gym.

We were overjoyed to be back at Margo Fournier Centre when classes resumed in September with pandemic protocols… keeping six feet apart and extra sanitizing of equipment and hands. As the second wave of the pandemic peaked, we again modified the program. In mid-November, class size was capped at eight for aerobic activity, so I modified the programming to reflect those restrictions.

On Nov. 27 masks became mandatory while we exercised a minimum of three meters apart.

Class size was capped at eight, including the instructor. How could 15 people participate in a drop-in class and still honor the new health guidelines? Curtis Olsen, Erin Hurd and other staff quickly pivoted to a registration format.

Participants had to register in advance for one of seven spaces in the class. So, for the first time in its history, Easy Adult Fitness expanded to two time slots each Monday, Wednesday and Friday, allowing 14 people to participate each day.

Easy Adult Fitness is a pandemic survivor. The first class for 2021 was on Jan. 4.

It will continue in its new format for the foreseeable future.