Participants Pump it Up in Search’s Fitness Class
Search INK interviewed Maggie Davidson, Community Life Coordinator, about the new Fitness Immersion class she started this summer.
Q: What is the purpose behind the fitness immersion class?
A: The purpose is to get the people we serve to be more physically active, to help with gross motor skills, and to get people outside (in the warmer months). We meet once a week at Search's Kensington location.
Q: What kinds of activities do you do in the class? How do you decide what activities to do?
A: We start with warm ups like arm circles and then usually do modified circuit training like pushups, sit ups, squats, wall sits, and jumping jacks. I have a portable speaker that we use to listen to the "Pump up the Jams" Pandora station – they love it!
Everything is modified to the person who is involved. So if one person doesn't have much flexibility but can jump really well, we will do jumping jacks with him. As much as possible we try to get outside. We usually walk around outside the Kensington building. At the end of the class we do a sprint race that everyone likes.
Exercise can be hard for the participants and many of them lose courage when they are told to do certain exercises differently. Everyone does what they can and I give lots of encouragement.
Q: How do you deal with different fitness and ability levels?
A: Having a small group is really helpful. Everyone gets lots of individual attention and modification. I help correct stretches or exercises by touching or pointing to muscles to help them feel what needs to change. Many times they will get discouraged with themselves and say things like "I can't do that" or "I don't want to," so I try to find motivators like writing down the number of repetitions they do in one week and then encouraging them to beat it the next week. Encouragement and positive feedback gives a big boost.
Something we did recently that was really fun for everyone was a game of Monkey in the Middle. I was in the middle, so that encouraged everyone else to work together cooperatively. There is one person who is usually very quiet and doesn't socialize and he started interacting with others and throwing the ball. They all had a really good time!
Getting outside seems to be a big motivator too. They will proactively find me because they want to go out. In the winter we will use the auditorium in Kensington to jog or walk.
Q: What is the reaction from the participants?
A: It was a struggle at the beginning, but we are seeing positive gains. One quiet individual has started to socialize and another participant has mostly stopped some attention seeking behaviors. It seems like the fitness class really helps them relax at the end of the day.
Q: What plans do you have for the future of the Fitness Class?
A: The class can depend a lot on who is in it. We have a very athletic group right now and they like action and faster paced exercises. In the future I would love to get a group of less active people involved in some easy chair exercises, yoga or walking activities. We have resistance bands already and I would love to get light ankle or wrist weights to try in the future. This would let us work on flexibility and stretching as well as muscle building through repetition.
Hopefully we can expand to a larger group in the future and provide the class to people who have fitness goals. Another possibility would be to bring the fitness to the classrooms and use small exercises to fill up any downtime.