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YMCA instructor offers free virtual classes

Rachel Anthony teaches step aerobics, weights via Facebook Live

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virtual aerobics

KEEPING ACTIVE — Danny Shemoel (left) and daughter Abigail Shemoel (right) lift weights together at the YMCA before the shut down.

Without access to the YMCA facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, instructor Rachel Anthony started a private group on Facebook to live-stream her classes for any members or non-members who request to join.

After having to exercise at home for a couple of weeks, Anthony noticed her motivation to workout was much lower than when she would conduct classes at the Y. Needing to socialize to get herself going, she decided to see if others would be interested in joining in on live-streamed classes.

“I decided to put my feelers out there on Facebook to see who, if anyone, would be interested in doing workouts if I live-streamed some classes. The response was a lot bigger than I imagined it would be. I never dreamed I would have 100 people in my group,” Anthony said.

Anthony said there were about 40 people she regularly interacts with, some long-distance friends of her regular class attendees who wanted to join the group. About 20 participate with her live, she said, and others watch the videos already recorded at their convenience. Recently, Anthony uploaded her videos to YouTube as well to reach a bigger audience.

Each week, Anthony plans the classes she’ll teach, including LesMills BODYPUMP, step aerobics, and weights. Although she typically teaches cycle during her in-person classes on a stationary bike, she excluded the activity from her virtual classes since most people do not have the equipment for that in their homes.

Earlier this month on a weekend with warm, sunny weather, Anthony set up one of her classes outside. Instead of hosting the virtual class on Facebook Live, she invited all the members to attend the class in her backyard with proper social distancing guidelines. With only a couple of people in attendance, Anthony hoped she could host another in-person class with a bigger audience as weather permitted.

“I did have one person show up and lift weights with me, with proper social distancing of course. But it was so fun to see her, and my daughter even worked with us. I’m hoping to do another class soon in my church parking lot but plan it further in advance. I hope to get 10 to 15 people to show up,” Anthony said.

Ten years ago, Betsy Wenz was a regular Y attendee and frequent member of Anthony’s classes. After moving from Kokomo to Nappanee, Wenz was unable to attend a nearby YMCA or participate in classes she loved like the ones she participated in with Anthony.

Step aerobics were an “old-school” activity that Wenz particularly enjoyed, she said, and she was thrilled that she would be able to participate with Anthony again in an exercise she missed.

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“I hadn’t found a class around here that I liked. With Rachel doing it online, I’m able to do step again. But I also just really enjoy how she teaches. She’s always upbeat and encouraging and keeps it fun,” Wenz said.

For people who do not enjoy running like herself, Wenz said, step aerobics were an ideal option because one can focus the mind on the choreography of the activity for 45 minutes to an hour instead of how hard one is breathing. Wenz said Anthony was a great motivator, whereas Wenz found it difficult to make herself work as hard by herself.

In addition, for the past six years, Danny Shemoel had been attending Anthony’s classes until the Y’s facilities were temporarily shut down for the COVID-19 pandemic. As a person who enjoys breaking a sweat, Shemoel said the option to still have classes during this time was “wonderful.”

“I love working out. I love to sweat,” Shemoel said. “So, when [Anthony] started doing class on Facebook, I right away jump on it, and I clear all my schedule for at least one hour and spend the time in doing it, step or weights.”

Shemoel said since he already was familiar with Anthony’s routines, this helped keep him motivated.

“When you know it’s somebody from the Y and you’re familiar with them, you’re familiar with their routine, it’ll give you a lot of energy. I don’t have to tell you how good it is to work out an hour a day. I’m 62 years old, and I feel like 18 when I work out,” Shemoel said.

Shemoel said he and his daughter, Abigail Shemoel, participate in the workouts together since her return to Kokomo from Europe. This has made the classes more enjoyable for him, Shemoel said, as he misses the in-person social interactions of others who attend the classes.

Although Shemoel said he was grateful to Anthony for volunteering her time virtually, he said he could not wait for the Y’s exercise facilities to be open at 100 percent again.

“The Y is probably one of the best things that ever happened to Kokomo. It’s a social place. It’s a workout place. You feel healthy, happy. You smile all the time. It’s just a different style of life,” Shemoel said.