It is not everyday someone asks you to dance like a crab.
Dressed in black leggings, turquoise tank top, and blue running shoes, I plunked myself down on the gym floor and perched myself on all four limbs, throwing one leg and an arm into the air, alternating sides.
I felt like anything other than a crab. I felt slow and awkward. This was definitely no graceful crab dance, if there is such a thing.
But, believe it or not, it counted as exercise.
“It’s a nice, quick workout. It really keeps the heart rate up,” Daniela Girimonte told me afterward.
A fitness instructor at the Bradford West Gwillimbury Leisure Centre, she teaches a Body Shred class, which was created by The Biggest Loser trainer Jillian Michaels, that involves doing high-intensity exercises in 30-second bursts.
And that is where I learned to dance like a crab.
Participants do 30-second exercises — from mountain climbers, to front planks, to burpees, to dancing crab — following a 3-2-1 method: three minutes of resistance training, two minutes of cardio and endurance, and one minute of ab workout.
All of that happens four times, followed by a cooldown.
The idea behind the 3-2-1 method, Girimonte told me, is to workout using movements that involve the entire body.
And she was right. For the entire 35-minute class, I did not stop moving. I was up doing jumping jacks, and then down on the floor doing planks.
Needless to say, I was sore the next day.
But for anyone pressed for time, or who is interested in a workout that gives a wide range of exercises, Body Shred seems like a good option.
To top it off, the popular class was filled with people of all ages and abilities, women and men, so anyone could feel welcome to join.
And that is exactly how the staff at the leisure centre want people to feel about its programs.
“The leisure centre is one of the best places for both (classes and individual workouts),” Girimonte said. “It’s a no-pressure environment. It’s more of a community vibe as soon as you enter. You’re feeding off people’s energy.”
Girimonte said she often sees people come workout at the leisure centre in the mornings and then come back that evening for a class.
“People get intimidated by ‘bootcamp.’ It’s a challenge, (but) you don’t have to get scared. You can go at your own pace,” said Enrico Mazzone, fitness programmer at the leisure centre.
“There’s a lot of benefit (to joining the leisure centre). It’s its own little hub.”
Stephanie Uren, fitness supervisor at the leisure centre, recently invited me to take a tour of the modern facility, which only opened seven years ago.
Beyond the floor-to-ceiling glass walls at the entrance, the leisure centre holds one main gym with basketball courts, two NHL-sized ice rinks, three pools, two multipurpose spaces that have been rented for everything from baby showers, to bar mitzvahs, as well as fitness and childminding areas.
In the fitness area on the second floor, there is space for classes and equipment, as well as a 110-metre indoor track, which is often used by people in Southlake Regional Health Centre’s Cardiac Prevention and Rehabilitation program, Uren said.
This means, she added, BWG residents can stay in their community to complete the health program instead of having to drive to Newmarket.
The leisure centre’s recent annual Megathon event also supports that program.
As Uren and I walk around the indoor track, she shows me some of the fitness equipment, from the Assault AirRunner treadmill that moves faster the quicker you run, and accessible equipment with removable seats to allow people with wheelchairs to use them (the change rooms are also accessible).
And then there is the Jacobs Ladder.
It looks similar to a StairMaster, but instead of walking on it, you hold on to what look like ladder rungs and climb it with your hands and feet — the faster you go, the faster it moves.
Jacobs Ladder was featured on The Biggest Loser. “They suspended it over a pool, and when the people fell, they fell into the pool,” Uren explained. “We don’t do that here.”
Between 1,500 and 1,700 people are members of the leisure centre, and its staff try to make it as welcoming and social as possible, she said.
Ever wonder why there are few TVs in front of cardio equipment there?
“That’s intentional. We want people to sort of interact with each other,” Uren said.
As well, there is always a fitness coach on duty to answer questions or provide advice, and the centre offers free 45-minute sessions with its trainers, who can design individual programs, also for free.
The leisure centre also runs six-week Mission Slimpossible weight-loss challenges, which are done in teams to help people be more accountable to their goals and create a supportive environment, Uren said.
Registration opened in late February for the next one, which starts at the end of April.
As Uren tours me around the facility, the list goes on and on of all the measures the centre has put in place to help people succeed at reaching fitness goals and connect them with other people: it is a hub for Fitness for Breath, a partnership with the Ontario Lung Association; it offers water therapy for people after an operation who cannot quite handle an aquafit class; it holds parent-and-baby fitness programs; it has monthly fitness challenges for all members; and it has a Together In Movement and Exercise program for people with balance and mobility issues.
The leisure centre even hosts socializing events on Tuesdays and Thursdays every week from 10 a.m. to noon for anyone in the community, members or not, who just want some company and a $1 coffee or tea.
“A huge component is the social aspect,” Uren said. “We really want to build that community sense. Everyone can participate here.”
For more information about the BWG Leisure Centre, visit the website.
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