Twice a week at the Coggin Avenue Baptist Church gymnasium, older adults from throughout Brown County gather for a weekday workout. Some come as couples, others by themselves, but they all meet as friends.
Aaron Cloud and his wife Anna have been attending the SilverSneakers fitness class for about five months. “There’s a little bit of comradeship, as you might have noticed,” Cloud said after the Thursday morning class. “Visiting afterwards, and beforehand.”
Cloud said he began attending to get in shape. “It’s been good,” he said. “I wasn’t exercising at home any, and this way I get a little bit twice a week.”
Attendee Nadean George, who attends with her husband John, said she’s been coming to class for four years. George said she used to take pain medication but doesn’t need it any more. “I could barely move, and I was in a lot of pain,” George said. “Now I’m just pain-free.”
At the front of the gym is instructor Krista Johnson, who spends the 45-minute session exhorting, encouraging and gently pushing the attendees with light cardio, chair exercises, resistance bands, dumbbells and even a small rubber ball.
Johnson said stories like George’s have become commonplace during her nine years of teaching. “We have an inspirational member who began attending in January of 2015,” Johnson said. “She had to take the city bus to come to class, used a walker to get around, was greatly hunched over and had trouble seeing and hearing.”
Just a year later? “In January of 2016, she was driving herself to class, she could stand upright and see and hear more clearly,” she said. “She could even dance!”
Johnson, who teaches multiple fitness classes as part of her business, Fit by Faith, said the SilverSneakers class has about 40 regular attendees and meets each Tuesday and Thursday at 11:15 a.m. She’s been teaching SilverSneakers at Coggin for three years.
The class begins with some light cardio as attendees marched in place and warmed up their arms and legs. It then transitioned to dumbbell exercises, strengthening biceps and triceps, before moving to the resistance bands to strengthen areas like the wrists and forearms.
The rubber ball was used to work on the calves, thighs and back. “I feel muscles I didn’t know I had before,” said Cloud.
The workout is challenging, but not too much so, and Johnson encourages attendees to push themselves without doing anything they’re uncomfortable with.
For Johnson, it’s all about fighting the idea that limited mobility and physical breakdown have to be a normal part of old age. “You don’t realize some of the little things you stop being able to do when you quit moving,” she said.
She credits her “amazing,” hard-working class with inspiring her to continue teaching. “They’re my favorite group. They’re such a blessing,” Johnson said.
Each class ends with attendees picking out a colorful slip of paper from a “Happy Thoughts” jar on the sign-in table. The jar is full of inspirational quotes and sayings from scripture and great thinkers from world history.
One listed Don Miguel Ruiz’s “The Four Agreements.”
“1. Be impeccable with your word. 2. Don’t take anything personally. 3. Don’t make assumptions. 4. Always do your best.”
Johnson’s SilverSneakers class is free and open to the public, including non-seniors. Coggin Avenue Baptist Church is located at 1815 Coggin Ave. SilverSneakers is a registered trademark of Tivity Health.