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Longboat Key Wednesday, Apr. 12, 2017 5 years ago

Twenty-one and out for 'Aerobic Grandma'

Yoga and Pilates classes at Bayfront Park will continue with new instructors.

“Get out while you’re still winning” is generally a wise strategy. And that’s what I’m doing at the end of this month when I teach my final Joy Of Stretch/Yoga and Pilates classes at Bayfront Park after 21 and 13 seasons, respectively. That’s a respectable number of years for a second career launched when I was a mere 55 years old. 

A bit of history: My original work life was about as far removed from fitness as imaginable. I was an ad woman working at major agencies in Detroit and New York. Around about my 50th birthday I had the sudden, if belated, insight that I was going to be living in my body for probably another quarter of a century. Maybe more. 

My 60-to-80 hour workweeks replete with smoking, careless eating and relentless business travel were suddenly questionable. I bought a “Dancing Grannies” video, quit smoking, started an exercise regimen and hired a trainer, Bernadette Kathryn, who remains an inspiration, a friend and an adopted daughter. My first grandchild arrived in 1992 and my late aunt Marcia Stern Alexander dubbed me the “Aerobic Grandma,” which moniker I continue to use proudly.

Fast forward to 1996. I had left my agency job to care for my husband, Arnie Rosen, who soon died. I needed to do something life affirming and to get the smell of the hospital out of my nose, so I took courses, passed the first exam I had taken in 35 years and received a Personal Trainer Certification from the American Council on Exercise. 

Another early (1997) certification was Reebok “Flexible Strength,” a fitness-industry iteration of yoga built around the sun salutation. That was the foundation of my “Joy of Stretch” class, so named because in those days, yoga was about vegetarians and high colonics.

Next up were certifications to teach Power Pilates mat classes. I thought Pilates was a fad; I was dead wrong. Those classes continue to grow and now draw as many and often more students as yoga. 

I have to thank a bunch of people for the success of my second career, beginning with my own yogis and teachers. They include Bernadette, Patricia “Niti” Seip of Lenox, Mass., Christine Hall of Carpinteria, Calif., Kathryn Dandois-Boivin and Michelle Sibilia of Sarasota, and Veda Alban of Bradenton. I am deeply grateful for their wisdom and patience.

I owe special thanks to Mark Richardson, Streets, Facilities and Parks and Recreation manager for Longboat Key. Not only has he been diligent and extremely supportive over his 11 years of running the Bayfront Park Recreation Center, he managed the remarkable feat of getting the building open on schedule this January amidst all the ongoing work on the grounds. It is only regrettable that while the town can find $2 million plus to expand and improve the grounds, it has done virtually nothing to improve the park’s only revenue producing component, the crumbling, 1970s handed-down-from-Far-Horizons shack where the classes take place.

Like most teachers, I have learned more from my students than they have learned from me. My first lesson was a brutal one. I was teaching a toning class at the West Bay Athletic Club in Bradenton. I was new; the class was long-established. The students came as much to chat as to work out. I tried to silence them and boy, did I get a crash course in the importance of the social component of exercise classes!  One of my students drove it home just the other day. “You can’t stop,” she protested, “This is my support group.”  But I should stop while I still feel good about the learning (and the socializing!) I am providing. 

I love my students who are way too kind and loyal to ever complain. But I catch my own little slips. There are some moves that are increasingly difficult for my arthritic joints to demonstrate. I have the same sense that Susan Goldfarb expressed when she told me she was ceasing to teach her yoga classes, and I’m so grateful that she shared it with me. 

The universe is telling me it is time to turn the page. This has been a joyous, rewarding experience for which I am grateful to say the least. And I know that Mark Richardson is doing his dependable best to keep the Bayfront Park class schedule intact.

The spirit in me honors the spirit in each of you. Namasté. 

Molly Schechter is an ACE-certified personal trainer with a specialty in older adult fitness plus YogaFit Instructor Training, SCF Yoga Fundamentals I and II, SCF “Active Aging,” and Power Pilates Mat Certifications. She teaches classes at the Bayfront Park Recreation Center. E-mail her at [email protected]

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