With the negative stressors of the world around us, I made a commitment to blogging about local heroes in our community (there are a lot of them so be sure to send me a private message or email if there is someone you want me to write about). But I’ve chosen first to highlight Live a Little Fitness as they have been truly supportive partners with many of us Taking Off Pounds Sensibly. Their energy is infectious, and they have created safe spaces literally for ALL ability levels, demonstrating modifications at every turn, creating team work for support. It is all totally awesome, and we thank them.
I’ve never been one of those people who post pictures of my abs, even back when I had them, which was before the internet even existed so there would have been no posting anyway. I’m not one to share how far I’ve hiked or run or biked– and to be clear– I do not begrudge those who do. Everyone’s fitness or weight loss journey is different and should remain a judgement free zone. What I do know to be true is that since January, when TOPS (Taking Off Pounds Sensibly) came to town, there have been about 40 women (of all ages and dimensions) with a sprinkling of men who have committed themselves to rethinking food and fitness, changing mindsets, joining exercise classes and supporting one another in the journey. Together, we’ve lost a considerable amount of weight, but we’ve done so with a lot of laughter and honesty– and those successes are not always about the scale.
Then one night at our TOPS meeting (we meet Mondays at 5 in the community center if anyone is interested) our fearless group leaders invited Margarita Dufresne and Sarah Beaudin of Live a Little Fitness to introduce this Kick Start program to encourage new participants to try out a class or two or seven. They are joined by instructors Nikki Donahue, Doris Soucy, Kristy Durpris, and Becca Gosselin, and offer a whole slew of classes including yoga, kickboxing, Barre, STRONG, and even a summer boot camp two nights a week (Mon/Thur at 630 behind the elementary school if anyone is interested). Their website for Live a Little Fitness for more information about classes and schedules and costs, etc.
“I’ve always wanted to create an army of badass healthy women. Women who inspire and lead communities. Women who are proud of their bodies. Women who are physically and mentally ready to take on the world. To achieve that, I create classes that empower and encourage women to be who they are and bravely stand where they are. I encourage students to tip toe to their comfort zone and take it a breath beyond.” Margarita Dufresne, owner and instructor
“For me everything started when Margarita first opened up the studio and I would constantly tell myself, “This is what I want to be doing. Why am I not doing this?” I knew fitness, I knew how much it helped me as a therapy in so many ways, and I knew the next step was making that crossover from client to instructor. However, like so many people, taking that leap into the unknown, into something brand new scares me more than spiders. It took over a year for me to even mention anything to someone out loud that this was something I really wanted to do. And even longer for me to mention it to Margarita. And thank goodness for her asking me if I would like to teach Kickboxing because who knows if I would have moved past that fear of the unknown…As an instructor I am in constant awe and so proud of what is currently happening. It all started with wanting to encourage and instill fitness on our community as a whole. To be supportive, to push, and hold people accountable. To show people they can literally do anything no matter their current level, situation, or age. And I think for me too, to just have people feel the benefits of working out in both a physical and therapeutic way. And I suppose now too for them to know I get that new stuff and going out on a limb can be the scariest part, but I am there to help anyone get past that.” Sarah Beaudin, instructor
“Something I really love about the studio is that our instructors are all real people- not all small little fitness robots in sports bras that are often marketed when it comes to fitness classes. We work well together as a team and I know they always have my back, and I have their full support. It’s great that our students know we are human as well; we have good days/bad days, make mistakes when cueing, forget combos in the middle of class, etc. I was nervous about this when I started teaching but our student community is so understanding and forgiving! It’s fantastic! With the kickstart program being such a success it has been great to get lots of new local faces in the studio and see people change physically and mentally with their attitudes towards fitness.
Recently, we had to purchase new resistance bands (at a higher resistance) because everyone was becoming so strong! It’s great! I have also found that teaching classes keeps me on track too, which is just another added bonus! I remember one class when we were doing a particularly challenging leg series, and I said to the ladies, “Embrace the shake!” and someone yelled out in response, “Will my legs ever stop shaking like yours?” I wanted them to know that my legs absolutely still shake with these hard moves and that that is the point! Shaking isn’t a sign of weakness-it’s our muscles working to their fullest potential and that’s how we get strong and gain muscle! It was so great after class to hear everyone talking about yes even the instructor still shakes, and that it is actually a good thing in these situations! I love working with these ladies and showing that fitness can be fun to everyone in out “fit tribe” community that is constantly growing!” Nikki Donahue, instructor
Tracy Shamberger was instrumental in bringing a TOPS chapter to Lincoln Woodstock and remains a guiding force, motivational leader, and participant.
“I am a fan of support groups and knew if this was something I was battling on my own THAT their had to be others who were too. I love being able to lift people up and let them know they are not alone, and WE can do this together. I was a member of another weight loss club, and I did love it. What bothered me most was the high cost of membership; I wanted to find a group that was feasible for everyone. TOPS allows access for support and ideas and honesty and accountability; plus, we laugh a lot which helps to bring people back each Monday.”
Kim Pickering is another founding members of our local TOPS chapter, who has also embraced the partnership with Live a Little Fitness.
“Being around inspiring women who continuously support you, encourage you, and help you step outside your comfort zone is so empowering. Each woman brings something different to the group and the really amazing part of this is that I didn’t know many of these women before joining TOPS or Live a Little Fitness. I look forward to spending time with these women each week and knowing that I help encourage and inspire them as well.”
On a personal note, I have not been part of a team sport (as a player and not a coach) since my adult soccer leagues and hoop teams years ago. Belonging to a “fit tribe” and “an army of badass healthy women” is really good place to be. Thank you to TOPS and Live a Little Fitness!