Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Drop-in aquafit instructor making a splash in Blossom Park | CBC News

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Seven years ago, Yuri Tsay was looking for a new way to share her passion for active living with others.

The search led her to Sawmill Creek Community Centre and Pool, where she’s been instructing aquafit classes ever since.

Aquafit is an exercise method in which aerobic exercises are performed in water. But it’s not just the fitness method that’s kept Tsay around.

“It’s really the participants,” she said. “I feed off their happiness, their enthusiasm, their ability to just always want to move.”

Tsay teaches drop-in aquafit classes at the centre every Friday morning. Over the years, she’s built up a group of committed participants.

“I have a lot of regulars that I see and we’re like family,” said Tsay.

That family is made up of participants anywhere from 30 to 90 years old. Many of Tsay’s regulars are retirees upwards of 60. Others are pregnant, injured or simply looking for a gentle way to move.

Tsay said the wide age range comes down to the accessibility of the fitness method.

“Aquafitness is for all ages and for all people,” Tsay said.

More than just exercise

On average, Tsay said her classes range in size from 15 to 30 people.

Like Tsay, participants are often there for more than just physical fitness. The classes are an exercise in psychosocial well-being, too.

“To be honest, I’ve never seen an unhappy aquafit participant,” Tsay said.

Several of Tsay’s participants say she’s part of the reason they leave drop-in sessions feeling content.

Inside the pool and out, Tsay says aquafit participants are a happy bunch. (Jodie Applewaithe/CBC)

“She doesn’t look like she’s working,” said Wendy Cummings, one of Tsay’s regulars. “She’s just coming in here to have a good time and she’s always coming up with something new.”

Cummings has been attending classes at Sawmill Creek for about seven years — the same amount of time that Tsay has been an aquafit instructor at the centre.

“I will not miss a Yuri class,” Cummings said. 

She turned to aquafit after leaving group fitness classes feeling sore. In the pool, she found a workout class that reasonably pushes her limits in a welcoming atmosphere.

Ratana Saralertsophone (left) and Wendy Cummings (right) stand, smiling, in front of a 25 metre swimming pool.
Ratana Saralertsophon, left, and Wendy Cummings, right, often attend classes instructed by Tsay. (Jodie Applewaithe/CBC)

Ratana Saralertsophon visits the community centre twice a week. She usually takes Tsay’s strength training class, but occasionally finds herself at the pool for an aquafit session.

“She’s energetic and she’s clear,” she said of Tsay.

On the last Friday of every month, Tsay hosts a coffee and tea gathering at the community centre to bring people together outside of the pool. 

“It gives us a chance to socialize and talk to each other,” Saralertsophon said.

Saralertsophon, who is retired after a career in the public service, said she cherishes those opportunities, and said these days she often sees her friends at the centre more than she sees her own kids.

“People feel like a family,” Tsay said. “It’s really a big community bonding environment that we have here at Sawmill Creek.”

‘From high cardio to healing’

Aquafit is known to be a beneficial form of rehabilitation for people recovering from illness or injuries such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis and fibromyalgia. 

The water doubles as both an aid and a challenge for participants, offering a low-impact medium for fitness while boosting resistance due to its density. Tsay said the workout offers a welcome challenge that a wide demographic of people can safely meet.

“We see a lot of participants come in because the water is so much softer and more buoyant on the joints,” she said.

Tsay stands in a lunge position on a fitness mat in from of a swimming pool. Seven participants mimic her posture in the water.
Tsay says aquafit is a suitable workout for participants of any age because its intensity can be modified. (Jodie Applewaithe/CBC)

Regardless of age or physical fitness, Tsay said everyone who shows up to her classes gives the workout their all.

“It’s so inspiring,” Tsay said. “It makes you want to just continue and keep teaching so that everyone can live a very healthy and happy life.”

Aquafit classes at Sawmill Creek last 55 minutes, starting with a warm-up and gearing up to a combination of cardio and strength training.

While low-impact, Tsay said an aquafit workout can be made no less intense than a trip to the gym. 

“My eight o’clock class that I teach at Sawmill Creek is a very high cardio class and it’s a very big workout,” she said.”It ranges from high cardio to healing.”

Drop-in aquafit classes at Sawmill Creek are scheduled Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at 8 a.m., 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., and Tuesday evenings from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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