Small Group Classes Offer Alternative Outlets For Exercise

Photo Participants take their stresses and calories out on chairs at St. Anne's in Calais, (Photo by Eunju Won). 

By Jarod Farn-Guillette

With the recent closing of Curves in Calais, many (women especially) are probably left wondering where they can achieve their health and fitness goals. Though there are a few gyms in the area, including the fitness center at WCCC, a lot of people enjoy and benefit from the camaraderie associated with group fitness classes. While Curves offered many options and a supportive environment for women to maintain or improve their health and wellness, there are other alternative venues in Calais and the surrounding area. Some, in places you wouldn't associate with physical well-being. 

One such location is St. Anne's, in Calais. If your spirits are low and praying isn't your thing, endorphins have been proven to improve both health and mood, more so when released with a group. Margo Puma, a licensed Zumba instructor, offers small fitness and exercise classes in the church's recreational room, mornings from Monday to Thursday. Her popular “Chair Drumming” class, sticks banging on metal chairs to the beat of Shakira and other pop-songs, is a lively beginner course.  According to Puma, “It is a good beginner course, especially for elderly or mobility-impaired persons because they can start sitting down, stay sitting down. They have options.” Puma's beginnings in fitness started in university. While studying hospitality in France and working in the tourism industry, she was always interested in helping people achieve confidence, her most important goal for each student. When the opportunity arose to manage the youth fitness program at a large gym in Connecticut, she jumped in and never stopped jumping.  While managing the programming she also completed her professional licensure in Zumba. 

Upon returning to Calais, she noticed a niche market in the area for busy parents that couldn't make the evening times, offered by other Zumba classes in Calais. She decided to start her own morning classes at St. Anne's. Her classes, particularly the drumming, have grown in attendance by a diverse group of students. Ranging in age from early 30s to one participant in her 80s, with kids running around, bouncing in and out, the atmosphere is less demanding gym routine and more family friendly fun. Puma states, “One lady in her 80s that [started] went from not finishing the class to within three weeks being able to stand the whole drumming class.”

While many think of exercise as a chore, a necessary pain-in-the-everything (if you’re working out hard enough), her goal is to turn the chore into a pleasurable pursuit, saying, “One thing I would  like to say about why I love fitness is that to me fitness is fun. That's the reason for choosing to stick with Zumba and adding the drumming, as there is an element of silliness and fun to banging on chairs for exercise. I hope to make fitness something fun that participants look forward to and see as a pleasurable part of their life instead of a chore with a specific end goal. The more they enjoy it, the more likely they are to want to incorporate it into their routine and make it a lifestyle that leads to better overall health. We are definitely there to have a good time.” With classes open to anyone, men and women, young and young-at-heart, there is no excuse not to join. 

For those with busy morning schedules or late-sleepers, the area has several other options. Tina Seelye offers Zumba at Barbara's School of Dance. There are evening Zumba classes at the Wabanaki Center, downtown Calais. As Zumba is a branded product with a set curriculum, all classes will retain similar elements. With each being taught by a licensed Zumba instructor, each class also maintains a high level of professionalism and rigor. Being formulated to maintain high cardio-burn, Zumba operates as an interval training exercise, periods of intense exercise with slow downs in between. For those not yet ready for the alternating pace of Zumba, Peaceful Postures on North Street offers Yoga. 

 While it may seem at times that the economy of Calais shuts out opportunities and limits many of the amenities found in larger urban centers, perhaps in part it is this current reality, met with good ole' Downeast gusto that rises to the challenge. This forming of a small-scale economy of services such as church-based fitness is one way we persevere and build community for a better, and healthier future. So dust off you limbs and get ready for spring at a local Zumba class.