Inspiring Exercisers Around the World

by April Durrett on Mar 04, 2009

Inspire the World to FitnessĀ®

IDEA members reach out to their communities in unique ways.

IDEA members everywhere strive to help clients improve their health and wellness. Whether they are working with older adults, children or athletes, they use their knowledge and motivational talents to make a difference. The following stories describe a sampling of the wonderful programs that IDEA members and fitness pros and enthusiasts are conducting to Inspire the World to Fitness®.

The International Language of Yoga

Isabelle Skaburskis and NataRaj Yoga are introducing the joys of yoga to expatriates and Cambodians alike in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The student body at NataRaj is mostly made up of expatriates and visitors from all over the world, and it is not uncommon to hear several different languages passing between students and teachers during classes. However, NataRaj also encourages Cambodian participation in yoga by offering special prices for locals, giving workshops outside the studio to introduce the practice and working with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Skaburskis is also training Yan Vannac, NataRaj administrator and masseur, to lead classes in Khmer.

Skaburskis and Vannac teach a weekly volunteer class with Agape International Missions, a human rights NGO that houses and cares for trafficked girls under the age of 18. The classes are intended to encourage the girls to believe in their own strength and capabilities, as well as to teach them to breathe fully. The pair also leads classes for a small group of young Cambodians from a local government-run orphanage.

Small Groups, Big Results

In 2007 Rhonda Catt started a LifeFit small-group personal training program through her business, CATT Conditioning, in Lumby, British Columbia. “I created a lifestyle program that includes fitness classes, educational sessions, motivational meetings, online support and group activities for one monthly fee. Clients must commit for at least 3 months.”

Catt is pleased with the program. “The group has turned into a fitness family that laughs, shares and loves every minute of the sweating, moaning and groaning! Results have been amazing, and the commitment level within this small-group program is phenomenal.”

While Catt has inspired her students, they have also inspired her. “At the end of 2007, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer,” she says. “I felt like my world had collapsed, but my work with my clients helped me. Each class was a time to smile and fill my mind with something other than worrying about my mom. My goal was to inspire my clients and change their lifestyles, and in return they gave me more inspiration then I ever would have imagined.”

Scaling the Seven Summits

When Wendy Booker of Beverly, Massachusetts, was first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1998, she was devastated. However, she transformed her anguish into inspiration. Staying active was her way of coping and accepting her condition.

She learned about a team of mountain climbers with MS who were attempting to climb Mt. McKinley (Denali) in Alaska. With no previous climbing experience, she dedicated a year to hard training and set off with them in 2002. Although weather conditions prohibited the team from completing the climb, she attempted the summit again in 2004 and succeeded!

Her feeling of accomplishment propelled her next aspiration: to climb the highest mountain on each continent. She is now the first person with MS to have successfully reached the top of six of the seven summits: Kilimanjaro, Denali, Elbrus, Aconcagua, Vinson Massif and Kosciuszko. Mt. Everest looms large for this year.

Booker’s mission involves many physical challenges along the way. For example, the toes on her left foot are completely numb, and she is numb from her toes to the top of her rib cage on her left side. In addition, she suffers from dizzy spells and occasionally has vision trouble.

She now enjoys being a motivational speaker, telling her story to raise awareness of MS, raising funds to find a cure and inspiring those who are suffering.

Helping Seniors Prevent Falls

James Fitzgerald loves his work inspiring clients as owner of MVP Fitness in Amherst, Massachusetts, and teaching group fitness classes at the Hampshire Athletic Club, also in Amherst. However, what inspires him the most is the Project Enhance program through Highland Valley Elder Services in Florence, Massachusetts.

“Project Enhance is an evidence-based program in which exercises are designed and performed to reduce the risk of falling in older adults,” he says. “Data is compiled and forwarded to Senior Services in Seattle. Senior Services works with the University of Washington and the Centers for Disease Control to determine the effectiveness of the program.”

Clients rave about Fitzgerald’s teaching at both Amherst and Northampton (Massachusetts) Council on Aging facilities. “I feel grateful to be able to educate, motivate and inspire the world to fitness,” he says.

Empowerment Through Yoga

In 1982 a car hit Kimberly Fowler during a bike race and she was severely injured. A physical therapist introduced her to Iyengar yoga, which helped her heal and realign her body.

Unfortunately, misfortune struck again. Barely back on her feet in 1983, she was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor. She left the hospital determined to prove her doctor’s hopeless diagnosis wrong. Her evolving yoga practice became the center of her recovery. “Practicing yoga while battling cancer taught me the importance of balancing strength with flexibility,” she says. “Focusing on my breath helped me stay centered when in physically or mentally challenging situations.”

Today Fowler is dedicated to inspiring others. She opened YAS Fitness Centers, in Venice, California, and created YOGA for ATHLETES® to reduce the risk of injury and enhance athletic performance. It combines elements of Iyengar, ashtanga and power yoga. Her determination to help others realize their potential stems from her experience with the capacity of the human body and mind to overcome obstacles and regain health. “I want to empower my students to become their own teachers,” she explains.

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About the Author

April Durrett

April Durrett IDEA Author/Presenter

April Durrett is a contributing editor for IDEA Fitness Journal.