Though necessary, following COVID-19 social distancing measures means that Carleton Athletics has needed to find new ways to stay connected to the Ottawa fitness community. Despite having to swiftly move to an online format, the Senior Ravens Fitness offerings at Carleton Athletics are thriving.

The variety of live and on-demand classes is led by Carleton Humanities Adjunct Research Professor Tom Sherwood. Participation in his classes has grown from dozens weekly to triple digits. He says the purpose of his classes aimed at the 55+ age category is to meet the fitness goals of the participants, whatever they are.

“I try to be aware and coach people as they work toward (their goals). Some people are seeking to maintain a certain level of fitness – strength, flexibility, endurance, balance, sense of well-being. Some people are recovering from surgery or a specific injury. Some are referred by the Heart Institute. Some people are combining the classes with other intentional aspects of their lifestyle – walking more, swimming, yoga. I vary the workouts a bit, introduce a new stretch or a variation to a familiar exercise.”

“The classes are great. It’s almost like being there in person which everyone misses.”

One of the major reasons for the success of the Senior Ravens program is its accessibility to all fitness levels. Sherwood offers basic coaching techniques for those who are starting off, which he says serve as fundamental reminders for even his advanced participants.

“I offer alternative ways to do many of the stretches and exercises to accommodate a wide range of fitness and experience levels. I also emphasize the mantra ‘make it your own workout’. This is easy to do at home, but it is easier to be aware of at the Fitness Centre, because participants can look around and see that some of their fellow participants are making adaptations. In these online classes, even while demonstrating a particular stretch or exercise as leader, I will mention alternative ways of working the same muscle group and often demonstrate them as well.”

The outcomes that participants come away with, Sherwood says, go beyond the physical. His classes serve a connective purpose: for participants to know they are not alone while under social distancing regulations. He teaches the importance of safe technique and acknowledges that the most difficult part of a fitness workout is the first step. It is his beaming positivity that has made Sherwood a star in the Carleton community, drawing his own weekly fitness following.

“We have fun. We laugh. I’ll be 72 in a few weeks, so I’ve been teaching and coaching for about 50 years. I like to teach because I love to learn. My teaching philosophy places value on learning in community, so I seek to build a community of fellow fitness seekers in the classes I lead. We build relationships as we build up or maintain our levels of fitness. I hope that each of my classes has a high sense that we are a peer group and a community – we’re all in it together.”

The personal connection with Tom is not lost on the Senior Ravens participants. “I’m really appreciating the live online fitness on Mondays and Fridays,” a participant named Suzanne shared in a testimonial to Carleton Athletics. “The classes are great. It’s almost like being there in person which everyone misses.”

All Senior Ravens fitness classes are free until the end of June. Find out when you can join Tom Sherwood for a live fitness class or follow on your own time at .

Tuesday, June 16, 2020 in ,
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