Q&A with Carrie Yanishewski, volunteer instructor for Active Aging and Fourth Creek Fitness

Editor’s Note: In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, Carrie Yanishewski’s fitness classes in Fourth Creek as well as in Spirit River have been suspended. Classes will resume in the fall.

Carrie Yanishewski

You run fitness programs in Fourth Creek as well as at the Spirit of Peace United Church. What made you decide to offer fitness programs?
I saw a need for fitness programming for seniors in rural areas based on their desire to “die with their boots on” on the farm. Living independently and well is a desire for all of us. I decided to research grants to purchase the necessary equipment to get started. I applied for a Falls Prevention grant from the University of Alberta Centre for Injury Prevention and Control, which guaranteed three years of funding.

The yearly reporting was extensive but worthwhile. My mother-in-law encouraged me to start a program in Spirit River, the director of the grant program at the UofA approved, and I got that grant as well.

Spirit River Active Aging classes are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Spirit of Peace United Church. The Fourth Creek Fitness classes are held on Mondays and Wednesdays at the Fourth Creek Hall.

How long have you been running these programs?
I started the program in Fourth Creek in the fall of 2011, and I started the Spirit River group in 2013.

Why is fitness an important part of our daily routine?
Being active is an important part of a daily routine. Get up and get moving! Exercising in this program is designed to improve strength, balance and functional fitness to prevent falls and improve overall well-being.

Do you have any suggestions for people who started the New Year with good intentions but have a hard time keeping up a fitness routine?
Trying to do it all on your own is tough. Being a part of a group makes the time more enjoyable. We are not naturally geared to work harder, so a group of friends or a personal trainer helps to motivate. Feeling good after a workout keeps you coming back.

What makes fitness in a group environment more fun?
The social aspect of being with people close to your own age and ability is great. Sharing stories, sharing opinions and laughing with others is what makes the classes fun and keeps me coming back.

How long have you been interested in being fit?
I have always been involved in fitness in one form or another. I taught physical education for 28 years before retiring and starting these programs. I have played sports for years – softball, curling, hockey, golfing.

What are your programs like?
I have two programs in each location. One is meant for older adults who are new to doing workouts, some with physical issues, who are interested in getting stronger to do the things many of us take for granted, like getting up off the floor, going up and down the stairs, walking on uneven ground, feeling better. The second program is more challenging for older adults who are generally in good health and want to stay that way. My programs use a variety of equipment to improve strength, flexibility and posture by focusing on resistance training, balance and functional fitness. A large variety of equipment gives everyone a choice of what weight is best for their needs, the speed and duration of each exercise. In these programs, pain means “stop”!

Is any type of fitness good? Or, does it have to be high-intensity training to have an impact?
Anything that gets you up and onto your feet is great – walking, riding a bike, gardening, tobogganing, yoga, tai chi, parkour, hockey, pickleball. Fitness classes all involve moving so do it. I do believe that sitting around is as harmful to our bodies as eating junk food and smoking. High-intensity training is great when guided by a trained professional.

How would I get started?
My best advice is to make moving a daily goal. There are opportunities to be active every day. Limit your sitting to 20 minutes at a time, then get up and move around for a couple of minutes. If the desire for a more formal experience is required, where you will be doing more exercise to improve your strength and balance, my classes are open to anyone in their 50’s or older at any time.

What would make me keep coming back?
The people who are in the classes will keep you coming back. Years of survey feedback show what people like the most about coming to my classes is the social time with others. The best programs offer great exercise and give you a good feeling, and the people who come to these classes are wonderful. The age range right now is from 52 to 78, and we have fun.

How do you figure out what program is right for someone?
The best program is the one which you are comfortable doing. If you do not like getting up and down off the floor, the easier program is better suited for you. I have many types of balance aids and equipment to help people with balance issues and other physical issues. However, always check with your medical doctor to approve a program for your situation.

If you are training to be part of a marathon, the more intense program will be beneficial and a nice change of pace.

What do you enjoy when you are not teaching a fitness class?
I enjoy being a grandmother, a farmer’s wife, and volunteering in my community. I am on several boards and keep busy doing the books for our businesses. I love to travel. I have a garden and love picking berries. Lately, I find myself back in the arenas of the Peace watching my grandson. Life is good.