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Movement, meditation among free offerings from Collingwood's health and wellness community

'We can’t underestimate the importance of keeping our body moving,' said Collingwood fitness trainer Chris Brakel

Collingwood's trainers and practitioners aren't giving up on their practice or their work, even with gyms and studios closed since mid-March 

Local experts in fitness, health and wellness want to keep doing what they do and teaching those who want to do it too. In many cases that means taking their classes online and offering them for free.

For Danielle Belec, owner of Second Wind Pilates Plus, the idea came during one of her daily movement sessions.

“People need to move, and I need to move, so I thought I would start recording my self-practice,” said Belec. “I put the camera up and before I knew it I was teaching, and I haven’t stopped.”

Her virtual classes were born.

Belec continues to record her daily self-practice and offers the videos free of charge on her website and YouTube channel. She also started hosting weekly pilates, yoga and movement therapy sessions through Facebook Live every Monday at noon. All of her classes are low impact and prioritize the breath, focus, and “really moving from the inside out.”

“As humans, the anxiety of the unknown, we aren’t good at that,” said Belec. “I experience life through movement and I think being in your body is so important, especially with all of this anxiety.”

Through her videos, Belec has been able to connect with past students and colleagues as well, which she said is an added bonus. She intends to continue posting videos for as long as the pandemic lasts, and hopes they are widely shared so everyone can find some strength and release.

“This is our reality, just a different reality, and it’s terrifying,” said Belec. “But what do you do with it? You breathe. Use your breath and mindful movement to keep coming home.”

Jennifer Nocito, of Yoga First and Spa, and her 17-year-old daughter, Annabella, have also been focusing on the benefits of breath to get through this difficult time.

Nocito, who is a registered massage therapist and yoga and pilates instructor, decided to create a YouTube channel with the help of her daughter to keep the community connected. The videos include a combination of yoga flows, pilates, workouts, low impact cardio, gentle stretching, motivation and meditation, and can all be done from home.

“There is a little something for everyone on the channel,” said Nocito.

Like many, Nocito found herself out of work and wanted to alleviate some of the financial stress for others, so her channel is free to subscribe to and can be accessed from anywhere.

“There is a lot of stress and anxiety and up and down as far as the unknown,” said Nocito. “We wanted to create an outlet for people to stay physically moving and also give them that mental break to clear their mind and stay calm.”

Nocito also realized that with the majority of the world working from home, a lot of people are on their computers more and in general, sitting, sleeping and being stagnant more. So she wanted to create a fun way to keep people moving.

“Studies have proven that sitting is the new smoking, and that’s just in normal, everyday life,” said Nocito. “Of course now we have this added stress on us, this could be a way to release and let go."

The project has also helped Nocito and her daughter stay busy, who are isolating together at their home in Collingwood.

“We’ve been wanting to do something like this for a while, so we’ve really enjoyed making these videos and coming up with different ideas,” said Nocito. “We’re always talking about what we could do next. It’s a neat project.”

For Collingwood’s gym junkies, some of the local fitness studios have created other ways to offer at-home sweat sessions.

Chris Brakel, the owner of the new F45 Training studio that was set to open in Collingwood later this spring, is excited about the at-home experience they have put together in the meantime.

“Our entire community is all too familiar with the negative impacts this crisis has had, which for many has resulted in varying levels of stress, anxiety and sleepless nights,” said Brakel. “One effective way of combating those symptoms is through physical exercise and nutrition.”

Brakel is introducing the F45 Challenge, which is a 45-day fitness challenge that will run from April 13 to May 27. Along with F45 at-home workouts, the challenge is complete with daily meal plans, goal tracking and nutrition advice, and it is free for the community for the month of April.

“Our goal is to help change the narrative and shine a spotlight on one of the ways we can take advantage of this crazy time to better both our physical and mental health,” Brakel said. “We can’t underestimate the importance of keeping our body moving, and remembering healthy and nutritious food is one of the best medicines for your immune system.”

While a good sweat session is an effective way to alleviate stress, there's also sometimes a need to look inward.

Amanda Evans, founder of Mind Body Soul Miracles, offers Monday Meditations to recentre and destress at the start of every week.

After government recommendations for self-isolation were announced in March, Evans took her practice online.

“Meditation can be done anywhere, it’s all about intention,” said Evans. “I wanted to offer a safe space for people who have not had much experience meditating to get a chance to try it and experience the effects, the benefit and the ‘calm’ that can help them meet any chaos or fears.”

Every Monday morning at 8:30 a.m., Evans hosts a 45-minute guided meditation session through Instagram Live.

“I love to meditate in groups because there is something that happens when we do this together,” she continued. “It seems even more fitting because everyone should use any tools they can to find their centre, calm and feel more grounded during this time.”

Maddie Johnson

About the Author: Maddie Johnson

Maddie Johnson is an early career journalist working in financial, small business, adventure and lifestyle reporting. She studied Journalism at the University of King's College, and worked in Halifax, Malta and Costa Rica before settling in Collingwood
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