Even in lockdown, fitness trainer Ionela keeps kids moving
Ionela Leamey is offering free exercise classes for kids on Zoom, beginning Saturday.
It’s part of an effort to build her business which, like everything else, has been challenged by Covid-19.
Just as important to her is that children fall in love with movement, as it sets them up for a healthier life in their adult years.
It is how Ms Leamey, a certified personal trainer and youth specialist, got her start. “Always active” as a child in Romania she was a professional bowler for seven years, representing her country in competition throughout Europe.
“The European version is very different from the American version,” she said. “The European one, the ball is heavier, it doesn’t have any holes. You actually hold it in your hand. They have nine pins instead of ten like here; the ball is [about 6.5lbs].
“They were really great years in my life. I had so much fun and I really remember being surrounded by people who loved exercising and all that.”
Offered a job that paid more money she took it and gave bowling up. She also went to college and studied physical education, getting involved in gymnastics, tennis, volleyball, basketball and track and field.
“In Romania it’s a very poor country and we didn’t make enough money [as bowlers] so I needed to find a different way,” said Ms Leamey, who came here as a waitress in 2006. “I had the opportunity to come here and said I would give it a shot.”
In Bermuda she kept thinking about movement and how she might help other people understand its many benefits.
“Three years ago, it was one of those days when I was just looking online and trying to figure out the best way,” Ms Leamey said. “I found a course and studied that and passed my exams and everything and now I am looking to share my passion and knowledge.”
She began with adults and then, with her eight-year-old daughter in mind, she decided to expand.
“I had this passion for exercising and everything and just looking at her, it just came to my mind that it would be great if I could just put something together and just help introduce them to this lifestyle.
“We start them young and hopefully it will be part of their routine, their lifestyle, and that will bring so many benefits in the long run to keep them healthy. I want to help them understand that this has to become part of their lifestyle and how much this will help them in their future.”
Among its many benefits exercise teaches people how to adapt in uncomfortable situations, Ms Leamey said.
“Exercise forces you to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Being able to embrace uncomfortable situations is paramount to success. Exercise not only changes your body, it changes your mind, your attitude and your mood.
“Technology is taking over and lots of parents are complaining about their children being on the couch watching the TV and tablet. I think my programme will help to get them moving and enjoying exercising.”
GenerationBeFit is her half-hour exercise programme for children ages seven through ten. Ms Leamey’s first course at BAA gym ran for six weeks and was a huge success.
“The classes are based on Tabata protocol [which is] basically HIIT training, high intensity interval training – 20 seconds of workout and 10 seconds’ rest. That round is repeated eight times. So basically it’s like four minutes of exercising.
“What I do is try to combine one cardio exercise, for example jumping jacks, and then have a strength exercise like plank or push-ups and then try and repeat that four times.”
She loved that her daughter weighed in with ideas of her own.
“She’s awesome; super active. She loves gymnastics,” Ms Leamey said. “She’s been with me for all the classes and she’s given me some ideas as well which is great because it’s awesome to have the privilege of having ideas from her as a child – kind of an ace up my sleeve.”
It was also rewarding for her to see how much the children who took part “really enjoyed” her exercises.
“I think it’s very important, especially today. Exercising is proven to help in so many ways with their health. It helps boost their immune system, helps to reduce depression and anxiety, improve self-esteem. Also, this helps them have that feeling that they achieved something.”
She was about to move the next set of classes to Barr’s Bay Park when the order to stay at home was put into place in an effort to reduce the Covid-19 cases here.
“I’m trying to figure out which way to go and with the pandemic it’s really a mess. It’s just really hard to make decisions and take risks,” she said.
“What I’m going to do now is offer Zoom classes on the Saturdays which will be free of charge and then once we are safe to move either in the park or back in BAA we can do that and go from there.”
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