Program Spotlight: Friends, Fun & Fitness
Friends, Fun, and Fitness is a group program for teens and adults, led by Rachel Eckert. Rachel does a fantastic job motivating participants to increase their physical activity levels and healthy lifestyle choices through this purposeful program.
We asked Rachel how she would describe her class. Here is what she said:
Most of the folks who attend Friends, Fun & Fitness have been coming for 3+ years, and for a variety of reasons. They seem to absolutely love gathering with one another in person. The pandemic was a challenge, and we did our best to meet and socialize virtually, but everyone was clearly ready to get back to the Playhouse.
The program has two main components: Fitness and Healthy Lifestyle Choices.
With regard to exercise, I have a room full of engaged participants, and they will do whatever I have up my sleeve. At first we used the GiGiFIT curriculum, which was developed by experts who understand the physiology and needs of people with Down syndrome. For example, it’s common for this population to have low muscle tone, particularly in the core and hips, as well as hypermobile joints and vestibular (balance) challenges. I continue to build the program while taking this into consideration. We always have a great playlist and fun exercises, with occasional dance breaks when someone’s favorite song comes on. I’m so impressed and proud of my group, not only because they are committed to attending, but they are always willing to work hard and try new things.
In addition to movement, we also spend time discussing lifestyle, nutrition, and ways to incorporate healthy choices daily. Everyone is invited to contribute to the conversation, and I’m often blown away by the responses we hear. We keep it positive, uplifting, and inspiring, as I know firsthand, incorporating new routines of diet and exercise is challenging and takes time. I like to bring my iPad and show participants the gorgeous rainbow of food options we have, why they’re colorful, and all the amazing nutrients they contain. We talk about the difference between naturally and artificially colored foods, “beige foods” (whole grains), and the benefits of drinking water. Of course, I can see some of them glaze over and perhaps internally roll their eyes when I go into one of my “anti-pop rants”, but they patiently endure and little by little, I think I’m gaining ground.
Leaving the Playhouse at the end of class, hoarse and pooped, I always feel happy and satisfied that everyone had a good time—including me. I must include a huge shoutout to the most wonderful assistant, Carol Schindler, who has been faithful and helpful in immeasurable ways. She’s an absolute gem!
It is my joy to lead this program! I’m the luckiest of all. ❤️