MIDDLETON,NS - If you’ve ever felt intimidated or anxious at the thought of working out at the gym, or exercising with the ‘buff’ crowd, you’ve never met Sandy Murray or Kelsey Nogler. They just want you to be healthy.
People in the Middleton area are calling their new fitness centre home and Nogler and Murray are calling them part of their family. And that’s what it feels like at the spot they carved out for themselves at the old creamery at the end of Victoria Street.
Dr. Jane Brooks, who backed the pair in the community health care venture, couldn’t agree more.
“It’s a very inclusive, warm feeling when you go in there,” said Brooks. “It’s not a huge sprawling gym either. It’s quite an intimate space. It’s brightly coloured. I think it’s just a fantastic addition to a community.”
“We felt the need for this specific niche and we just had to meet it,” said Nogler.
The niche, said Murray, is a holistic approach that includes the whole family, from moms bringing their three- and four-year-olds, up to their oldest member who is 87.
“Our holistic approach is not just about physical ability and strength,” said Murray, a nurse at Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital. “We just want to focus on wellness, functional aging, look at the person as a whole – mainly a feeling-of-inclusion fitness community.”
Murray said a lot of their participants told her traditional gym settings create a lot of anxiety for them.
“It’s not a setting where they feel welcome,” she said. “Unfortunately that’s a barrier that a lot of us have not been able to overcome over the years. We’ve worked in similar facilities and we’ve worked really hard to make people feel included but we just can’t seem to overcome that.”
She describes Training for Life as an intimate setting and said people are feeling like it’s their home or their safe spot -- that they don’t get those feelings of anxiety prior to coming to their exercise class.
Brooks knew Murray’s and Nogler’s mission, their vision, and their passion.
“And she knew that we just weren’t finding the right resource to provide that sort of environment,” said Murray.
“I’ve known Sandy for a long time because she’s a nurse here at the hospital, and I’ve been totally struck by her dedication to the health care in the community,” said Brooks, “and she said to me once, ‘you know we see all these people with broken hips after falls, older people, and I would like to help prevent that before they got to the hospital.’ I said ‘you know you’re absolutely right. If people had more access to fitness and they felt comfortable doing that (and I think that’s one of the impediments, sometimes people don’t feel comfortable going to a gym or a fitness class) then I think you’re right we should probably prevent some of this.’”
Brooks knew that Murray and Nogler were the right people to facilitate such a program in Middleton.
“I’ve been going to the gym with Sandy for well over a year now and she is probably the most positive person I’ve ever met,” said Brooks. “She’s a kind, generous person. She’s always enthusiastic and so positive.”
Murray told Brooks she’d like to start her own gym to focus on seniors, and women, and people who don’t go to traditional gyms.
“She said ‘I’ve heard so many people tell me I feel I have to lose weight so that I can go to the gym. I don’t like that feeling that people have,’” said Brooks. “So I thought, you know this is such a great idea. And that’s really where it all started. And two young women entrepreneurs who want to improve the health of their community – how can you not support that, right?”
On June 20 scores of people of all ages showed up at an open house at Training for Life. Cheryl Ponee was conducting a fitness class while Murray and Nogler greeted their many followers. There was a barbecue outside and people signed their names for door prizes.
Many are already participants at the training centre. They take part in such classes as Strollercize, Stretch and Tone, Booty Burn, Body Power, Boxercise, Zumba, Movement & Mobility, Full Body Core, Train with the Trainer, the equipment for weight training – and more.
Murray has been a nurse at Soldiers Memorial Hospital for 18 years and Nogler just graduated from the Continuing Care Assistant program at the Nova Scotia Community College.
Murray describes Nogler as approachable, human, and doesn’t make people feel less than.
“Kelsey just finished her course over at NSCC for Continuing Care Assistant, and her passion obviously is in the seniors community as well -- and those with barriers in regards to health and fitness, mobility, what have you.”
It’s that background of caring and compassion that shines through.
“It’s their positive vibe that you get there,” said Brooks. “I had one person, a colleague who is also a nurse, and she has never been to a gym, and she was very nervous about going. She said ‘but when I got there and I walked through the door it felt like I’ve always been coming here.’ What a great environment for someone.”
But it’s certainly not a restrictive facility by any means. The very idea is to create a place for everybody.
“Even though they’re targeting seniors, and women, and young people, men are more than welcome,” said Brooks. “They make it very welcoming for everyone. My 19-year-old son goes there, and my father is actually going to start going there with Sandy to loosen up his back and get himself a little more fit. He’s hoping to improve his golf swing, actually.”
“There’s been already a lot of good feedback,” said Nogler. “A lot of people have expressed that they would never go into a typical gym. By me and Sandy reaching out to them we have helped their lives so much.”
For her it started with her grandparents.
“You see people who don’t get out of the house. My grandmother who’s post-stroke – she’s had a stroke – so she can’t be in a typical gym setting, and that’s who we want to target. She can’t handle all the different noises, it has to be quiet, but she’s still so keen about getting out there and getting physically active.”
Nogler said her grandmother is not the only one.
“We need to help those people. I feel really great about what we’re doing,” she said. “I think every day we’re changing so many different lives already – and we’ve just started.”
While the mood was upbeat and positive at the open house, Training for Life is under a bit of a cloud in regards to zoning compliance with the Town of Middleton, something they hope will be resolved soon.
Until then the training centre can’t officially open as a business. In the meantime, Nogler and Murray are donating proceeds to various charities as they wait for word from the town.