By Caroleine James
Wrangell Sentinel 

Community gym fires up workouts for cold winter months


January 11, 2023 | View PDF

Caroleine James/Wrangell Sentinel

Sabrina Yoder, along with her husband, Chadd, lead sessions on lifts and other workout routines at the community center gym three days a week. The judgment-free sessions start at 6 a.m. for early morning exercisers.

Whether you want to incubate a godlike physique during the winter months, brush up on your weightlifting form or just enjoy an early morning sweat session with friends, the community gym's new structured workouts are available to encourage you, regardless of your fitness goals.

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 6 to 7 a.m., Chadd and Sabrina Yoder have volunteered to guide patrons through a series of lifts and other workouts that they and Recreation Coordinator Lucy Robinson designed together. Starting this month, they will release a "workout of the week" that gymgoers can complete during sessions or on their own time.

The lift sessions are not an official Parks and Recreation program, but they do offer amateur athletes an opportunity to learn more about the weight room, refine their form and get motivated to exercise with planned workouts in a supportive community setting.

The sessions evolved from discussions that Robinson and the Yoders had been having about the weight room. The couple moved here from Wasilla, where they had been members of a CrossFit gym, in the spring of 2021 and they shared their ideas about making the Wrangell gym more spacious and social.

"It was kind of a conversation with Lucy (Robinson) back and forth," said Chadd. "It started out with recognizing that there's not a lot of free space here in the gym." The group also talked about his positive experiences at his previous gym, "just interacting, having fun working out. ... I kind of missed that and wanted to bring that aspect here." The gym's new structured workout times are the Yoders' way of recreating that fitness community in Wrangell.

Robinson and the Yoders got together to plan workouts that would engage the whole body, incorporating strength training, cardio, mobility work and more. Each one can be scaled up or down in difficulty depending on the fitness goals of the participant.

Chadd stressed that the morning sessions are a judgment-free zone, open to beginners and experienced lifters alike. "If you can bend at the waist and reach up and touch the sky, the workout is for you," he said. "It doesn't have to be heavy."

"(The workouts) all have variety," Sabrina added. "Just to keep you from being bored."

After completing a Friday morning circuit of front squats, Bulgarian split squats and core work, participant Hannah Baker said she felt "sweaty."

"It's a good way to start your day," she added. "You feel accomplished before 7 a.m."

Non-morning people can still participate in Robinson's and the Yoders' workouts. Their exercise lists are available on the Parks and Recreation website for those who prefer to sweat it out alone.

Because the program is informal, no registration is necessary. Community members can participate with a regular gym membership or punch card.

However, these informal lift sessions are only the beginning of the opportunities Parks and Recreation has in store to keep Wrangell active this winter. Next month, the department will launch its Winter Workout Challenge, a fun, goal-oriented community program that will help motivate residents to get their blood pumping.

"I think working out with a group when we're all doing the same thing together is so much more fun," said Sabrina. "You get the social aspect of it, the shared suffering. You're all sore in the same way and complaining about the same burn." In her experience, group workouts are a great way to combat the social isolation that is common in Alaska, particularly during the winter months.

Registered participants in the Winter Workout Challenge will be added to a large public bulletin board where they can collect stickers and track their progress alongside their fellow athletes. The challenge will last from Feb. 1 to March 31. Parks and Rec will release additional information as the start date approaches.


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