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More than exercise

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Regulars at Connie Tachias’ Enhance Fitness classes say they get a lot more than exercise from the class.

If wellness is physical, emotional, mental and spiritual, then they say they get a little of all of that when they come together as a group.

Nancy Strasser, 66, credits the classes and the friends she made in them with getting her through breast cancer, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation last year.

“I could not have survived without them,” she says of the support she received. “I truly believe this class helped me go forward with my recovery, building strength.”

She is just as certain that the couple of years she spent in the class before her diagnosis helped her endure what was ahead of her.

Tachias, 53, says the class, taught at the North Domingo Baca Multigenerational Center and part of the New Mexico Senior Olympics program, suited her philosophy because the exercises have research behind them that demonstrates that the work is effective and safe.

The class is an hour with exercises that can be done in a chair or standing or a little of both. She says she varies the routine and the music so no one gets bored: “I’m like New Mexico weather. Stick around and it’ll change.”

‘Second nature’

“Wellness is a lifestyle. It has to be second nature. It has to be something you do every day,” Tachias says after finishing her 8 a.m. class and before she teaches another at 10:15 a.m. one recent Thursday.

She says when regular members miss classes, someone calls them to make sure they’re OK and tell them they were missed. It builds accountability, but more importantly, builds friendship, she says. “We’ve become friends, so we know when someone isn’t feeling well. We call you if you aren’t here.”

The hall at the center is filled with dozens of class members who want to tell a story about how the class has helped them regain strength after knee or hip replacements and other challenges that arise with age.

Ginger Whisnant, 67, who’s had a knee replaced, says that she’s been exercising in fitness classes for more than 30 years, but she appreciates Enhance Fitness because it focuses on building strength, flexibility and balance with an emphasis on safety.

“The exercise is strong, but we don’t get hurt. If you get hurt, you can’t keep doing what you want to do,” she says. “Connie’s always reminding us not to do something if it hurts.”

Whisnant, who is a TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) leader, says wellness is finding a balance among many factors that keep life enjoyable. The sociability and support from the exercise and eating groups are especially important to her.

Mike Urioste, who came with his wife to the class when he found the pounds creeping up after retiring three years ago, says he’s lost 20 pounds and has had less pain from his arthritis as a result. He also practices tai chi for focus and meditation.

He’s one of the only men in the group of women, but he says he’s glad they let him exercise with them: “I’m more motivated and optimistic when I come. We started coming and I’ve been hooked ever since.”

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