To Keep You Inspired… Club Fit Instructor Harriette DeCarlo

April 22, 2016 by karen

by Lisa Olney, Club Fit guest blogger.

Club Fit Instructor Harriette DeCarlo
Club Fit Instructor Harriette DeCarlo

At 85 years young, Club Fit aquatic exercise instructor Harriette DeCarlo is an energetic powerhouse whose confident, welcoming handshake is indicative of the joie de vivre in which she lives her life. Always moving, always educating, Harriette leads those around her to a healthy body, a healthy mind and a healthy lifestyle.

A swimmer in high school, Harriette has always been an athlete — an avid runner, rower, and follower of Tai Chi, which she practiced at the Chuang Yen Monastery, a Buddhist monastery on 225 acres in Carmel, NY. But it wasn’t until joining Club Fit 30 years ago, that exercise truly became a part of her daily routine. Recognizing Harriette’s passion and knowledge of aquatic exercise and Tai Chi, Club Fit hired her two years later as an aquatics instructor, and she helped the club launch its first aquatic Tai Chi class in the 1990s. Since then Harriette has been enlightening members at Club Fit to the strengthening and restorative power of mind-body fitness in the water. Currently, Harriette teaches “Mind/Body Aquatics” on Tuesday mornings at 10:00 am. The class — a blend of yoga, Pilates, balance, and tai chi — is a full body workout integrating breathing, core strengthening, balance and relaxation.

So, how does Club Fit’s version of the Energizer Bunny keep going? “I can’t imagine a week without exercise,” says Harriette. “The Club is so much a part of my life that I don’t feel good if I’m not here.” Her routine at the club anchors her day, and she works out three to four days a week. On Tuesdays before her 10:00 am Mind/Body Aquatics class, she arrives at the gym around 7:00 am, and does her normal workout of cardio, weights, and stretching. Then she goes to the Café to meet with her longtime breakfast group of almost 20 years. Next, she heads to the Aquatic Center for her class, and then it’s back to the café to meet her lunch group, which has been meeting since she started teaching in 1988. Yes, her lunch group is 28 years old and an amazing testament to the friendships formed over the common bond of exercise, camaraderie and healthy lifestyles.

“I don’t think there’s a club in Westchester that compares to this,” says Harriette, “I will never give up Club Fit.” Harriette also feels the club is not afraid to lead, to take the initiative to do things that haven’t been done before — and not only in programming. “This is the only club I know that hires people with special needs,” Harriett says proudly. “I’ve never worked in a club that had the guts to do that — that took the initiative to do that.”

So, what’s next for Harriette? Rest assured, it will be more of the same with the current aquatic trend featuring yoga and Pilates — components she already integrates into her Mind/Body Aquatics class. And, rest assured, Harriette stands ready to welcome newcomers and regulars, alike, to Club FIt, the Aquatic Center, or even her breakfast and lunch groups, with her captivating smile and and that joie de vivre that make her not only an amazing instructor, but an amazing friend.

On my toes! My Barre class experience.

February 11, 2014 by Kendra

Jenn and me posing for instructor Leslie after our awesome Barre class workout.

Ugh, winter; am I right? The excitement of the holiday season has faded, and now it’s just….cold. REALLY, REALLY, REALLY COLD. How can we stay active and committed to our fitness routine, when our hibernation instincts are screaming “Blankets! Hot cocoa! Netflix!”?

I decided to shake the winter blues by shaking things up at the gym.  Despite knowing that I shouldn’t do the same thing all the time, I found myself mentally checking out and, well…doing the same thing all the time. Working out had become a little bit of a chore. To combat the monotony, I decided to try a Barre class that I’d had one eye on for some time. Maybe, in the back of my mind, I was saving it for Cabin Fever Season, but I shouldn’t have waited so long.  It was an incredible workout!  The movements are small and very controlled, but they are intense, and they work more muscles than an average workout. I really did use muscles that I had forgotten I had. The best part is, I got Jenn to join me, and we had a blast! (I’ll admit, it’s a little boost to watch your personal trainer sweat just as hard as you.)

For those of you who have taken ballet (or even Pilates) at any point in your lives, Barre class will feel familiar, but not like a repeat. If you’ve never taken ballet before, Barre is a great way to have fun and strengthen a lot of supporting muscles, especially your core, and it’s great for your posture. But if you want to just pretend to be a ballerina, that’s okay too. It’s a great way to shake things up, any time of year.

Kickboxing: Don’t Be Afraid!

March 25, 2013 by Kendra

This is obviously not kickboxing; I learned quickly that kickboxing is no place for selfies. 🙂 This is me rocking out some TRX earlier this winter.

After crawling out from under a hectic schedule, I was looking for something to change up my cardio routine.  It’s been a while since I’ve tried a kickboxing class, and by that I mean somewhere in the ball park of a decade.  I vaguely remember it being a great workout, but also that it was really, really hard.  (I guess there was a reason I didn’t go back.)  It also brings up 90’s-era visuals of Billy Blanks in a shiny electric blue singlet, which may be either fun or scary, depending on your level of exposure to the “Tae-Bo” fad.

Anyway, I took notice of it on the group exercise schedule when I started here at Club Fit, but since it was labeled as an intermediate class, I stayed far away.  Even now, though I’ve been working out consistently for months, each new activity definitely makes me feel like a beginner again, and I wasn’t sure about jumping right into an intermediate class.  But this week, I considered kickboxing again, because I felt that my cardio endurance had improved (thanks to Spinning), and that my core stability had started to improve as well (thanks to Pilates), and that I had a pretty good chance of getting in a good workout without injury or a traumatically embarrassing fall.

There were definitely a lot of missed steps and a little bit of flailing around, but also a lot of sweating, a lot of using new muscles, and a lot of fun!  The music was definitely inspiring, the moves were fairly easy to follow, and there was a good amount of air-punching involved, so it’s definitely a great way to end a stressful day.  I probably shouldn’t have been so timid to try this earlier, but I won’t worry about it. Now that I’ve started to get the hang of it, I’ll definitely be back.

 

Pilates; Take 2.

March 8, 2013 by Kendra

One of the greatest gifts from my college experience (aside from my education) was core stability, thanks to Pilates. My new goal is to rediscover that strength.

More than a decade ago, in college, I studied musical theater performance.  This may sound like a cupcake degree to some, but it was a rigorous and multifaceted program of study that involved every aspect of performance.  In addition to a host of performance classes I spent most of my day in a sweat, moving between movement, dance, and stage combat classes, with instructors who relentlessly pushed us to be our best, and always better than the day before.  Aside from the inherent life lessons there, I’m very grateful to those professors for introducing me to one essential and valuable practice: Pilates.

Almost like boot camp, one professor led us through a 45-minute Pilates mat workout each day of our freshman year at the crack of dawn.  At the time, Pilates was not as much a part of the public consciousness; there were no Pilates studios in town, and no local gyms had classes around the clock as we see now (and as we are so lucky to have here at Club Fit.)  My fellow students and I didn’t even really know what had hit us; we would crawl back to our dorm rooms, cradling our exhausted and sore abdominal muscles, and silently cursing Joseph Pilates for inventing such torture.

After a not-so-long period of time, we all started to notice amazing changes, not just in our physical appearances, but more importantly, in our capabilities.  In dance classes, our leaps and turns got bigger and better. In stage combat we had better balance, stronger “punches”, and we fell down less frequently.  We had greater energy, injuries became fewer and further between, and we improved rapidly in all of our other physical practices.  Even though I carried a significant amount of extra weight, I found myself able to double pirouette with the rest of my ballet class – I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful that felt.  It wasn’t long before we realized that the Pilates mat workouts had given us an incredible gift: core stability.  The workouts we dreaded became practices that we craved, because of the miraculous abilities it gave us.  As upperclassmen, we would continue to practice anywhere we could find time and space; even in our tiny apartments and dorm rooms.  We were converts!  Some days, we’d sneak into those early morning freshmen classes we used to fear, to squeeze in a guided mat class alongside them.  One of my classmates was so devoted to the life-changing benefits of Pilates that she went on to become an instructor after college.

All of these memories came back to me one day as I was looking through old photos from college, and I asked myself, how did I forget how valuable this practice was, and why am I not incorporating Pilates into my workout routine now?  Even though I’ve changed career trajectories off stage and into nonprofit arts administration, the benefits of this practice are no less valuable to me, or anyone, especially when it comes to preventing injury.  I got myself to a Pilates mat class at Club Fit as soon as possible, and I can’t say it was like riding a bike.  After ten years away, it really felt like starting all over again.  It’s hard work, the exercises seem unusual at first, and my abs hurt just the same, but I’m here to tell you that sticking to the practice equates to a really miraculous transformation.  I’m committing myself to rediscovering that core strength, and if you haven’t tried Pilates yet, I encourage you to give it a try – not just once, but a few times, to see what it can do for you.

Superhero Transformation, Part 5: The Ball Escapes Me

September 26, 2012 by Kendra

Having some experience with Pilates, and looking for a new challenge, I took a chance on the “Pilates with Props” class.  (From the title of this post, you can probably guess where this is headed.)  Going in, I felt like Pilates was something I had a good grasp of.  I studied theater in college, where our stage combat/movement professor insisted on almost an hour of mat work daily, before we even began with foam sword in hand.  It felt like pure torture back then, but after weeks and months of practice, I recognized the difference it made in my body, and (to my own surprise) I continued it later on.  Still, I had never experienced a Pilates class with props.  I decided to give it a try – happy to feel confidence in a familiar exercise, but looking forward to a challenging twist.

Well.  The “twist” turned out to be a totally embarrassing newbie moment.  We were told to select a ball and small hand weights, and we were given a rubber resistance band to work with.  For the first exercise, I squeezed the ball between my knees (as instructed), only to have it shoot away from me like a watermelon seed.  (Sigh.)  I skittered across the room, fumbling to catch my runaway, only to have it knock into three or four nice people who were just trying to pay attention and follow the instructor.  I recovered my ball, got back to my mat and reset. All was well.

Until it happened AGAIN!  Same ball, same exercise, same nice unsuspecting people who were practically bowled over by my second runaway ball.  I laughed it off the first time, but now I was just plain embarrassed.  For the second time, I tried to minimize my disruption of class and return to my mat quietly.  Once I did, I put the ball aside and finished up the exercise without it. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and reminded myself just to focus on what I was doing. Once I was able to calm myself and focus on the movement, it was MUCH easier to keep hold of that ball.

After that, the rest of class went really well!  Our instructor was great; giving us clear, concise direction and motivating encouragement.  She took us through a huge number of exercises, but I never felt rushed, and I certainly never got bored.  The hour flew by faster than I imagined it would, and I had a great sense of a full-body workout that focused on my core.  The small hand weights and the resistance band were a great addition to the standard Pilates exercises – each made slightly more challenging and also more rewarding.

So, despite my awkward prop recovery, I ended up having a great class. Later on, when someone else’s ball rolled over and nudged my shoulder, and it was no big deal, I didn’t feel so bad after all.