Maggi Cheetham’s passion for posture and proper form are partly behind why participants have flocked to her popular West Point Grey Community Centre classes since 1984. A BCRPA trainer of fitness, the 72-year-old currently teaches Refit and Stability, Mobility and Stretch classes at West Point Grey CC, and shares why she can sometimes be a dragon lady.

How did you start teaching fitness at West Point Grey CC?

I was taking an anthropology course at UBC with Patricia Lee, one of West Point Grey CC Association’s Board members, and she suggested that West Point Grey CC could do with a class for older adults. I started teaching what was then called Fitness for the Older Adult. The class name was later changed to Refit because it is suitable for adults of all ages – including those recovering from some medical conditions, mobility issues or injuries, such as damaged knees, shoulders and backs.

What do you like most about teaching fitness?

I love my participants. They’re very friendly and fun; without them there wouldn’t be a class. I try to keep them as able-bodied as possible so they can retain their independence as they age. For people with injuries, I concentrate on building their joint stability and strength to help them heal and prevent further injuries.

What is one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as an instructor?

Getting people to understand the importance of good posture and pain-free range of motion before adding any resistance equipment. I’m a bit of a dragon lady when it comes to making people stand tall and do everything in good alignment. Your body, joints and organs may not work properly unless your posture is good. It’s also not wise to strengthen your muscles with poor joint alignment.

How have your participants and teaching style changed over the years?

When I first started teaching older adults in the 1980s, I taught very mild, short classes and we’d have apple juice. Pretty soon people said they wanted more and didn’t need the apple juice, so I incorporated more and harder exercises. I realized that your muscles can be strengthened at any age. I made my classes really functional to help people do actions like sit, stand and get up and down off the floor more easily. I’ve learned that my participants are up to the challenge.

What happens at a typical Refit class?

Firstly, I ask new participants if they have any medical conditions or injuries and watch them closely during the class. I check posture often and give participants lots of options for different ability levels. After a warm-up and balance exercises, we do around 40 minutes of aerobic exercises, such lunges, squats and large joint movements. We work with steps, bands, weights, gliders, etc. Floor exercises consist of more strength and core. All being well, my participants leave class having worked.

What happens at a typical Stability, Mobility and Stretch class?

This class is all about moving your body in safe ways and working on the mobility and stability of the joints towards the fullest possible range of motion. We mostly work on mats.

What keeps you busy outside of teaching fitness?

I love to read and garden, and am passionate about the environment. Plus, I love going to parties and dancing! My husband and I have a cottage on Mayne Island, and we go there very frequently. Life is very good.

Learn more about Maggi and her classes here: http://www.westpointgrey.org/programs/instructor-profiles/#maggi-cheetham. Get in touch with us to register: 604.257.8140 and wpgcc@vancouver.ca.