HFC Stories

Ange's Fitness Journey

My name is Angela Federico and I am Zumba instructor for Hamilton Fitness Community. My fitness journey started many years ago and is ultimately what led to this group. 


As a young girl I tried all things activity; organized sports such as soccer and hockey and competitive dance. I also attended summer sports camp every year from ages 7-14, introducing my love for friendship and fitness as a whole. 


When it came time for me to choose what field I wanted to work in, I was met with a great challenge. Once graduating high school, I was forced to resign from organized sports since I was an adult and could no longer play competitively. I had a few failed attempts at applying to university, and I had no other passions other than fitness and couldn’t find a path that worked for me. I was simply stuck. I then came across a program at Mohawk college called Health, Wellness, & Fitness. I applied without hesitation and was accepted the following week. When I started, I immediately knew I was in the right place. 


At this point I only knew sports and weight lifting. There was a project that was assigned that required us to take four fitness classes we have never attended before. The four I chose were Spin, Kick Boxing, Power Hour, and Zumba. Can you guess which one I hated the most? Zumba was a nightmare for me the first time I did it. It was not “dance”. I couldn’t get used to the steps, or the music. I basically hated it. That was until my sister in law (bless her) pushed me try at least five classes before I decided I didn’t like it. I fell in love by class three. I dropped weight lifting almost completely and attended Zumba classes five times a week, if not more. 


After I graduated college, I started volunteering at the gym at Mohawk which landed me a nice job. I was in charge of managing the fitness instructors. This pushed me to getting certified myself, and within a month I was given a class at the college. That was over three years ago and before the pandemic I was teaching five classes a week. And now I am here with all of you, thank you. 


I mentioned earlier that camp was helpful for me because it introduced my love to fitness, and friendship. The fitness community has not only made me who I am, but it’s motivated me more than anything. Thank you to Kat for offering me a spot on this team. I am forever grateful to know, grow, and dance with each and every one of you. 

~ Ange


Debbie and Rick's Fitness Journey



When Debbie and Rick got married in 1986, they settled into a small house in the east end of Hamilton, not too far from Gage Park and Ivor Wynne Stadium, but also a short walk to the Ottawa Street YWCA.  Debbie loved the fitness classes there and together they participated in a couples class called "Sweathearts".  Rick participated in team sports so we were keeping active.

Things started to change once we had our two boys and ultimately we ended up spending more time at their sporting activities than our own! Rick ended up coaching baseball and basketball and obtaining his trainer's certification while Debbie helped managed several of the boys' teams.


Fast forward to our boys' teenage years when a parent on one of the boy's baseball teams led Debbie to join some fitness classes where Debbie met Janet L and our wonderful instructor Kathy.  Debbie spent several years with Kathy's classes at various locations.  Rick spent his fitness time climbing the escarpment stairs and taking long walks, trying to fit everything in as someone who commutes to London.


With Janet L's recommendation, Debbie and Rick joined yoga classes at St. Andrews Church and then again through Janet L, Hamilton Fitness Community.


The classes with HFC have been great for both our minds and bodies.  We are grateful for being able to participate, especially during this pandemic, and to see the enthusiasm of Kat and all the other members. It has only been two months but we have noticed a difference in how we are feeling and look forward to each class. We have been happy to share our positive HFC experience with our friends and family.


Thank you Hamilton Fitness Community!

~ Debbie and Rick 

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Susan's Fitness Journey

Hmmm… so what exactly is fitness I asked myself. Wait, Mr. Google will know, maybe…

There are many hits, much to absorb but most emphasized physical as well as mental fitness.

That makes sense you know. Aerobic taking care of your heart & lungs. Muscle strengthening & flexibility to do bigger jobs & be able to endure. Now that the analysis has been done I can move forward and talk about my journey.

It’s more of an social activity journey rather than fitness journey.

In high school I was not athletically gifted. Balls didn’t do what I wanted them to do & no cartwheels possible. I liked the athletic girls & wanted to hang out with them so I tried out and made most teams.

Seems my job was to encourage from the bench and celebrate victories. By grade 13 I was president of the girls athletic council, now there was an accomplishment.

Outside of school I liked tennis. It was fun and at my level didn’t require strength or stamina.

Family life took over in my late twenties. As a coping mechanism to weight gain I deemed running would be the best way to go for me. Required very little time and training. An hour each evening after the kids were asleep was all I needed. I even found that I could socialize with my neighbour while doing so.

Ten years later we moved, I lost my running partner and discovered the local gym called Fitness Firm.

There were step classes there with fantastic music, no social life though. People came, did their thing and left. I knew this would be short lived. Once my instructor quit, so did I.

I met neighbours who liked to walk, finally a social event mixed in with activity. This morphed into a membership with the Bruce Trail Association. They posted scheduled walks/hikes with all the details we needed for length, pace & surface. Always meeting someone new to walk with, no real fitness pushes required.

In my early 50s I discovered myself single and really in need of a social activity. A work colleague suggested curling. I jointed the ladies league. New fashion required and tips of the game explained, so I was good to go. Ladies league at first, followed by mixed league which was on Friday or Saturday evenings. Whohoo, more social. I even met my husband to be curling and we married there 4 years later.

Curling is a little tough on the knees so I had to back off, using a stick to deliver the rock and finally retiring from a sport that I really loved. I coveted my kilt and a variety of tights & matching sweaters.

My new husband loved his golf. Not my idea of a sport, I had always thought it was a way to escape your family. Golf is quite time consuming. The game or round itself is about 4 hrs. That teamed up with transportation time, warm up and drinks after and there goes the better part of a day. Drinks after??

Another sport to cherish. After a few lessons, I thought I can do this without any physical training or preparation. I can even walk that golf course with my electric caddy taking care of my clubs.

Golf seems to be a part of my life to stay. Clubs go everywhere with us, Portugal, Hawaii, Ottawa.

Winters…oh what to do?? After I retired 5 yrs ago I joined the local YWCA, tried classes but my OA wasn’t liking it. Kat suggested Aquafit, what a great idea. For 2 winters I attended 4 classes a week and got in my 10,000 steps by adding a walk to the Y. Sadly a skin issue ended that sport. I thought it was the chlorine but there was an underlying health condition.

This condition requires medication which slowed me down last golf season. I am determined to get myself back into golf shape and was delighted to hear of HFC. I glow when I hear how much the members appreciate my daughter Kat’s encouragement. It’s much harder than I thought !! .Nothing before required muscular strength & flexibility. I am not giving up though. I love this family, socializing on zoom is not that hard. I feel that I have known many of you for some time.


I hope you can see why I consider myself to have been on an activity journey. Always busy, not terribly fit

and keen to learn new sports that involve a social benefit and great companionship.

~ Susan 


Debbie's Fitness Journey

As a child, I was never into sports.  I was always into music.  My brother was the Athlete.  We used to argue over how long we could each watch our 1 family tv.  He wanted to watch a sports match and I wanted to watch Much Music..(a tv station that played music videos from bands).


I endured a fairly humiliating 5 years of softball as a teen.  The team awarded me a trophy for “Most Improved player” after I stopped screaming when the ball came near me… J


I went to College for Music and then started my career in the music industry. I never worked out, never went to a gym, and I certainly didn’t watch sports on tv…. J.


A decade later, I met a lovely man, and we moved in together and “nested”.  And I soon realized I was packing on the pounds!  I joined the local YMCA in Waterdown and really started to enjoy working out. However, the aspect I loved the best was the group fitness classes.  As soon as the music started, it just clicked with me and I wanted to get moving! I also loved having a fun and inspirational instructor to give you some amazing energy, teach you what to do and motivate you also!


When my husband and I moved to Hamilton, I joined the YMCA on Rymal Road (Les Chater) as a member.  One day after a class, the Instructor suggested I would be a great Instructor.  I was surprised and thought to myself “What? Stand up in front of people and say 4 more, 3 more… no way! That’s not me”.  I had horrible visions of myself in bright coloured leotards and a headband!


But that thought planted a seed in me……  I began to come to classes and pay close attention to the Instructors, the class format, the exercises and the music!  And I began to think that maybe I could actually want to do this!  The YMCA has a wonderful Fitness Leadership program.  So I took that course and then started mentoring with other instructors.  I Loved it!  Once I got my 1st certification, I just kept on going and added more and more…. 


My athletic career is still as dismal unfortunately.  I started jogging and LOVED that.  I joined the Running Room and then trained and ran 5Km, 10km, ½ Marathon and then I ran the gruelling 30K Around the Bay Road Race twice!  My times were not great, but I crossed the finish line!


Then I moved to triathlons (swimming, biking, running)…  just to spread out my athletic performance failure a little further…. J I did several entry level Try-a-thons and then moved up to a Sprint.  Most people rode the 30k bike course on road bikes at this level, but I was still on my husbands mountain bike with the big chunky tires!  He did suggest I remove the milk crate basket before the race!  J I finished 224th out of 226.  But… I crossed the finish line…    The sporting events used to refer to me as an “Athlete”, but I always used the terms “middle age woman trying to lose some stomach flab”….


The first day I met Kat when she joined the Les Chater YMCA, I knew she was a Superstar and a “Real Athlete!”.  Her accomplishments are not only world recording breaking, but inspiring.  However, it is her humbleness and infectious energy that make her such a motivating leader.  Our branch truly missed Kat when she left the YMCA and moved to Mohawk College.  So I’m absolutely thrilled to be a part of her new fitness community!

~ Debbie


Janet L's Fitness Journey

While at work one day in 2010, I was sitting at my desk, felt a tickle on my lower back and tried to scratch it. To my surprise I discovered that my hand couldn’t even reach up to my waistline. What the heck?

Some weeks later, with a diagnosis of Frozen Shoulder, I made my first ever visit to a physiotherapist. A lovely lady, but not one to mince words, she commented on my poor posture, rounded shoulders and overall lack of upper body strength. I was somewhat taken aback. I had never been an athlete (when I was a kid, track and field days were the worst of the worst as far as I was concerned). But that being said, I didn't consider myself a couch potato either. Over the years I had had sporadic gym memberships, I loved to walk & hike and I had spent many years lugging or chasing after my three sons. How had I fallen into this decrepitude?!


My journey to regain fitness started then and there. It took me up and down our Hamilton stairs countless times and along the many trails that bless our region.  It took me to yoga, pilates, kick-box and muscle strength classes at various venues, including the Dofasco Rec Park. At the latter I met Kathy, a dedicated fitness instructor who became mentor and friend to a core group of us ladies who followed her for years wherever she taught.  And thru Kathy, I also met Nicki who at one time taught a drop-in Monday night class and somehow made sweating fun. 


But, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. March 2020 and the pandemic.  No classes, no stairs, not even the trails! 


Then Kat to the rescue! 


I had never met Kat. She had been teaching an exercise class for some of Nicki’s old followers at the Mohawk College Recreation Centre, up until the pandemic. But although I hadn’t attended her classes, I was on the e-mail distribution list for the group. So when Kat sent out her offer to provide free pandemic fitness classes via zoom, I was one of the happy recipients!


As everything around us closed down, Kat came right into our homes motivating us to stay active, connected and optimistic. And so, my fitness journey did not end with the pandemic. In fact, if anything, it accelerated! I now enjoy more classes a week than ever before with HFC and I’m loving it. And despite the physical separation, Kat has managed to build a real sense of community amongst her participants, which soothes our souls as we work out our bodies. 


Now, eleven years after I started my fitness journey, I am happy to report that I’ve made much progress. Still far from perfect, of course, but I am  stronger, more flexible and more aware of my body than ever before. A great recipe for healthy aging, I hope.  Fingers crossed! 

 ~ Janet 


Millie's Fitness Journey

I got a Pulse (Gym) membership when I was studying at Mac. After months of using the treadmill and ellipticals, I inquired about their fitness classes. As the Front desk attendant handed me the fitness class schedule, she said a Cardio Kickboxing class is about to begin and I am welcome to try it out. I peeked into the fitness room and the instructor motioned me to come in and join. Oh boy, did I sweat! I did not mind that I was lost the entire class. I was sweating, I was thinking, and I was having fun. Since then, I have been a regular in the Pulse Fitness Studio. Attending group fitness classes was my way of releasing school workload stress back then.

As I finished my studies, I got a membership at Upper James and Rymal Rd gym. I attended Spin, Cardio Kickboxing, Step and Sculpt, and Yoga classes.

Fast forward to baby #1, I was not at the gym as much as I wanted but still made it to some classes. However, baby #2 was different. The boys need attention, my attention. I remember waiting for my husband to get home from work, hand him the boys, grab my jacket, and go for a walk. The walks became jogs. I signed up for races. I started with 5Ks, then 10Ks, then Good Friday 10-mile race. I was out with the running group at work during lunch time. I signed up and trained for Road to Hope’s half marathon in 2014. My relay partner did not show up so I decided to walk the second half. I came home with a full marathon medal.

One lunch break, a friend from the running group asked me to tag along with her to the YMCA. She is meeting the YMCA Health and Wellness Manager Downtown about volunteering as a CycleFit instructor. At this meeting I asked the manager if they have any program similar to Les Mills Body Pump. Her eyes lit up. She asked if I would like to train as a group fitness instructor. I attended a 2-day Mossa Group Power training  in November 2014 and started teaching sneak peeks of the program December 2014. Since then, I grabbed every opportunity to get trained as long as it agreed with my family and work schedule.

My Sunday Group Power class at the YMCA Downtown is followed by a Yoga class which I would often be asked to cover. I used this as my cue to get Yoga Teacher certified. I signed up for YogaFit Level 1 training in October 2015. I started my 8 hours of community service teaching Yoga in the Summer of 2016. Noticed the long pause there? It was challenging for me to teach Yoga coming from Mossa Group Power and Group Blast background. I remember Ken was the first to grab a mat on a Saturday morning at my very first Yoga class. We were doing Sun Salutations when he tapped my shoulder and asked, “Millie, could we please slow down?”

Before COVID, I was teaching Yoga, a program for youth called “Grow”, and was covering other group fitness classes at the YMCA Downtown and Les Chater locations. I was also teaching Yoga at Mohawk College and Bootcamp at Westmount Recreation.

Now, during the pandemic with another lockdown and cold weather, HFC’s virtual classes are awesome. I am happy to see familiar faces and make new friends in HFC’s zoom classes. I enjoy the monthly walks that Kat organizes. I look forward and will brave the COVID-19K walk in March 2021. Tuesday Cardio and Thursday Strength classes serve as my break from sitting in front of my workstation. It is an honor and a privilege to lead your through mindful movements and nurturing restorative postures on Monday evenings. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to continue to teach and I very much appreciate the support that I get from this community.



Nicki's Fitness Journey

My fitness journey began when I was 18 years old and diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and panic attacks. Back in the 90’s anxiety was not talked about much like it is today. There was not as many resources on the disorder. I took it upon myself to try to come up with some tools that would help reduce anxiety and limit my panic attacks.  I reduced sugar, caffeine and started exercises.


I started exercising not by joining a gym but by popping in a Kathy Smith VHS tape and doing my workouts from home every morning. I quickly realized that all that extra energy I was carrying around in body could be released through exercise. Exercise cleared my mind of anxious thoughts, helped me sleep better and ultimately became my medication. As I always say,  I workout for SANITY not vanity. 


I started working for one of the major banks in Toronto and during my lunch hour I joined a small fitness group that use to workout in a small room off of the underground parking lot. The lead instructor kept asking me if I would like to teach a class. Believe it or not I was a little shy back then in my 20’s. I decided to give it a go and boy oh boy did that open up Pandora’s box. I absolutely fell in love with teaching fitness, that I started taking night courses at Mohawk College ( fitness theory, group fitness leader and personal training). 


I soon became certified left the bank and was offered a job at the YWCA on MacNab street in Hamilton as a full time instructor. A few years later I was promoted to Fitness Supervisor. As great as the position was I spent more time in the office planning schedules, budgeting and attending meetings. This took me away from the one thing that I loved most which was teaching. I received a phone call from the owner of friends in fitness on upper James. She was looking for a full-time instructor. After six years at the YWCA I left the position to get back into teaching full-time.


I started teaching a variety of classes at friends in fitness and met some of the most amazing women who are still a big part of my life today. I taught at friends in Fitness for a few years when in 2012 the gym closed for good. Not knowing where to go and thinking my teaching days were over......Laurie White from St.Andrews United Church said “we have space at the church let’s go there”. Kathy Garay quickly posted a sign on the Friends In Fitness door to inform everyone via email about the Monday evening and Saturday morning classes being taught at St.Andrews and The Church of the Resurrection thanks to Nancy Claus we had a second location. 

The women continued to come to the classes at the churches over the next few years. Our group included participants from friends in fitness, the congregation and the surrounding community. 

I eventually had to give up the Monday classes because I enrolled in Massage Therapy school. After I Graduated and started my own practice, my massage business grew and I found myself having to make a very difficult decision  to give up teaching. It was with a very heavy heart that in December 2019 I informed the ladies that I would no longer be available to instruct the Saturday morning fitness class.

Some of the ladies went on to join the Mohawk College gym. Evelyn & Kathy told me about the amazing classes and the wonderful instructor Kat. 


March 2020 pandemic hit and I was no longer able to work as a massage therapist. My dear friend Evelyn Wilkie sent me a text and mentioned about the zoom classes that Kat was teaching. I joined the classes and when Kat asked if I would like to teach, I was more than thrilled to get back to instructing fitness class. Yes some things have changed due to the pandemic but one thing is for sure the passion I have for fitness, the amazing people I have met along this journey have made me the woman I am today. For that I am truly thankful XO 


~ Nicki 


Marva's Fitness Journey

Fitness has always been a part of my life. Growing up I played various sports. I never excelled or won any medals at them, but enjoyed the physical activity and the competition. In my later years I always maintained physical activity by walking or jogging on a regular basis and as happens to everyone, I would fall of my routine from time to time.


Then at the young age of 26 years, I was diagnosed with borderline hypertension and was told that I had to careful and watch my sodium intake and increase my exercise, to control my blood pressure. To avoid being medicated, I immediately started following the advice of my doctor by watching my salt intake and continued my exercise regime, I got a gym membership and stuck to the routine of daily exercise. I would walk on my lunch hour, and head to the gym on evenings, since I was willing to do everything within my power to avoid being medicated. I was able to stave off medication for 5 or 6 years and has continued to exercise to stay fit.


Heather and I chatted regularly about her Saturday morning classes with Nicole, and then with Kat and she knew that I would also enjoy them, to which my response was I would have to join you for a class and breakfast after. Then covid-19 hit and classes went to Zoom with Kat, she told me about it and forwarded an email to me.


I contacted Kat by email and she included me. I did my first class and was hooked. Thank you Heather for the invite to try out the class and to you Kat for doing what you do. I look forward to these classes daily and my blood pressure has been great.

~ Marva 


Dini's Fitness Journey

I’m Dini and I’m 71 years young. Started out in life not liking sports very much and always getting chosen last for any team at school. Think they’re a little more fair and kinder about how they choose teams now. Loved gymnastics in high school but that was about the extent of physical activity for me.
Then college, career, marriage and kids happened, but other than running after kids, again no real activity that could be labelled as fitness. 
Was always fond of walking, however, so did lots of that with my various dogs along the years and sometimes even with my children until they grew up and moved away.

My daughter became a personal trainer and yoga instructor among other things and was forever hounding me to work out. Even gave me weights one year for Christmas. Yay!! Fun gift! Then I registered for Zumba classes. Wow. Finally found something that was actually fun to do and a great cardio workout. Did that for several years and also occasionally used those weights, but not on a regular basis.


Realized much too late that I really needed to work on upper body strength because I developed osteoporosis. Then went on to break both wrists and my shoulder (in separate incidents, thankfully). Joined Nicki’s Sat. class for a while, but then broke my shoulder so had to give it up for a while. Then heard the devastating news that Nicki was moving on. How I enjoyed her classes!


Soon after, thanks to a search by several of you, I learned that a similar class was being offered at Mohawk led by Kat and the rest is history. I’ve been doing a minimum of 3 classes a week and hope to keep that up going forward. The osteoporosis specialist that I see is convinced these classes are responsible for the improvement in my bone mass so I am very grateful to Kat, especially, for keeping me motivated. I honestly can say that I still don’t love exercising but it’s not the chore it once was.

~ Dini  

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Heather's Fitness Journey

My father was an athlete, both parents  started their day with exercise and stretching. I recently found my dad's plates chart from the 50''s. Late teens and early twenties - walked everywhere as I didn't  have a car.

Hollis and I had gym memberships  and we walked plus we love dancing. Change of jobs and I started my career in Long Term Care.  One of the company goals was to decrease the number of WSIB incidents and the number of sick days. Many of the duties in LTC involves heavy lifting,  pulling and pushing.

After much consultation the company decided that it was necessary  to improve the physical  health of the employees. Gym memberships were offered at a reduced rate. Physical  consultants were brought in to discuss plans. They also made it mandatory for annual physicals. Many of us and our  families  became members. There was always a core of us planning  some fitness activities, eg walk, run,  or bike for Cancer and Alzheimer. We walked during lunch hour or came in early for  yoga or a walk by the lake, or we took the stairs. 

As I planned my retirement, I realized I would  miss this and began looking for  opportunities. For many years I had seen the Ad for the drop in classes but wanted to sleep in. I finally got the courage to start in 2017.  My first class I loved the energy  of the leader and the participants.  Once I was retired I knew that I needed  more.  I found drop in classes  at the Salvation Army church.  After friends in Fitness ended, I started doing YouTube videos while I decided my next move. I also did chair yoga at St. Andrew's church.  It was a very happy day when I got the email from Laurie for Mohawk college. I immediately  responded  and thus began this part of my journey. COVID motivated our leaders to think outside the  box,  and so here we are. Some days I want to roll over and sleep, but I think how much Kat cares about us so I roll over and give praise. I'm grateful that I joined the group, for Nicole and Kat and now Millie.  They're great sources of inspiration. 

~ Heather 


Carol's Fitness Journey

It started in the spring of 2017 when I got chatting with a colleague who told me she was

organizing a one day retreat for women.  It was just what I needed so I signed up. It happened

to be at St Andrews church, close to where I live, and the day started with Nicole leading us in an excellent energizing class. We heard various speakers and talked about nutrition, among other things. At the end of the day Nicole led us in a relaxation class. I was amazed at what a great job she did with the two totally opposite types of classes. When I asked where she taught and she said ‘here’ I was so happy. I started attending the classes twice each week, on Monday late afternoons and Saturday mornings. 


After a few years Nicole was no longer able to teach on Mondays and then not at all because her massage business was going so well. I was disappointed about the classes but happy that she was doing so well.


I retired from work that summer and joined the YWCA which I loved. When winter arrived COVID hit! In the meantime, Kat had arranged for our group from St Andrews to join the Mohawk College Fitness Centre and was volunteer teaching our Saturday morning class.  Well, we all know what happened. In the Spring of 2020, Mohawk closed because of the pandemic and we all started staying home as much as possible, wearing masks, cleaning our hands often, and staying two metres from each other.  


Kat enthusiastically got us all set up on Zoom and started volunteer teaching us fitness classes three times each week.  Wow, she saved us again! We all set up areas in our homes where we could work out together while being apart and keeping safe.   We all figured out how to use Zoom! 


In September, 2020, Kat formed Hamilton Fitness Community, an online type of gym. We could now continue doing fitness classes up to six days each week using Zoom. For me it felt a little awkward working out online, at first, but Kat made us all feel welcome and cared for. 


Kat also leads us in group discussions about a variety of interesting topics including life, nutrition, various podcasts, books, and just sharing stories. We acknowledge everyone’s birthdays and life events. We smile and laugh. We are a community!  We have done walks together to raise money for charities and socially distanced group walks, just for pleasure.



Through this pandemic Kat has been a lifesaver. The classes keep me focused, give me purpose and have gotten me more fit. I feel stronger in so many ways.



Thanks to Kat and all of the wonderful members of the Hamilton Fitness Community!

~ Carol  


Laurie's Fitness Journey

I came "late to the party" of physical activity.  As a kid I was discouraged, by unfortunate encounters with Phys Ed teachers who, it seemed, confused motivation with humiliation, so I came to believe that "brain fitness" was for me, and not so much "body fitness".  That changed when I moved to Hamilton after grad school and marriage, and went looking to try something new and totally non-cerebral.  My quest took me to the YWCA downtown and my first fitness class ever....."Dance Fit".  How 1980's was that!  It was fun and challenging and after a few sweaty, puffing weeks I found I could keep up, and I was loving doing something you could actually call physically active.  I even got my first athletic injury (shin splints) and I was so proud!   That led me to start swimming......I took an adult stroke improvement class, where a very affirming, young instructor didn't mock my unorthodox strokes rather praised me for my creativity in finding inventive ways to make it from one end of the pool to the other.  Where was that encouraging person when I was in highschool pool class!


Through babies and body changes and moves from community to community, I continued to seek out women's fitness classes.  From "Sweatin' to the Oldies" with a Jane Fonda-esque instructor at a community center in our St. Catharines years.....to my first, legit, honest-to -God  trainer, Joan Maloney, during our Stratford years.  With Joan's support and encouragement,  I lost over 30 pounds while gaining the first real sense of myself as "fitness capable".......and it had only taken me half a century to get there!


When we came back to Hamilton in 2008, I discovered the "Friends in Fitness" club, and enjoyed a variety of strength, step and cardio, classes.....especially the fun and motivating ones by my favourite new second, honest-to-God, legit instructor, Nicole Jean.  All was well until our group arrived one fateful Saturday morning to find the facility padlocked.  I feared we were done, but we small but mighty group of women were determined not to let our fitness friendship journey end, so when I confessed my secret that I was a United Church minister and had access to a gym, we were back in business!  Our faithful Nicole re-named us "The Belles of St. Andrew's fitness group" (Jeff Mahoney wrote a story about us in the Spec), and we continued happily together every Saturday morning until Nicole's tearful retirement at Christmas 2019.   


And this time, I thought we were done for sure, but Kathy and Evelyn had joined Mohawk College and met the one and only Kat Clewley, who loved our intrepid "friends in fitness" story!  At first Kat (my third, honest-to-God, and I hope forever, legit fitness instructor) offered to come teach our group back at our grungy church gym, but it made way more sense for us to come to her at that amazing college fitness center.  Kat went way above and beyond to make it happen for us, even personally teaching our Saturday classes on her one and only day off, and getting us access, as community members, to all that the college facility had to offer.  All was more-than-well until......covid!....and the closure of the college's fitness centre.   But again, Kat went way above and beyond by immediately moving our classes to Zoom.  What an inspiration!  Not even a global pandemic could get in her way!  


How grateful I am to Kat for establishing the "Hamilton Fitness Community"!  Because of her kindness, capability, and generous, unstoppable spirit, I find myself still inspired and working out  today with some awesome women........some of whom I've sweated with for over 12 years!  Kat is an uplifting marvel!   She even makes me feel grateful for "wall squats" which have strengthened my quads and quieted the popping of  my noisy, 64-year-old knees.  And by expanding the reach of  our membership, I am thrilled to be able to work out with my dear sister, Lisa and my dear friend, Mary Lou, from across the miles.....and to keep positive together while we are apart.


Sometimes when I'm lifting weights and trying to distract myself from isometric holds, I think about one particular cold war-ish phys ed teacher from my youth, and I wickedly muse about how old she must be now....................but that's not the point, is it.  The point is how very grateful I am to be as healthy as I am....and active....and motivated.  I can still sleep on church floors with teenagers at youth weekends, and play games of tag with the kids......well at least until the pandemic started I could do those  things.   My fitness journey has taken me to good places and brought good people into my life.  


I am grateful -- mind, soul and body.



Lisa's Fitness Journey

My fitness journey began in my early thirties when I joined a large chain fitness club that was conveniently located in my neighbourhood in Sarnia.  I enjoyed the flexibility of being able to have a workout while my kids were cared for.  My husband purchased a year of personal training for me one Christmas.  I learned a lot from her and eventually gained the confidence to participate in classes at the gym.  In this group setting over the years, I enjoyed classes in weight lifting, yoga, Zumba, aerobics, step and everything in between.


Five years ago I took on a new career challenge.  I now spent my days and evenings sitting either in meetings, in my car, or at my computer.  I’d lost the balance in my life and my physical fitness paid the price.


When I decided to retire in January of 2020, one of my goals was to make my health a priority again.  After an initial vacation, my plan was to join a gym in Sarnia.  And then the world changed.  Covid 19 hit and I was no longer comfortable exercising in a gym as the number of cases increased.


In April, my sister, Laurie, told me about her fabulous fitness instructor and invited me to join her group.  Even though this group of ladies lived in the Hamilton area, I could participate in classes from my home on Zoom.  I thought I’d give it a try.


On my first day, I was welcomed by the instructor, Kat.  She was enthusiastic, energetic, positive and truly inspirational — just what I needed.


I’ve been participating in Kat’s classes in what is now called the Hamilton Fitness Community on an average of 5 days each week.  I initially found the classes extremely challenging but due to Kat’s instruction and encouragement, I was able to modify exercises to meet my needs and abilities.  My strength and cardiovascular fitness has improved so much so that I can now keep up with the group.  I love the safety and practicality of being able to exercise in my home.  I’ve even made some changes to my eating habits thanks to Kat’s knowledge and guidance.


I owe so much to my sister for her invitation, my new fitness friends in the community, and most of all to Kat for her outstanding leadership.  She is such an amazing person and I wouldn’t be nearly as happy during this uncertain time if it weren’t for her guidance.  The Hamilton Fitness Community has given my days structure, supported my mental and physical health, and provided me with a sense of belonging.  I’m healthier, happier and have new friends to support me throughout my fitness journey.



Nancy's Fitness Journey

 I joined Donna’s Friends In Fitness women’s gym after it opened sometime around 1995.  Mostly, I was involved with the wide variety of classes being offered, with convenient times that worked for me after my work day.  Through the years, the ownership changed hands and it became known as Shelly’s Friends In Fitness and that was when I started attending Nicole Jean’s classes.  I especially enjoyed her great exercise ball classes.  I still use the same ball that I bought through Nicole because they were a better quality than what the gym had to offer.  There were so many members back then!  It was like a fad, everyone was heading to a gym somewhere. 


When that gym eventually closed in 2012, an opportunity to hold classes in two separate but nearby church buildings with alternating days and times became available. Some of us had stayed in touch and still wanted to work out together. Nicole agreed to be our instructor Monday evenings and on Saturday mornings.   Eventually Nicki was only able teach on Saturday mornings and then at the end of 2019, her expanding business would not allow her the extra time to continue to lead us on Saturday mornings. 


That’s when I heard, through Kathy and Evelyn, about the Mohawk College Rec Centre and about Kat Clewley, who as you know, has become our new fitness guru!  Now that Kat has come into the picture and with the help of ZOOM, I can keep on a regular work-out schedule in the convenience of my home and I am loving it! 


These classes have kept me from a sedentary lifestyle throughout this pandemic and connecting with my friends in fitness has also kept me focused on the positive side of things.   As an added plus, Nicki has joined our ranks and also leads our sessions when available!   And of course we now have Millie’s guidance in our yoga practice.  With good friends, great fitness classes, and ongoing fresh information to help stay fit, it’s great to be a part of this story!


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Evelyn's Fitness Journey









In the mid-nineties I was taking fitness classes at the neighbourhood Ryerson Recreation Centre. Whenever our instructor was away, she arranged for her friend, Donna, to take our classes. Donna ran a gym for women on Upper James (just north of Fennell) called ‘Donna’s Friends in Fitness’. I went to Donna’s to check it out. It turned out that Donna had just sold the gym, but it would continue as ‘Friends in Fitness’ under the new management. I liked the environment right away. I am not a big gym person. I liked that it was small and exclusive to women. When I looked around during my tour, the women I saw were just like me – regular folk working out to stay fit and active. Membership fees were also very reasonable, so I signed up on the spot and attended fitness classes several times a week during the school year and daily in the summer months. I enjoyed the variety of classes and instructors, but I especially enjoyed Nicole Jean’s classes and attended faithfully over the years. Nicole was a fabulous instructor who made everyone feel motivated and empowered. A small group of us showed up regularly at Nicole’s classes and it was always so comfortable and reassuring walking into class and seeing those familiar faces.

 I know we all remember that Saturday morning in 2012 when we showed up for class only to discover the gym door locked and a notice posted informing us that the gym was now closed. We were in shock. Many of us had just attended the Friday evening fitness class the night before, and we really couldn’t believe what was happening. We congregated in the parking lot sharing our stunned disbelief and wondering what we were going to do now. I believe it was Kathy who said we needed to exchange contact information and stay connected to figure something out. I do not remember exactly how things developed from there, but it wasn’t long before Laurie and Nancy secured rooms at their churches and Nicole Jean said she would continue to lead fitness classes for us. Nicole ran two classes a week – Monday afternoons at The Church of the Resurrection and Saturday mornings at St. Andrew’s - for several years until she had to relinquish the Monday classes when she entered a Registered Massage Therapist program.

In early 2019 Kathy learned that Mohawk’s Athletic Centre offered community memberships and suggested we check it out. We both still attended Nicole’s Saturday classes. As we were both up for more fitness classes and live close to the campus, this was definitely worth checking out.

This was when Kathy and I began our relationship with Mohawk and met Kat Clewley, the Manager of DBARC. While we were impressed with the facility, the reasonable fees for community members, and the great instructors, we were blown away by Kat. Kat made us feel welcome right from the start. Whenever we showed up, Kat was either leading a class or working out herself. She was a very motivational and energetic presence and soon Kathy and I were regular attenders at Kat’s Friday spin class. Then came the sad day last December when Nicole announced that she was no longer able to instruct our group as her massage therapy clientele was expanding. It was a very emotional and teary class. We all knew it was a very hard decision for Nicole.  We were all sad to think this was the end of ‘Friends in Fitness’ – a great group of women who had found a way to keep working out together for so many years.

Once again, Kathy sprang into action and reached out to Kat Clewley. Kat’s response was quick and positive. ‘Friends in Fitness’ was about to get a new lease on life! Not only did Kat agree to instruct, but she arranged a very attractive membership package for our group. Everything was going great the first couple of months in 2020 - and then COVID struck. This could really have been the end of ‘Friends in Fitness’, but Kat rescued us once again by volunteering to lead fitness classes three times a week on Zoom throughout the summer. These classes have helped us all stay connected and fit - physically, mentally, and emotionally - during a challenging pandemic.

 Now we are entering a new phase as ‘Friends in Fitness’ embarks on a new journey even bigger and better as the Hamilton Fitness Community with Kat at the helm. I am grateful that this tremendous group of caring women has been an important part of my life for over a decade and I am so happy and excited that Kat has given us a future and our fitness journey together continues.


~ Evelyn

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