Exercise group available for ages 55 and up


When the COVID-19 pandemic started earlier in the year, many businesses and organizations shut down.

That included gyms, leaving people to exercise on their own.

Now that gyms have reopened, some people still feel more comfortable exercising outside.

“Some of the girls contacted me to see if I would lead a class somewhere outside so we could social distance and stay 6 feet apart,” Ellen Olmstead said. “They rallied, scoped out all the parks, contacted the city to see if it was OK and Fitness at Crossroads Park began back in June.”

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Olmstead, 58, leads the fitness group at the JCB Pavilion at Crossroads Community Park, 101 E. Tipton St., Seymour. The group meets Mondays and Fridays at 9 a.m. for about an hour and typically has anywhere from 12 to 20 people.

Even though the class is geared for the 55-and-older population, anyone is welcome to attend, including men, said Olmstead, who is a native of Jackson County and currently lives in rural Hayden.

“I’ve been instructing group fitness in the area since the late 1980s back in the day when we gathered at the armory for workouts,” Olmstead said. “More recently, I’ve been employed by Fitness 1440 and for the last decade led a Functional Fitness class and Silver Sneakers.”

Both classes are designed for seniors and focus on balance, stability, cardio and fun.

Olmstead, who calls herself a fitness instructor, caregiver and “handy girl,” said she thinks people are more likely to participate if they enjoy not only the movement but also the music and fellowship.

Mind and body go hand in hand, and she likes to keep both challenged.

“The class is geared a bit more for seniors, but everyone is welcome, and we focus on balance, stability, toning and trimming,” she said. “We start with a warmup, then do some cardio, sometimes using exercise bands, hoops or even water bottles in the workouts.”

Olmstead said people have walked different paths, so they should do what they can and set a goal for their own personal improvement. She is just there to help them along and have a little fun.

“Since we are outdoors, we haven’t limited the number of participants, but we stress social distancing and keep a mask handy,” Olmstead said. “There is no set fee, but a donation of $5 is suggested and greatly appreciated. I call that my COVID relief money.”

She said the pandemic has been tough on everyone. With the isolation and sedentary lifestyle, many have picked up the “COVID pounds” and in some cases a little depression.

“So we want to get together and laugh, talk, share experiences and move our bodies, and I could not ask for a nicer group of ladies to work out with,” she said. “We share life and support one another. They have become my extended family, and I am very blessed.”

Judy Wonning lives just north of Seymour and has been taking classes with Olmstead for more than five years.

“Ellen does a great job, and it’s a good routine, meeting twice a week,” Wonning said. “We’ve been doing this here at the park for about two months now since COVID hit, but before that, we were at the gym, and then they were closed for months.”

She said Functional Fitness is a good variety of movements for those at the age where they need exercise but nothing really gung ho.

“There are actually about 40 ladies who have come to this class off and on, but not every week,” she said. “We usually bring water with us, and Ellen has some stretchy bands that she brings. Most people here are over 50, but occasionally, one of the ladies brings her daughter.”

Seymour resident Kim Griffith said she first started coming to the exercise class after she hurt her back, and the exercise seemed to really help.

Norma Prewitt, 83, said she participates in the class because it’s beneficial for stability, balance and using all of your muscles.

“It’s also good mentally and for socialization,” she said. “We all help each other and encourage each other, and we’re outside in the open where it’s less depressing.”

Linda Marsh, 75, said she loves how Olmstead leads the class. She has been taking classes with her for about six years through Fitness 1440. Physically and mentally, she said the class at the park has been wonderful.

“Ellen is wonderful and keeps us motivated and lets us go at our own pace,” Marsh said. “She doesn’t judge anybody, and if you can’t do something, you just do what you can.”

Jane Schepman said the camaraderie is wonderful and Olmstead is a very positive leader.

“Since classes are held less at the local gyms now, this is a group who has found a way to still exercise together and social distance,” she said.

Besides exercising, the group sometimes engages in other activities. Like on Aug. 28, they met at the park to go have breakfast at Larrison’s Diner and then took a walk and had their picture taken in front of the John Mellencamp mural.

“We like talking to each other and being together, and Ellen makes it enjoyable,” Schepman said. “It feels good to get out and move and do something for yourself. This is a great story of how life goes on during the pandemic.”

Olmstead said she plans to continue the classes until the pandemic is not as rampant or the weather no longer permits. She also is back to instructing classes at Fitness 1440 with a limited number of participants.

When she is not teaching classes, Olmstead enjoys the great outdoors by hiking, kayaking, traveling, taking photographs and spending time with her friends and animals. She also is on Radio 96.3 from time to time.

“Mostly, I’m hanging out with my 95-year-old mother,” Olmstead said. “She has been my true inspiration with the famous words ‘Never stop moving. If you don’t use it, you lose it,’ so thanks, Mom.”

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What: Functional Fitness exercise classes

When: 9 a.m. Mondays and Fridays

Where: Crossroads Community Park, 101 E. Tipton St., Seymour

Who: Designed for men and women ages 55 and up, but anyone is welcome

Cost: Free, but $5 donations are welcome


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