Senior citizens fitness initiative underway in Seymour

Do you. Your workout, your way.

Those phrases were uttered several times by Ellen Olmstead during the first Seniors in Motion class being offered by the Seymour Parks and Recreation Department.

Some of the senior citizens have taken Olmstead’s fitness classes over the years, while others haven’t exercised in a long time.

Either way, she wants people to feel comfortable and safe in a positive, upbeat atmosphere with music playing in the background to keep them motivated. She doesn’t want them to feel intimidated, judged or uncomfortable.

It’s all about working out, having fun and feeling good.

“To me, music is a big part. You need to enjoy the music, and I try and vary it through,” Olmstead said. “They need to like it, and they need to like who they are working out with. … I think if you like who you’re working out with, then you’re going to come back.”

Seniors in Motion is among three classes now being offered to men and women ages 55 and older as part of the Seymour Senior Fitness Initiative.

The purpose of that class, which is at 9 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays upstairs at the Seymour Community Center, 107 S. Chestnut St., is to “move and groove to great tunes and cardio moves.”

Another class, Active Aging, is at 10:15 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays on the first floor of the community center. It’s focused on balance, flexibility, strength and light cardio at a slower pace.

The third class, Hoopin Good Time, is at 9 a.m. Fridays upstairs. Hula hoops are used for an entire body workout.

The cost for Seniors in Motion and Hoopin Good Time is $5 per class, while Active Aging is $1 per class.

Olmstead, a Jackson County native and entrepreneur, was chosen to lead the initiative because she has a long history in fitness. She taught aerobics through the 1980s and worked in a gym in the 1990s.

By doing personal training and instructing fitness classes since the millennium, Olmstead feels fitness isn’t a choice. It’s a way of life. She has taken her enthusiasm for health and fitness to a professional level by helping others achieve their own wellness goals.

Stacy Findley, director of the city’s parks and recreation department, knew Olmstead led fitness classes in the parks during the COVID-19 pandemic and asked if she had an interest in being a part of the new initiative.

“I said, ‘You know, I do because Seymour is a great place. Let’s try and get this together,’” Olmstead said.

“It’s funner to work out with people, and in Seymour, we need it,” she said. “I think there is a group of seniors — and could be more — that know how important it is just to move. Whether they keep up or not, it doesn’t matter. Just move and have good energy.”

During the classes, Olmstead tells people if they need to sit down to exercise or take a break, it’s OK.

“Just whatever you can do because some people haven’t been working out for years,” she said.

The classes provide several benefits to the seniors.

“It’s going to build their strength, their mobility, their flexibility, some of their cardiovascular stuff,” Olmstead said. “It’s just going to make them get through their life better. If you fall, you want to get up. If you don’t have upper-body strength or core strength, you need that button (to call for help). I want them to be able to be more active on their own.”

Olmstead also would like to incorporate some group activities. With her fitness classes in the parks, they walked around downtown, went on hikes at a forestry and walked across Ohio River bridges in Jeffersonville and Madison.

“They could bring friends. I don’t care who comes. It’s fellowship,” she said.

Judy Wonning of Rockford was among those attending Olmstead’s first classes last week. She’s no stranger to working out, as she has attended exercise classes around Seymour over the last 20-plus years. That includes the past 10 years with Olmstead.

“She’s awesome,” Wonning said of Olmstead’s energy and upbeat attitude. “I’ve been coming every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for several years.”

The classes have helped her socially and physically.

“I had surgery last winter, and I had rehab, and then after rehab ended because my insurance quit paying it, I came here and it helps me get my shoulder back into place,” Wonning said. “It’s just a good thing, and I try my hardest not to miss any classes.”