Member Spotlight

Meet Emily Smith

Emily has 2 amazing kids, a loving husband, and lives in Vancouver. She has a special connection with Gabriola so when Covid-19 shook our world Emily had the opportunity to try what the Gabriola Fitness Centre had to offer virtually. Her perseverance, the hurdles she’s overcome, and the way she’s reshaped her life to take care of herself is an inspiring story that must be told. (sneak peak ~ she also makes wooden spoons!) Read on…

1. How long have you had a regular exercise routine and what prompted you to start?

I’ve had a regular exercise routine since Gabriola Fitness started offering online classes in spring of 2020. I had been wanting to start exercising, but couldn’t find the time and childcare to do it. When Covid shook up our routine I stopped taking the kids to activities and had a lot more time at home. I tried the online classes on impulse from a friend’s recommendation and they were awesome so I stayed.

How old were you when you started?


What would you say the benefits are to having a regular exercise routine?

There are so many! Improved strength, balance, and coordination; a sense of progress and accomplishment; changes in appearance; noticeably extra energy on days when I don’t do a hard workout; improved mood; increased ability to do physically difficult activities outside of exercise; and, as a homeschooling parent who has faced a number of personal challenges over the last few years, the active cultivation of a sense of self-worth and time for myself is a huge benefit.

What are the biggest challenges to maintaining that regular routine? 

For me at first it was childcare, so I let my kids have TV or video games because I’m getting something so important out of it; this way they know they have something to look forward to as well and don’t get distraught. For longer classes I literally wrote them a list of what they need to do, like get dressed and brush their teeth and do some school work or printables, and combine that with a time-limited amount of screen time, so because I clearly set those expectations now it is routine for them and they rarely disrupt my workouts. 

My challenges now after a year are different, like sometimes I am feeling a bit sensitive and I don’t want to show up and interact with people, or maybe I have an injury and I’m afraid to make it worse. But I have never regretted showing up.

What advice would you give to someone to help them overcome the challenges of maintaining a regular routine?  

There’s a lot of advice out there about just showing up or putting it on your calendar. I have found my circumstances to be complex and I needed to do more personal development to make sure I get to class regularly.

If you find you are struggling, take time to think about why maintaining that routine actually is a challenge – is it your kids, your dog, your schedule, your chronic health condition, your self talk? – and make a plan to address those challenges BEFORE you are actually trying to do the class. Talk to the person leading the class about what you’re struggling with, they might be able to help you; for example I often have to check my phone and/or leave class to care for my young son’s Type 1 Diabetes, but Tasha knows that and now I don’t feel self-conscious about it. 

If you are injured, remind yourself that you can be kind to your injury but still exercise, and tell your trainer; they will make sure you still get a good workout that is safe for you. 

Make sure you’re choosing something that has at least an aspect of it that you like to do, or would feel proud of every time you do it, because then there will be part of it that you look forward to.

Have a frequency goal that works for you – rather than always scheduling I have a weekly goal of number of classes. Note the classes you do on your calendar AFTER you do them, that way even if you miss a day or a week you can remind yourself of how often you have been showing up and that will probably feel good.

Celebrate every success you have, no matter how small – small things take you big places. If you have to exercise around others and you feel self-conscious (say, while on vacation at a relative’s house), try a pre-class routine that includes aromatherapy and affirmations to trigger good feelings about how awesome it is that you are doing this.

Also, think about what makes you feel good about the process and works for your mental health, then incorporate that directly into your goals; for example, being able to lose weight or do 30 push ups are not healthy goals for me, as I have a tendency to feel sad if I want those things but can’t achieve them fast enough. Instead, my goals are about completing a certain number of classes per week, trying things that are hard, learning new things, and reflecting on my successes, as I find this trajectory very motivational. However you do it, you are worth it no matter what and you are literally investing in yourself.

Can you tell us how these online classes with Gabriola Fitness helped you through this time of Covid-19? 

Covid meant a huge change in routine, and I thrive on routine, so creating a new weekly rhythm based on classes I wanted to go to was a real anchor point in an otherwise unsettled time. These classes turned out to be very personal and a great place to chat with others to get some social connection while also reaping all the benefits of regular exercise. Additionally, during times when it wasn’t as easy to go out because Covid was steeply on the rise in my neighborhood, there were always classes online for me to stay active, and sometimes even classes for my kids too. 

Which online classes did you find the most beneficial and why?

I started with Butts and Guts because I have a large abdominal separation and some pelvic floor issues; this class incorporates a lot of the exercises that help with deep core strengthening so I felt like I was really doing something that directly supported my health needs. Core exercise classes that include modern approaches to pelvic health are not offered at your average urban community centre gym and it really made me feel at home with GFC and like I was putting my money, time, and energy in the right place. Also, the music in that class is always awesome.

I like a little bit of everything though and wanted to exercise at least 3 days per week, so I supplemented with Full Body Toning, Cardio and Core, Recharge, and Sunday Yoga, depending on what I wanted or needed at the time. When the Kickstart small group personal training program opened I started doing that, and it has by far been the most valuable for my personal and physical development.

Do you still replay the recordings?

100%. There are some classes, like Recharge or Yoga for Gardeners that I never made it to in person, but having the recordings means I can fit them in at a time that works for me. Also, there are some days when I don’t want to do a hard workout but do want movement so I love having the breadth of choice that the online classes offer. Also, some “episodes” just really are that good and I want to go back and do them again.

Can you tell us about your involvement with the Kickstart Program?  What did you primarily learn through that program?

The small group personal training offered in Kickstart is really special. There are exercises you can get more out of when someone teaches you to do them one on one. There are questions about your body or ideas that might be holding you back that you can go deep on in a discussion format that you can’t get in a typical exercise class. I have discovered that being able to talk to other participants and share in their challenges and successes is very motivational, especially as I am someone who has never been involved in anything like team sports where I imagine you would get some of that group feedback. Also, having someone get to know you and coach you over a long period of time means that the push for challenge, development, or improvement doesn’t need to come entirely from within you – you have someone on your side who knows what they are doing who can help you get to that next level, even if you don’t know what that level is or are unsure about whether you even wanted to go there. The two things I primarily learned in that program are (a) that small modifications to how you understand and perform small movements can lead to big changes in big powerful movements really quickly and (b) it feels really good to break into movements that I never, ever dreamed I would do and prove to myself that there is more inside myself, physically and mentally, than I was really aware of.

If someone wants to get started, but doesn’t know how to, what would you say to that person?

Buy a monthly membership and try a bunch of different classes until you find something you like. If you want to do more but you don’t know how, talk to Tasha (I hear good things about Jo Jeff too but don’t have personal experience). 

What is your favorite exercise?  Why?

Whatever I didn’t know I could do last week, that I can do now 🙂 This has included half handstands on the wall, pikes on an exercise ball, lifting weights in plank on a ball, and crow pose. These are all things I didn’t know I could or would ever do, and things I have described as hating at one moment or another. Anything I hate or feel completely awkward about in class I try again on my own until I can do it better and I feel really proud when I get it.

What makes the classes and programs at Gabriola Fitness different from other online classes or programs?

Doing the classes on Zoom rather than something like Facebook Live means you can interact with the teacher and your classmates; the huge library of online classes means you can try new things at your own pace; Tasha Mae is an amazing instructor who makes the online experience really joyful and personal.

Do you have any advice for someone who may be interested in trying the classes at Gabriola Fitness?

Follow your interest and try it! The monthly membership to online classes is really great value for the money and  you can try a lot of things and find the class that is your happy place.

Living in Vancouver and keeping connected to a Gulf Island feels a bit like home.  Tell us about the spoons you carve!!

After a year of developing my fitness I was able to adopt a really physical hobby for myself with confidence that I could sustain the bodily effort it entails. I carve wooden spoons from green wood with axe and knives, working largely from the Scandinavian traditional method of craft teaching known as Sloyd. I collect and carry logs on my walks, use a heavy mallet and axe to split them into billets on my patio, use a carving axe to create a spoon blank, and refine the spoon with sharp knives, leaving a smooth, tool finished surface without sandpaper.

You can see some of my spoons on Instagram @emily.darcy.smith or EmilyDarcySpoons

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