Yes, Virginia, free fitness classes for women do exist

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Courtesy Photo “Revive and Thrive”is a free dance fitness class program for women of all ages.
Getting fit, exercising more and feeling better about one’s body are common resolutions that people often make, especially around the New Year.

Unfortunately, the process to achieving these goals often involves a financial expenditure, whether it’s for a gym membership, class fees or new equipment, and for many folks, the outlay of needed cash can be problematic, especially in a challenging economy.

In an effort to make it easier on the wallet, while increasing accessibility to fitness, one longtime local trainer has opted to offer free fitness classes to women.

“I don’t think people should have to pay for better health and fitness,” says Cheryl Licata. “Some things in life should be free and especially something as important as your health.”

To this purpose, the Woodinville woman began “Revive and Thrive,” a free dance fitness class program for women of all ages.

She upped the ante by adding free childcare to attract mothers with young children.

“Getting enough exercise is hard enough for women, but when you add in the issue of finding a babysitter, it gets overwhelming,” comments Licata. “And, of course, you have to pay the sitter each time you want to get out and do something good for yourself.”

Licata started the classes a little over a year ago, offering them three mornings a week at Avondale Bible Church, across from the Woodinville Library.

Initially, the sessions were sparsely attended, but it didn’t take long for the word to spread and for the numbers to grow.

“I get about 25 to 40 women per class,” says Licata. “They’re all ages and come from various backgrounds and fitness levels. I choreograph the classes so everyone can do the steps and I show low and high intensity options to make it accessible to individual needs.”

The local woman describes “Revive and Thrive” as a “fun and powerfully effective one-hour total body workout.”

She adds, “Every class combines dance-based cardio with strength training and stretching to sculpt, tone and lengthen muscles for maximum fat burn. It’s a fusion of many forms of dance, resistance training, kickboxing and deep stretch. I use many styles of music including top 40 favorites, international, inspirational and jazz.”

Licata emphasizes that there’s no competition or intimidation in the classes, adding, “It’s just you getting to be you.”

She says that the only rule is to keep moving in whatever fashion you can.

“We giggle, we laugh, we have so much fun,” she adds. “I strive to establish a relaxed, light-hearted atmosphere where people feel comfortable and welcome, yet they know they’re going to get a great workout and sweat buckets in the process.”

Licata notes that the workouts also aid in relieving stress and help to reenergize the women, allowing them to leave feeling renewed and ready to take on the day.

She is proud of the changes that she has witnessed in a number of her participants. One woman lost 50 pounds over the course of a year; another, 45 in the last six months.

“Then I have three older women in their 70s who at the beginning had difficulty moving due to joint pain and now they are moving freely and their pain has basically disappeared,” mentions Licata.

“For others, it’s the gain in muscle and strength that happens.” She adds, “It’s very rewarding for me to help women feel better about themselves, but the real reason I do this is so I can dance and play, while being surrounded by loving and caring people. It’s pure joy for me!”

After the sessions, many of the participants often head across the hall to the coffee bar where they can order their favorite latte — for free — and spend time socializing together.

Participants can make donations if they wish, whether for classes, childcare or beverages, but it is entirely optional.

All money collected goes to the church, which in turn uses it to help pay the electricity and floor maintenance costs.

“It’s not about money,” emphasizes Licata.

“Ability to pay costly prices for classes and childcare is a non-issue here. Your health and well-being are first and foremost.”

All women are welcome, no need to register.

Wear comfortable clothing, cross-training or aerobic style shoes and bring water and a mat.

Weights and additional equipment are provided.

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