BY KALISHA MENDONSA
Ten years ago, a local woman took it upon herself to offer an aerobics class in Lacombe. Now, 10 years in the future, Finding Balance – Dani’s Fitness has expanded into the teachings of karate, aerobics, yoga, pilates, belly dancing and even a boot-camp.
Dani Ducross is the leader of these variety of fitness programs – which primarily focuses on karate and pilates/yoga – hosted at the Terrace Ridge Elementary School in Lacombe. Ducross’ vision for her programs simply began as a way to provide an outlet for people to stay healthy in body and mind.
“When I first started these classes, it was because there were no others around. When I first moved here 10 years ago, there was a karate group but nobody taught yoga or aerobics in Lacombe that I knew of, so I just started teaching my own,” Ducross said.
“One of the things that constantly drives me to keep doing these classes is my knowledge and personal experience with the fact that mental health is directly linked to physical activity. If I can get people to come and try something that will make them feel better – especially in an affordable, friendly and non-judgmental atmosphere – I might be able to make their lives a little bit better.”
Currently, the programs are hosted in the gym of the Terrace Ridge school in order to help maintain the affordability of the programs. Ducross said the space is relaxed and less traditional than yoga studios or karate gyms and this allows people to feel more comfortable in simply focusing on the fitness.
“This class is ideal for anyone even remotely interested in trying yoga, as they will find we are a relaxed and friendly group. I guarantee that people will leave the class with a smile on their faces and feeling great,” she said.
Ducross has a background in fine arts and dance, and has been involved in karate and dance since a young age. Her passion to lead a healthy life led her to teaching the classes, and has continued over the years.
She said that the exercise and fitness programs in her life had dramatically helped her mood and quality of life. Ducross said that she knows fitness can be a huge factor in improving a person’s life and she simply wants to facilitate that personal growth in a friendly, relaxed manner.
“I want people to be comfortable here. I don’t want people to come in with high expectations for themselves, but I want them to come and try out the various classes I have so they can see it’s not scary – anyone can do this,” Ducross said.
Ducross offers drop-in prices of $10 for her yoga/pilates classes that run Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6:30-7:30 p.m. The current program will run until the end of April, with another program beginning in May. Four-month sessions cost $100.
All classes she teaches are available for any age. Children under 16 are free to attend all classes, but children under 10 must be accompanied by an adult, even for the pre-registered karate classes.
Her karate classes are a registered program and do not offer drop-in sessions.
“With the karate class, we used to run classes only for children. however, there are lots of places people can register their kids and drop them off without having to stay committed to that program. Sometimes I don’t think people understand exactly how much effort is put into learning a skill like karate, and how much it affects the kids developmentally in terms of confidence and fitness level,” Ducross said.
“I want parents to understand the effort and commitment their children have to the program, so now I have that the classes are family-friendly. I invite the parents to take part, but it is mandatory for them to stick around during the class if the child is under 10. I want the students to feel supported and hope their parents can support them in the class and at home.”
She added that she has found the karate program much more sustainable and successful since changing the format to encourage family participation. There is no age restrictions for the class.
Dani’s Fitness programs are also offered as part of the City of Lacombe’s ‘Find the Right Fit’ program, which encourages people to get out in the community and try new fitness programs at their convenience and at no cost. Ducross does keep punch-passes for the Find the Right Fit onhand during classes for people who may simply want to drop by and check out the program before committing to a full four-month session.
“The intensity level is not extremely high, although that can be adjusted for more advanced people. Typically, our classes have great retention – some of the ladies who partake in the classes have been here since I began 10 years ago,” Ducross said.
“However, I’ve noticed that sometimes as people become more fit they want to find something a little more challenging, and I’m very happy with that as well. If I can be a catalyst for someone to get involved in fitness, and challenge themselves, that is fantastic. For those who like what I do, it’s great to see them come back.”
For more information on the programs, check out the Finding Balance – Dani’s Fitness facebook page, call Ducross at 403-782-7037 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.