Mackle Park offers low-impact exercise class


If your New Year’s resolution included the commitment to get yourself into shape and start exercising, Mackle Park has you covered. The city’s brand-new community center is hosting a wide range of exercise and dance classes, second only to the YMCA.

“Our calendar is full,” said Samantha Malloy, manager of parks, culture and recreation for the city. “With all of our programs, and people renting out the space for their things, we’re up and running at full speed.”

Wednesday morning, the Eagle caught up with one of the three-times-per-week Essentrics classes, taught for the third year by instructor Judy Waltz, who retired after 37 years as a Registered Nurse. She is also a 15-year breast cancer survivor, which led her to become involved with Essentrics, she said. Essentrics was created by Miranda Esmonde-White, a former ballerina and the host of a long-running PBS television show called “Classical Stretch.”

“This is the only program I’ve found that allows you to age backwards,” Waltz told her class, her voice amplified by a headset mic. “You’ll get a beautiful, lean dancer’s body, and don’t forget the ultimate reward – you’ll live longer.”

Half a dozen women joined her in the activity room at Mackle Park, although Tom Waltz, Judy’s husband and tech guru, helping out with the sound system, said they typically have more, and speculated the damp, foggy morning held down attendance. Judy led them through a series of stretches and bends, first standing and then lying on mats on the floor.

“With Essentrics, you work all your muscle groups and skeletal groups in one hour. A lot of people don’t ever work those groups at all,” she said. “This is a different form than lifting weights or high-impact, high-stress workouts.”

“It’s a simple thing – gentle, not invasive,” said Joyce King, who has been attending the class since its inception three years ago. “Who would think such a simple set of exercises could help so much?”

As the group moved in unison or laid down on their mats for floor stretches, Waltz called out instructions.

“Swing! stretch! Tuck in your abs, tuck in your bottom.

“So we’re flat on the floor. Glue that lumbar spine to the floor,” she said. Having hurt one arm over the holidays, she did some of the exercises one-handed. Music helped keep the class pumped up.

Waltz is a level two Essentrics instructor, she said, working on her level three certification. She touted Esmonde-White’s book, “Aging Backwards,” although as she pointed out, she does not sell the book herself.

The Essentrics technique, according to the book, “uses low-intensity strength and stretch exercises to relieve pain, prevent injury, and slenderize the body,” calling it “an exciting and comprehensive plan for actively slowing down and even reversing the aging process through gentle exercise that develops strong, flexible muscles.”

Sara Sargent, back for a second year with Judy’s Essentrics class, said “I like the balance and stretching. It’s kind of a combination of yoga and tai chi.”

Recreation supervisor Lola Dial of the Parks and Recreation Dept. said there is an exercise or fitness program to suit a variety of people and needs at Mackle Park, including Zumba, tumbling, yoga and a separate chair yoga class, classes in tap, jazz, lyrical, tumbling and ballet, for beginners and intermediate dancers from three years old to adults, and coming in March, tai chi.

Mackle Park is located at 1461 Andalusia Terrace, across from the library. The Essentrics class takes place Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 9 to 10 am., with a $15 fee.


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