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Fit to be tried

Ma’lena Walley wants to get you moving.

Even if you’re overweight. Even if you have a disability. Even if you’ve never exercised before in your life.

“There really aren’t any opportunities for people who aren’t necessarily starting from a place of presumed fitness,” Walley says.

And that’s how Walley’s Moon Tree Gentle Yoga and Wellness Center was born. The studio, which is slated to open for classes Monday, will offer yoga classes for people with a range of health issues, including women going through menopause or pregnancy, people with arthritis, those who are obese and those with multiple sclerosis or other conditions.

“The kind of yoga I teach is to slow things way down and really modify and use lots and lots of props,” Walley says.

Everyone knows the benefits of regular exercise. But, in some cases, finding the courage to start a program is half the battle. Whether it’s at a gym, in a studio, out on the sidewalk or in front of the TV, there are plenty of options for beginning exercisers to take the plunge.

“Your fitness, your health is something that you absolutely have control over,” says Kelly Amos, group fitness director for Oz Fitness, which has locations around Spokane and in Coeur d’Alene. “You have to start somewhere.”

Oz Fitness offers Group Fitness 101 to members who may be just starting out or have health concerns, Amos says. The class combines cardiovascular and strength training in a circuit format.

“It’s all very, very basic choreography,” she says. “It’s a little introduction to our different formats and to just different types of movement and choreography … It gives them a good taste of what we have to offer at a very doable level for anyone.”

After making progress in the 101 class, Amos says, participants are encouraged to attend some of the club’s more challenging offerings.

For some people, though, the thought of going to a gym is daunting. It’s too intimidating, they think. Or it’s too expensive.

But you don’t even have to leave your living room to get a good beginning workout.

Just ask Mary Ann Wilson. For years, the Spokane woman has hosted “Sit and Be Fit,” an exercise show airing on more than 100 PBS stations around the country. The program is scheduled to tape its ninth season this summer.

“If you can roll a shoulder, there’s something you can do here,” Wilson says. “They don’t have to go anywhere. They can just watch at home. They can try a few movements to see how it feels.”

Wilson hears almost every day from seniors, people with disabilities and overweight people who have never exercised before. Some have told her it was a “blessing” that they turned on the TV and happened to see her show, she says.

“It’s like a car,” Wilson says. “You don’t buy a Mercedes and park it out front and never use it or misuse it. You maintain it. You take really good care of it. You run it just enough that it’s going to function well.”

The key, she says, is finding an exercise that you enjoy and one that you can continue doing on a regular basis.

It also helps to seek out something that will hold you accountable, such as a group exercise class, Amos says.

“It’s an appointment,” she says.

Beginners also need to realize that change will not happen overnight. You have to invest some time and effort to reap the rewards of your exercise program, she says.

“There’s going to be some hard work,” Amos says. “You’re going to sweat.”

Walley has struggled with her weight all of her life, she says. She remembers being terrified before taking her first yoga class.

“I had to walk into a room knowing I wasn’t going to look like anyone else,” she says. “… I don’t move the way anyone else does. I’ve got a belly and I’ve got boobs and they get in the way. Even though it was called ‘gentle yoga,’ there was this presumption of physical fitness that I didn’t have.”

Walley’s studio will share an office Spokane with Dr. Vivian Moise’s office of Rehabilitation Medicine Spokane.

“I am my own walking advertisement,” Walley says. “I’m larger than most, in fact all, yoga teachers. And yet I am very strong. I have increased my flexibility and because of that I’m able to do walking. I’m able to do hiking. I’m able to have more energy.”



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