How the Y Finds Faith in Fitness
When we think about exercise, and wellness, our faith doesn’t always go hand-in-hand. We consider them separate entities. You might workout Monday – Friday, take it easy on Saturday, pray on Sunday. But the REFIT® crew, takes a slightly different approach.
Carrie Evans, a certified REFIT* instructor at the Vigo County YMCA, has been practicing with prayer for years, and is truly a believer in what the strong combination can do.
“I became a dance fitness instructor in March of 2010,” said Carrie. “After losing close to 100 lbs as a participant, I realized the next step for me was to become certified so I could help others realize their goals. I taught dance fitness under a popular format for three years before I was introduced to REFIT®.”
At the time, Carrie had been feeling increasingly compelled to seek music and routines that were positive and value driven - something she would feel comfortable doing if her daughter were in a class. She wanted music and moves that would empower and fill the participants with positive thoughts and honor God.
The creators of REFIT®, Angela Beeler, Catherine Ballas and Emily Field – all of Waco Texas – had a YouTube channel full of routines to music that were exactly what she was looking for. The goal is to create community through an empowering, faith-based fitness experience that changes participants from the inside out.
“Some songs were from my favorite contemporary Christian artists, some were popular songs one would hear on mainstream radio,” she said. “All of it was clean and positive and fun! I knew I had to be a part of this.”
Carrie contacted Angela through Facebook, and asked her if they had ever considered training other instructors to teach REFIT®. Angela quickly responded that they had just rolled out a training curriculum, and they were in the beginning phases of instructor certification trainings across the country. In November 2013, Carrie was star struck as the three powerhouse women she had followed on YouTube walked into the Booker T. Washington Community Center where she had been teaching her classes.
Carrie, along with 10 other students, spent the day with REFIT* team, learning and building relationships that would become lifelong.
“We were among some of the first certified REFIT® instructors in the nation, she said. “Since then, REFIT® has exploded in popularity, boasting over 1,000 instructors nationwide, in Canada and abroad.”
The blessing of teaching REFIT® has been huge for Carrie. She has seen lives transformed, far beyond simply weight loss.
“When we come together, it’s for the whole experience,” Carrie stated. “Yes, we get a great workout and sweat buckets, but we also find a safe place to land. Friendships are formed, support is given, laughter is in abundance. We pray for and with one another. That is what people come back for. I feel like I'm truly doing what God has called me to do.”
Bringing an "unknown" fitness format to a community meant putting in lots of sweat, equity and time to get word out. When Carrie started her classes, she had two people coming. In an effort to keep costs low for participants, she was charging well below the going rate for a class of this kind in the area. As such, she didn't have money for marketing, she relied solely on word of mouth and Facebook. She now has an average of 15-40 people faithfully attending classes - which varies at each location - and a database of close to 400 people which is comprised of both active participants and those who follow the group.
Last year, after a lengthy application process, Carrie was named one of 7 REFIT® REPs nationwide. She is responsible for mentoring and offering ongoing training to new instructors. Locally, Carrie has seen REFIT® grow in both class size, and in the number of instructors the organization has. In 2013 it was just Carrie and another instructor who was certified the same time as her, now there are nearly 20 instructors with classes almost every day of the week at various locations.
Carrie has classes at the Vigo County YMCA Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m., Friday mornings at 8:45 a.m. and Saturday mornings at 10:00 a.m. Members are encouraged to stop in for a little exercise, and whole lot of love and inspiration.