While not teaching a class

Heart of our City: Barb Long focuses on fitness

It’s well known that a good workout makes a person feel rejuvenated and refreshed after they’ve finished.

It’s well known that a good workout makes a person feel rejuvenated and refreshed after they’ve finished – but while they’re strengthening their body during one, not so much.

For Barb Long, it’s that invigoration and sense of personal renewal right after pushing one’s body to it’s limits, which both started and defined her ongoing 25-year career as a fitness instructor while training and instructing in Prince Rupert and Terrace.

“It’s that relaxation you feel when you’re done and you walk out feeling really calm and good [that makes it so addictive],” said Barb last weekend during a rare day off while the civic centre prepared its halls for Halloween Fest for Friday’s festivities.

Barb is a born-and-raised, fourth-generation Rupertite. Her great-grandparents settled in the town before it was even designated a city – when tents were more common than brick or wooden homes.

Her figure skating career as a teen propelled Barb to explore both coaching and fitness lessons through the help of Kaarlene Lindsay, her mentor and first fitness instructor in Prince Rupert.

“She was the very first person I put a pair of runners on to do a fitness class with and she got me hooked and she helped as I was becoming an instructor … she was very instrumental in me getting into it and keeping me into it,” said Barb.

Gaining the right credentials to become a certified instructor, well-versed in the ways of fitness is hard enough – an over-a-year-long process – which can’t be completed in the Northwest alone. One often must venture to Vancouver or further to gain the necessary practical skills along with the theoretical side of things.

“It’s a very long process to get certified. Being in the northwest, it’s harder because we have to travel for our courses so it does get expensive,” she said.

“But it’s worth it. Back in the day, you’d get a lot of very, very unsafe fitness instructors because we didn’t have quite the same education that we do now, so it’s interesting how it’s evolved over the years.”

At the civic centre, Barb teaches a Tae Boot class (a mix of boot camp and Tae Bo) and a typical military-style boot camp, as well as strength-training, dryland training for various sports teams across the city and most recently, Pilates at both the civic centre and Zikhara Yoga, a yoga and Pilates studio near Cow Bay.

Coaching skating in Terrace for 16 years, Barb was still involved in what had gotten her bit by the fitness bug until she retired from the ice when moving back to Prince Rupert four years ago.

Now, Barb’s greatest challenges lie in the individualistic aspects of her clients – in their different styles, intensity and dedication.

“It’s tough [to have that balance while teaching a class] because you don’t want to discourage the casual person or the beginner from coming back so it’s really about watching your participants, seeing what’s happening and giving a lot of modifications,” she said.

Modifications is the key word, as each participant needs different adjustments while the class is going on. That’s what Barb specializes in.

“In a small community, you just get to know your participants so much better than if you’re in a large community so that’s a bonus here,” Barb added.

And the diversity and growth of her clientele in just the past few years has been an encouraging thing, she’s noticed.

“It’s improving. I can honestly say when I moved back home, I felt [the fitness community] was a little stagnant. In the last couple years I’ve seen a huge improvement. I have a lot of people young and old. I have 20-year-olds and 72-year-olds which is absolutely phenomenal so I do see the trend in fitness and people being aware of health is really growing in Prince Rupert.”

Among the latest trends to be sweeping the country? Hot yoga.

While Barb herself hasn’t tried it yet, she says she plans to and definitely sees the appeal of yoga and Pilates.

“If you go to a high-impact boot camp, your body can only take so much of that and it’s going to scream at you to stop. I think yoga and Pilates are just more sustainable for life and I think also yoga and Pilates work more to the mental well-being as well and getting almost a holistic approach to it,” she explained.

“We always take that time at the end – you’ve got over five minutes which doesn’t sound long but when you’re just laying on a mat and relaxing and breathing and just all of a sudden when you open your eyes, the class is done.”

Mostly, Barb is in it for the pleasure she derives from helping others feel better about their energy-levels, body and spirit. Since she’s seen often seen them from the beginning of their journey to the end if they have one, Barb gathers a unique perspective on all her clients and is thrilled when she sees them succeed.

“Nothing makes me feel better than seeing somebody come in and start off hiding in the corner thinking they can’t do it and all of a sudden a couple weeks later they move up and they might have a new pair of runners on and you think ‘OK, there you go, it’s starting to happen’. Then a month or two or three later they’re at the front of the class and they may have lost five pounds, they may not have lost any weight but they’re feeling really good and they’ve got a new sense of confidence and you can see it on that person,” she said.

“That’s what makes me feel the best – they’ve made a lifestyle change and you can see it in their demeanour … I get really excited over it because I’ve done this for so long and I know how good I feel and if I can help people better their lives by bringing fitness into it then I’ve done my job and that makes me really happy.”