For many people, fitness is something unachievable and intimidating. Often, it’s because they don’t feel they are athletic enough or they don’t feel comfortable in the typical gym setting of looking at yourself in a mirror and posting a selfie on Instagram. We all know it’s something we should be doing, but for whatever reason many aren’t able to commit to.

The term fitness has often been paired with the thought of jacked men or women doing squats and burpees for days or participating in an obstacle course race. Perhaps this is due to the education we received in school where in order to be “fit”, you needed to be able to run, jump, climb or play a sport. Today, thankfully, the meaning of fitness is starting to change.

We’re going to introduce you to eight Edmontonians who each have their own take on what fitness means. At the end of the day, what’s important is that you find something that works for you and it helps you be happy and healthy.

Tanya Ponich

Tanya committed herself to a life of fitness. After a few decades of commitment many elements in her life have been influenced by fitness. Today Tanya’s small frame is a mountain of life. To spend time with her is to smile, laugh, and “get it”. She inspires, motivates, and teaches. She is genuine to the soul.

Tanya was born with Down syndrome, yet Tanya’s disability, (does she have one?), is shadowed by a confident woman who wants to do so much. Never one to be content with the progress she has made she continues to search for more. To finish a workout means to start planning for the next one. She has a strong supporting cast: She is very close to her Mom and sister and is there to help all of us with our disadvantages; our challenges; our goals!  

““Life Rewards Action”- Life gives me rewards but it’s up to me to take action to fulfil this life.”

Chris Falconer

It wasn’t until the death of my mother in 2007 that fitness became an integral part of my life. In the moments and months after her passing, I was thankful to have a growing yoga practice that provided me the space to work through the mental and physical grief that I was suffering. It was during this time of heartbreak that I lost 100lbs and realized that fitness was way more than just the embarrassing phys-ed workouts of my youth.

Waking up with a new lens on life, I realized that fitness is a state of living that helps us successfully manage the challenges that our hectic world throws at us. My own health journey showed me that fitness means needing to be physically healthy and mentally capable to thrive in my day to day. Flash forward 11 years, and I continue to challenge myself through various modalities of fitness (running, powerlifting, cycling, yoga), while ensuring that I schedule lots of time for recovery (chiro, massage), and a growing meditation practice. There is no perfect way for everyone, but there is the opportunity to grow every day!

Blake Loates

Wellness to me means acquiring positive tools for my toolbox that allow me to handle life stressors and challenges that come my way…and believing that I am worth the fight. Some of my tools are connection with others, surrounding myself with community, taking my medication, regular appointments with my healthcare team, loving others and taking care of my body and mind.

Robert Clark

Growing up, fitness was never a big priority in my life. We weren’t a very sporty family and I had always been “the fat kid” in school. I had tried many times to lose weight but I could never commit and the weight always just came back on. It wasn’t until I was almost 350 lbs, depressed and unhappy did I finally realize I had to change or things were just going to get worse.

So in January of 2017, I decided enough was enough. I wanted to start loving (and LIVING) my life. So I committed with a long-term goal of losing 100 lbs, making smaller, short-term goals of 5-10 lbs at a time. I had also decided to document my progress through Instagram and Facebook. Through a combination of the accountability from social media, meeting TONS of new fitness professionals (many of whom I now call good friends), and my own determination, I smashed my 100lb goal and ended up losing 120lbs. But the best part of it all wasn’t how I looked but rather how I FELT. I am happier. I am more energetic than I have ever been. I am more mentally capable of handling and dealing with stress. I am a better father and husband.

Fitness for me is no longer an option, it’s a requirement.

Andrea Rice

Fitness and wellness for me are access points to be the best version of myself.  As a runner, I spent many hours on the pavement putting one foot in front of the other.  What I have come to realize is that these steps are just a small piece of a much bigger journey.  That all those sweaty kilometers are a tool to be leveraged in a quest to learn something about who I am.  For me, it’s never about the time on a clock, the number of kilometers or races I complete or hitting a certain pace, it is about allowing myself to feel joy in the process and to show up fully in my life.  This is why I sweat. 

Ben Alvarez

Fitness is a part of my everyday life.. I found boxing at the age of 13 after being bullied and beat up in school. At the time I was using boxing as a way to get revenge and to get my confidence back, but as I continued to train and better myself physically and mentally my goals and focus changed; I knew life had something bigger ahead for me. The fitness that boxing offers has completely altered my life for the better. It has giving me both confidence and the physical edge to feel healthy and powerful. Fitness has helped me push myself to the limits both mentally and physically and as a product you find out new things about yourself that you never thought were possible. Although fitness has made me feel super, at times it has also humbled me and brought me back to Earth to discover my greatest weaknesses which has only made me stronger. As a full time athlete I am constantly setting goals for myself to stay motivated and consistent with my training. I am now heavily involved in Edmonton’s fitness community and I couldn’t be happier to share my story and knowledge to help others overcome their bullies, whether is a person, work, school sports etc.. Stay fit, stay healthy and all things will fall into place. 

Shana Dion

It’s one of my missions in life to get Nehiyaw Iskwewak (Cree women), in particular mothers – ACTIVE! More importantly to show up in their lives. Sometimes as mothers we get caught up in being responsible for other humans and we forget we have a responsibility to ourselves. We have a saying in Cree called Miyo-pimatsiwin meaning living a good life. I want that for myself and my Nehiyaw sisters. I was taught by an Elder that I cannot care for others to the best of my ability if I’m not well. I would need to heal first. 

For me the healing began when I discovered the gym! It has brought me on a self-discovery journey of who I AM. I am determined. I am strong. I am resilient. I am survivor. I am a runner. That has taken me years to say. I have always held a negative self-image of myself that because I was bigger that I could not be a classified as a runner. 

This summer I ran/jogged in a 34km healing journey from Kehewin Cree Nation to Blue Quills University (which used to be an Indian Residential School- IRS). My father was stolen from his mother at the age of 7 to the age of 11 and was forced into Blue Quills IRS. The reason why I decided to take on this journey was to help me in my healing journey of understanding my inter-generational trauma as a first generation survivor of IRS. It was a journey of tears and fears but it was also about freedom and releasing some of the anger and shame I have carried for years. 

Throughout my healing journey over the past few years I have received a deeper sense of my worth. That is what propels me to RISE every morning at 4:00am to acknowledge that I have been given a gift called life and I get to the gym to honour my mobility. 

The greatest climbs have led me to some of the most beautiful views. I’m currently on the greatest climb of my life, this time on my own terms with no boundaries. 

My dedication! My drive! My commitment is what will get me to the top and I can’t wait to see the view. 

Chris Liddle

Fitness and wellness are my tools for reinvention. It is not in the sense that I am making myself into someone different than how my parents raised me. Instead, it is the act of honing the skills that make me more capable of being my best self. Fitness and being well have allowed me to raise my standards in all aspects of life. This lifestyle has led me to some of my best friends and biggest supporters. 

I’ve been empowered over the past couple years to progress from someone who lost some weight and gained confidence into someone who is known for building other people up mentally and physically. If I won the lottery, I’d still go to the gym to be with my clients. I’d still want to be around all the same people, being in all the same communities. That’s how much fitness and wellness mean to me. I’m home here.