Rochelle Gutierrez Meiskey (left) helps a member develop hand speed during a training session at the Columbia Crossing building.
Meiskey, a former amateur boxer and a Certified Personal Trainer, started the group a few years ago when she and some friends decided to take their CardioBox workouts outside. "We first started because we loved hitting mitts and doing the workouts, but it’s grown into so much more than that recently," Meiskey says. "We’re reaching out to ladies that have had minimal fitness in their lives, and they’ve discovered something they really enjoy doing." She notes that members are seeing tremendous changes in their lives on a physical and mental level. "Not only are we seeing them become stronger and more physically fit, we’re seeing them become confident in themselves," she adds. "We’re seeing people step out of their comfort zones. We see them accept challenges and succeed at them!"
Members use this practice dummy, affectionately named "Bob," as a target for practicing punches.
According to Meiskey, who previously ran CardioBox classes at Gold's Gym, workouts consist of two components: 1. Focus Mitts (which everybody loves most), and 2. Cardio/Conditioning Stations (which everybody loves less). She varies stations each week to keep it fresh and challenging and to keep members engaged and progressing.
Stretching the bands helps develop upper body strength.
Members frequently work out outdoors at Locust Street Park, Columbia River Park, or Glatfelters Field, but when bad weather shows up, they move indoors at the Rising Sun Building at Lancaster Avenue and Cherry Street. "We’ve been blessed with the opportunity to be teamed up with Rising Sun Nutrition, and they allow us to hold classes in their facility," Meiskey explains. "They are a strong supporter of fitness, nutrition and overall health. The community there is amazing!" The group has also used the Noah Wenger Armory Center on Walnut Street (formerly the General Edward C. Shannon Armory).
A member squares off against Bob.
The Columbia-based group started in January and now boasts 233 members on Facebook, not all of whom participate in workouts. However, 90% of those who tried their first class are still participating. "Our participation is actually growing," Meiskey explains. "We’ve had to include a separate day just for those that are beginners." Beginners are separated from the experienced group to make them more comfortable and less intimidated. They are then taught proper form and technique to build confidence, power and speed. "Once they are comfortable, we 'graduate' them out of the beginner’s group and they are able to take classes with the experienced group." She also notes the diversity within the group: The youngest member is 18, and the oldest is 74.
Meiskey believes members enjoy being part of a positive circle of women who support and encourage each other, as they gain confidence and become stronger and healthier. "I’ve heard many say they feel comfortable and safe with this group. There is no judgment, only support," she notes. "It’s important that the community recognize the healthy, positive changes that the women in this town are making! We want to be good role models."
Meiskey also notes: "I think it’s important to recognize the supportive and encouraging coaches that assist in classes each week. I have six helpers each week (Melissa, Tabitha, Deanna, Becky, Teresa and Claire), and three have been with me for over 10 years!" Meiskey also gives a "shout out" to Jocelyn Bechtold at Rising Sun Nutrition for "revitalizing the beautiful building and providing a welcoming environment that offers top-notch nutrition and fitness to those in the community! I encourage everyone to stop in!"