Instructor moves classes online so her students can stay fit amid pandemic

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald Faith Elarionoff has been leading Tai Chi and Zumba classes via the online conferencing app Zoom for a cohort of senior women during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fitness instructor Faith Elarionoff modified her classes to continue leading exercises virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elarionoff has led classes at the Kamana Senior Center in Hilo for 10 years and found herself a cohort of ladies that fell in love with exercising together.

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“I enjoy being with these ladies so much,” Elarionoff said. “The camaraderie and emotional support they give each other has constantly inspired me.”

Her love for her classes is one of the main reasons Elarionoff brought her exercises to Zoom, a video and audio conference app that can be used on a computer or smartphone.

“I reached out to some of my classes about the idea and it was so well received,” Elarionoff said. “There were so many people ready to work out again even if it is over the computer.”

Elarionoff has been leading Qigong, Tai Chi, toning and Zumba classes via Zoom.

Qigong and Tai Chi are similar healing techniques that involve meditation and controlled breathing to help channel chi energy. Toning and Zumba are aerobic classes that bring the heart rate up and build muscle.

“When the healing exercise of Qigong is paired with the aerobics of Zumba, something very special happens to the body,” Elarionoff said. “I believe if your body is treated with care, your mid-60s can become the new 30.”

Elarionoff has brought this energy to each of her classes and asks a lot out of the people who log on for their exercise.

“You have to be all in for my classes, and you might as well not come or log on if you are distracted,” Elarionoff said. “It’s important to be present, even when we can’t be present.”

On Monday, Elarionoff began a modified teaching schedule with the senior center, which restarted 23 classes a week upon its reopening July 6.

Elarionoff is teaching a toning class on Mondays and Fridays and two Tai Chi classes on Tuesdays. She will teach the four classes in person and continue teaching three toning classes via Zoom.

“Some of my cohort don’t feel safe going to class in-person just yet,” she said. “I don’t blame them, and I would do anything to make these ladies happy.”

Elarionoff has always enjoyed exercising and keeping herself healthy, but found herself enamored with teaching.

“I feel so blessed every time I get to see everyone in class,” she said. “They are all tigers and they give me so much more than I could give them.”

Although there have been challenges in leading classes via Zoom, Elarionoff continues to learn from the experience every time she logs on.

“It’s hard not being able to see physical responses and sometimes the ladies have trouble hearing,” Elarionoff said. “This has been a learning experience and has taught me about how to be flexible and better work with everyone.”

Elarionoff grew up in a small town with a police officer as a father and a nurse as a mother. Their constant service to their town gave Elarionoff the inspiration to help others as well.

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“This is my service, my tiny contribution to the world,” Elarionoff said. “If I can help some people change and help to provide care to their bodies, minds and souls, then I’m doing priceless work.”

Email Kelsey Walling at kwalling@hawaiitribune-herald.com

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