It wasn’t long after Susan Montieth started attending First Christian Church that she realized fitness and fellowship would be a good fit.
Montieth, who used to teach at the YMCA, said she started attending First Christian Church two years ago, and word quickly spread that she was a fitness instructor. Several women encouraged her to start teaching at the church.
“In my heart, I thought, ‘There’s a need here,’” she said.
That need grew into a program that includes two fitness classes offered at the church every week. The classes are taught by Montieth, who charges nothing for her services, and include a mix of kickboxing, yoga, Pilates, Zumba and step.
Montieth said she often plays Christian music — including favorites Toby Mac and Skillet — but she doesn’t push Christianity on anyone.
“You don’t have to be a member of the church,” she said. “It’s just laughing and having fun as women. It’s never, ‘You should go to church here.’”
Jenny Danico started attending the classes this year. She doesn’t attend First Christian, and said the class is her first real foray into working out.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s not like traditional classes. She changes things up.”
Danico said she wouldn’t mind if the classes incorporated more faith aspects, but she’s not sure where it would come from.
“I don’t know how you can make exercise spiritual,” she said.
But for some, that’s exactly what exercise is: a time of meditation with God that stretches the body, mind and your faith.
Danielle Theis teaches two classes at Open Bible Christian Center each week: an interval training boot camp class and a WholyFit class, which is part of a national Christian fitness program designed as an alternative to yoga.
“It has the strong physical points of yoga, but the eastern mysticism is taken out of it,” Theis said.
The program was founded by Christian Laura Monica, a former yoga and tai chi instructor who wasn’t comfortable studying yoga scriptures and practicing traditional mantras and chants while trying to pursue her formal certification in yoga.
Theis earned her certification in WholyFit in 2008, and began teaching at Open Bible. She said the class is perfect for someone wanting a workout and time for encouragement in their faith.
“(Monica) has called it a Bible study in motion,” Theis said, because participants work on memorizing Scripture as they work. The class has helped her own memorization, Theis said.
“It just helps to plant things deeper,” she said.
Cindra Solvie has attended the boot camp classes taught by Theis, and said the church offers a comfortable, safe venue.
“One thing I like about doing it through the church is that it’s open to everybody,” she said. “Everybody’s on different levels. … There’s no pressure. You’re only competing with yourself. That’s nice.”
Sherry Schell attended Montieth’s classes last year. The classes started with Montieth’s giving attitude, she said.
“It started with, ‘What can I do for the church?’” she said.
The benefits are twofold, she added.
“Besides being obviously healthy and working out, it’s really nice for fellowship,” she said. “It’s just a time to get together. It’s not just hard core. It’s not, ‘We’re getting in here and getting out.’ They hang around and chat.”
Montieth said one of the best aspects of the class is the mixing of ages and backgrounds.
From teenagers to senior citizens, all ages have come to sweat it out.
“That’s where you really see camaraderie,” she said. “It’s the wisdom of the older women bonding with the younger women.”
The relaxed atmosphere and the propensity for laughter make people comfortable, she said.
“You become a network, or a family,” she said.