Free workouts for women in Fall River

FALL RIVER – On Wednesdays and Saturdays, North Park is the place for fitness, friendship and fun.

Twice a week, a group meets at the park in the Highlands neighborhood – rain or shine, and even snow – to help grow Women in Action (FiA) South Coast.

Now in its second year, FiA South Coast is a local fitness organization – part of a larger fiA national program — run by Fall River resident Caitlin Botelho, 30.

The main thing: it’s always free, it’s always outside, it’s always women.

FiA regional leader Botelho explained that the group is much more than training.

“Yes, we constantly train together, but I wouldn’t say we train first – it’s more for the social, it’s more for the mental…it’s positive, it’s uplifting,” he said. said Botelho, director of the Old Colony. YMCA Emergency Residence Program in New Bedford.

According to the FiA websiteher mission is for her community of women to strengthen each other in all areas of their lives by focusing on bodies, minds and hearts.

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More than just a fitness band

Botelho said the group does this by hosting social gatherings — going to dinners, having coffee, throwing parties — so members can get to know each other and build relationships beyond training.

The group also does philanthropy together. Botelho said he recently baked diaper cakes for a community shower hosted by United Way of Greater Fall River. They also gathered at a church in Swansea to wrap Christmas gift bags, contributed to Thanksgiving donations and mixed fitness with charity work at various 5K fundraisers.

“Trust, the feeling of empowerment, the feeling of contributing positively to our community” is what the FiA is all about, Botelho said.

Botelho first became involved with the FiA while living in Tennessee, where she attended school to earn a master’s degree in sociology. She had no previous experience teaching fitness, she was just a new girl in town looking for a place to exercise and make friends.

“It had such a big impact on me… they helped me in so many ways,” Botelho said.

For Botelho, the FiA not only became a go-to place to train, but it gave her the sense of community she was looking for. When Botelho needed a hand painting the deck of his Tennessee home, his FiA group was there. They helped her through the death of her grandmother and a breakup, she said.

“It’s a bit like a family, we call each other FiA sisters,” Botelho said.

Females in Action (FiA) South Coast offers free peer-led outdoor workouts for women of all ages and abilities every Wednesday and Saturday at North Park in Fall River.

How FiA South Coast was launched

When Botelho returned home, she wanted to build the same kind of community in Fall River.

So in the midst of the pandemic in August 2020 – with gyms closed and social distancing in place – FiA South Coast was launched and brought the free training program to the women of the Greater Fall River in a safe space – at the ‘outside.

“I had joined a few gyms here, but I was doing the exact same type of workout and was paying a lot of money a month for it, so I just decided to get my friends and family together and promote everything on the social media,” she said.

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Females in Action is a nationwide movement that began in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2013 and has since attracted more than 6,000 women in 22 states. FiA South Coast is the first and currently the only FiA chapter in Massachusetts.

The group is fairly tight-knit, with around 10-15 members ranging in age from their late 60s to 6s, mostly from the Fall River area. Botelho said that in total more than 50 women have joined since its inception two years ago.

So what can we expect in a typical FiA session? A bit of everything, says Botelho.

What are the workouts

Workouts include lots of HITT (high-intensity interval training), weight training, and cardio. Botelho said they’ve done relay races, many themed workouts — incorporating pumpkins, for example, around Halloween — used medicine balls, battle ropes and more Again.

Females in Action (FiA) South Coast offers free peer-led outdoor workouts for women of all ages and abilities every Wednesday and Saturday at North Park in Fall River.

“We try to make it really fun,” she said.

Botelho emphasized that all classes are for women of all ages and abilities, and the workouts can be modified to suit you.

“It’s a really non-judgmental zone. I think sometimes people feel intimidated when they go to a gym or a boot camp class,” Botelho said.

The group has its own lingo and lingo – for example, the coaching staff are called Qs – and each member is given their own nickname given to them by their local FiA community. Botelho’s name is Boston, coined by his southern FiA family.

According to Botelho, every boot-camp style workout ends with a circle of trust, during which the Q leaves the group on a high note by sharing a message of the day or a personal story that could be inspiring.

The FiA functions without a leader in the traditional sense. Classes are peer-run, with different members taking the lead each day, providing a bit of variety so sessions never get boring and each member contributes to the success of the group.

Prior to FiA, Botelho said she never imagined she would ever lead a fitness class. But that’s exactly what happened, and now his job is to inspire others with the confidence to do the same.

“The most important thing is that we strengthen each other and empower each other… A lot of women who joined our group were like, ‘I’ve never even been to a gym and you expect me to lead a workout during a women’s group?'” Botelho said.

Females in Action (FiA) South Coast gathered at North Park on Wednesday September 14, 2022 for a free peer-led outdoor workout.

But the goal is to get there eventually, with the support and guidance of their colleagues who have led in the past.

Botelho suggests coaches play to their strengths and what they feel comfortable with. One member loves to do yoga so it’s his favorite workout, another has a black belt in karate so led a self defense karate workout, people who like to run include a lot of cardio in their sessions and some members share their love of Zumba.

“These women end up leading some great workouts and it’s just amazing to watch them each grow in their own way,” she said.

She added: “Being in this role has definitely helped me speak in public and connect with people in the community.”

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Train in all weathers

Because the program runs year-round, workouts don’t end when temperatures drop.

While the colder months present a challenge and attendance dips slightly, Botelho said a good number of members are still braving the elements. You’ll see them bundled up in winter clothes, boots and hats and ready to go even on snowy days – sometimes taking the famous hills of North Park for a practice sled.

“Winters are tough. Our coldest training was on the 17th,” Botelho recalled.

While she said many members’ families might consider them crazy going out in this weather, Botelho admits these rainy, snowy workouts “are the best”.

Females in Action (FiA) South Coast offers free peer-led outdoor workouts for women of all ages and abilities every Wednesday and Saturday at North Park in Fall River.

The local FiA group meets at the top of North Park on Highland Avenue on Wednesdays at 6:15 p.m. and Saturdays at 8:00 a.m. There is no need to register, just show up at the scheduled training time and look for your FiA flag. .

As the days begin to darken earlier in the colder months, Botelho noted that the group’s location on Wednesday evening will be moved to Bristol Community College’s No. 6 parking lot under the solar panels at the Fall River campus. from September 21.

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