25 November 2014

Ann Hart has worked at YMCA Wimbledon for over 30 years. The smiling Health & Fitness Manager is a real people person who loves to see gym members of all ages and all stages of fitness get active and healthy with the help of YMCA LSW. 

From a background and career as a professional dancer, Ann came to YMCA Wimbledon in 1984.

Exercise to music

As it happened, not long after I started working at the YMCA, they decided they would begin with ‘Exercise to music’ classes, which was something entirely new at that time. So I got on a course and became one of the first in the UK to get a certificate as an exercise to music instructor. Every instructor now has to be qualified,” Ann says.

The very first song I played in a fitness class was ‘The Heat is On’ by Glenn Frey from the film Beverly Hills Cop”. I took the class in the Sports Hall and had many participants, ah! – I remember it well!

My colleague at YMCA Wimbledon, John Holloway was really helpful. He told me to bring in all the music I liked and he then transferred it to one tape so that it was easy to use in the class,” Ann says.

Staff always helped each other like that, and John was especially helpful. He and Programme Secretary Sheila Cuell were involved with every part of the organisation. Sheila ran all activities, including the day camps and children’s activities.

The YMCA at Wimbledon was a very family friendly and very busy place back in then. We had less competition from other gyms so ours was very popular and classes were always packed.

The General Secretary, Walter J.  Saunders, or W.J as he was affectionately known as, lived here himself with his wife. He was like a father to the staff. He even did night shifts at Reception on a rota basis with all the other managers. He also knew all the residents by name.  It was one big happy family”.

Spare a Thought for Africa

Then as now, the gym at YMCA Wimbledon was more than just a gym. Members were also offered the opportunity to take part in fundraising events. In 1986 a very special fitness event took place in the car park behind the building.

It was a national fundraising event called ‘Spare a Thought for Africa’. We organised a massive aerobic session at the car park, and hundreds of people joined in,” Ann explains.

“All over the country people were doing it and everyone had the same music and the same dance choreography, which Arlene Phillips did.

Myself and Debbie Mellor, one of the fitness instructors, was up on the stage showing people how to do it. The event was also televised live from around the country”.

Still going strong

Although she is not doing aerobics anymore, Ann is by no means stepping down on her engagement when it comes to helping people lead active lives. She also leads by example, and still goes to several classes a week herself.

I do a couple of Pilates classes a week, just to keep mobile and in reasonable condition. It’s not that long ago since I stopped teaching body pump classes which I did until I was well over 70! I really miss those classes. As I keep telling people; ‘if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it’. Good health and a flexible body is something you need to keep up throughout your whole life,” Ann says.

Luckily, we have extremely good fitness class teachers at YMCA Wimbledon, who look after people with balance issues, neck and shoulder issues, muscular and bone issues. They genuinely care about the class goers and they are all really passionate about their jobs”.

Wants classes to be top notch

Today, Ann shares the Health and Fitness manager role with David Bassett, a fitness instructor who like Ann is very passionate about providing all people regardless of age and fitness with the opportunity to be active.

David says: “Working with Ann is great! I think we have an equal liking for the YMCA, and although we bring different things to the table fitness wise, we are also on the same page. We inspire each other, and whilst Ann wants the quality of the classes we deliver to be top notch, I want our consultations and the five step programme to be the best it can be”.