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Exercising the mind, body and soul
County offers plenty of ways to get in shape for the new year

Looking for a way to get in shape for a relatively affordable price? Consider taking a class through the Newton County Recreation Commission. Newton County Recreation Program Coordinator Debra Banks has spent the last year beefing up the leisure fitness programs and now needs the community to jump in and take advantage of the activities.

Yoga, fitness walking, stretching, toning, aerobics and ultimate boot camp stand among the offerings for adults, while children may participate in children's cheer camps and school break weekly camps, which include physical activity, field trips and arts and crafts.

The following leisure fitness classes begin in February:

· Yoga

Instructor Sue Knowles teaches Hatha Yoga, which involves stretching, toning and relaxation, primarily through seated postures.

"It's really about relaxation, bringing the mind and body together, so we use the breath a lot when we're doing the movements," said Knowles, who has practiced yoga for 20 years. "It's not just exercise in isolation to the rest of the body."

Knowles said that yoga provides a workout, though not cardiovascular. It's more about staying "young and supple" by stretching in different positions and releasing stress by concentrating on breathing and listening to the body, she said.

"You just feel refreshed is the only way I can describe it," said Knowles, who will teach the class three times a week in the Conyers Street Gym.

· Fitness Walking

Banks, program coordinator, will be leading walking sessions at the Turner Lake Complex twice a week. Banks will walk at least one mile and most sessions are geared toward individuals' abilities. The primary goal is to burn calories and work on blood pressure, she said. No matter the distance, as long as someone walks for 30 minutes, three times a week, they are helping themselves.

"Walking is the one thing every doctor will tell you to do," said Banks. "Walking is also fun. You walk with a group. It's a good social time."

· Stretching

This class is for those who have found that their muscles have tightened over the years and they want to limber up, said Banks. She said she realized that although she's stayed active over the years, she didn't have the flexibility and mobility she once had.

"If you don't use it, you lose it," said Banks who will instruct the class each Tuesday at the Conyers Street Gym.

· Stretching and Toning

For those who want to take stretching a little further, there's the stretching and toning class, taught by Ruth Massey, a former dance studio owner who holds a master's degree in physical fitness. Twice a week at the Old Cousins School, Massey will lead groups in moves to not only limber up the muscles, but also to build muscle mass through resistance exercises. The class incorporates pilates techniques.

· Group Aerobics

Massey will also instruct a group aerobics class on Saturdays at Old Cousins School, modeled after the type of class offered by fitness clubs.

"We're looking for it to be fun and a way to socialize and it certainly will burn some calories," said Banks.

· Ultimate Boot Camp

Former Falcons cheerleader, personal trainer, bodybuilder and Newton County native Nicole Duncan will lead groups in a variety of exercises designed to help people lose weight and improve their cardiovascular system. For one hour, participants will alternate between stationary weight training and physical fitness exercises to increase heart rate. For example, bicep curls may be followed by running in place.

"We're working different parts of the body but keeping the heart rate up to burn fat at the same time, so you get a cardio and a strengthening and a toning portion of the workout," said Duncan who will teach the classes at the Turner Lake Complex and asks that people bring their own dumbbells and workout mat.

In addition to the workout, Duncan provides advice on healthy eating habits and performs body evaluations at the beginning and end of the month. She weighs participants, determines their body fat and takes their measurements. The program is offered one, two or three times a week. Duncan said she recommends people take at least two classes a week to see results.

"If the (participants) are doing a diet well and doing exercise they can lose 1 to 2 pounds a week," said Duncan, who runs her own personal training business, FitNic Inc.

· Children's Cheer Camps

Children looking to begin or build on their cheerleading skills can take advantage of Cheer Camps held each Saturday in February and March at Alcovy High School. Participants will learn chants, jumps, dance routines and tumbling skills. Instructors include Nicole Duncan, former Newton County High School cheerleading coach Pam Greer, Alcovy High School cheerleading coach Teresa Sauls and members of the Alcovy High School Co-ed Cheer Squad (which won the 2008 State Cheerleading Championship). Children are divided into two age groups: 5 to 8 and 9 to 12.

Banks said she is excited about offering the Cheer Camps and about the caliber of instruction.

"Cheerleading is a very large program here in Newton County," said Banks. "The girls that take these will be more advanced and have more time given to them and to work with Nicole and the high school cheerleaders is something we don't get during our cheerleading season. The better we can make them, the better our high school teams will be."

· School Break Weekly Day Camps

With two school breaks coming up in both Rockdale and Newton counties, one from Feb. 16 to 20 and the other from April 6 to 10, parents may want to take advantage of the School Break Weekly Day Camps. The camps offer daily themes such as nature appreciation and sports. Activities will take place at the Conyers Street Gym and the Turner Lake Complex.

"I'm all about the simple things and teaching children to use their imaginations to explore the world around them. Our motto is 'It doesn't need a battery,'" said Banks.

Camps are limited to 40 children and registration deadlines apply.

To register for a program, visit www.newtonrecreation.com or call 770-786-4373, ext. 14.

Contact Karen J. Rohr at karen.rohr@rockdalecitizen.com.

SideBar: Newton County Leisure Fitness Programs*

Yoga: Ages 14 and up; Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays from 6:30 to 8 p.m.; Conyers Street Gym, 1146 Conyers St.; $40 per month

Fitness Walking: Mondays and Wednesdays at 9 a.m.; Turner Lake Complex, 6185 Turner Lake Road; Free

Stretching: Tuesdays at 9 a.m.; Conyers Street Gym, 1146 Conyers St.; $20 per month

Stretching and Toning: 50 and under, Thursdays from 8 to 9 p.m.; 50 and over, Thursdays from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.; Old Cousins School, 8134 Geiger St.; $40 per month

Ultimate Boot Camp: Monday through Thursday, 6:30 a.m. or 6:30 p.m.; Turner Lake Complex, 6185 Turner Lake Road; one-day class - $90 per month, two-day class - $140 per month, three-day class - $190 per month

Children's Cheer Camp: Ages 5 to 8 meet 10 to 12 p.m., and ages 9 to 12 meet 1 to 3 p.m.; Saturdays in February and March; Alcovy High School, 14567 Highway 36; $150 for ages 5 to 8, $160 for ages 9 to 12; registration deadline - Jan. 30

School Break Weekly Day Camps: Ages 4 to 12; mid-winter break, Feb. 16 to 20 and spring break, April 6 to 10; camp times and costs - 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. is $45 per child for the week or $15 per child for a day; Early Bird Care Camp from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. is $10 per child per day and Owly Bird Care Camp from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. is $10 per child per day; sign-up deadline for February camp is Feb. 11 and sign-up deadline for April camp is March 25; teacher work day camp for ages 4 to 12 is March 20 from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., cost is $20, sign-up deadline is March *Programs begin in February