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Heart Smart class keeps Vail Valley seniors moving

Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyRosie Burke leads the class in a song after their workout music stopped during their heart smart work out class at the Gypsum Recreation Center.
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GYPSUM – Whether she is leading a spin class or directing a balance ball session, exercise instructor Judy Haberle aims to help local seniors make sure their golden years are truly golden times. Good health is a key component of that aim and that’s why Haberle and the folks at the Gypsum Rec Center say they launched the Heart Smart program a few months ago.

From humble beginnings with only four participants, the class now regularly attracts 20 to 25 seniors.

Heart Smart is an aerobics class that began as chair exercise and branched out from there. Today the class includes spinning, resistance training, weight training and strength training.



When the Gypsum Rec Center opened in 2006, the staff planned to offer some senior programs, said facility manager Scott Ruff. The problem was finding instructors. That issue was resolved when Haberle came to town last year.

“She was perfect. She’s a great person and a great instructor and a senior herself,” said Ruff. “We really lucked out.”



Haberle recently moved to Eagle County after retiring from her work in the social services field.

“In order to deal with the stress of that job, I started teaching aerobics 25 years ago,” she said.

Haberle has certifications from the American Council on Exercise, Silver Sneakers and Heathways. For years, she has been interested in working with seniors and now that she’s retired, she opted to volunteer her expertise to lead the Heart Smart program. She also teaches classes at the Avon Recreation Center, Cardiodance Studio and the Cascade Club.



“The seniors here, in this area, are very active,” Haberle said. “They are doing a lot of the same exercises the 20- or 30-year-olds are doing, which is awesome.”

At the same time, Haberle said, Heart Smart is a no-pressure environment.

“I never push beyond what is a positive push. We are always geared to people’s abilities,” she said.

“There are days when someone will say ‘I can’t lift my arm over my head.’ So I say, “Today, we won’t use that arm.'”

That combination of challenge and accommodation is winning raves from Heart Smart participants. “I’ve become addicted,” said Eagle resident Earline Bronn. “You just feel better and more energetic after you have done her class.”

Bronn started Heart Smart at the urging of her friend Carole Onderdonk. There were only four people at the first class she attended. “Then it just started to blossom,” said Bronn.

She has high praise for Haberle’s instruction. “There’s no sitting around and chatting going on. You go from one piece of equipment to another. Once in awhile we even get to sing a little bit.”

Haberle said singing is indeed part of her instructional technique. “The singing is also keeping people aerobic,” she said.

Noting that falls are a major health concern for seniors, Haberle also stresses exercise that will help prevent accidents. “If you are weight training or using resistance training, you are strengthening your bones. It also helps with balance,” she said.

Class members report great results from Heart Smart. “When I first started there, we were doing push-ups and I could only do about four of them,” said Eagle resident John Cortez. “The other day, I did 40.

“Judy is great. She keeps you going and doing all these exercises I would never do otherwise. She is a great motivator,” said Cortez.

As for Haberle, she insists it is the people who participate in Heart Smart that make the class special. “It’s really their class and we just have so darned much fun.”

Heart Smart is offered free of charge for area seniors on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Gypsum Recreation Center. Call 970-777-8888 for more information.


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