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Just Try It: How non-visual instruction can help you reach your fitness goals

What does it mean to try something? What factors into whether you’ll take the leap to do something new, unfamiliar, and perhaps daunting?

Scientific evidence suggests that trying new sports and athletic activities, and learning new physical skills enhance brain function, bolster confidence and even increase self-control.

That’s why LightHouse’s Health and Wellness Coordinator, Amber Sherrard, has created a series of fitness programs to foster a ‘just-try-it’ mentality amongst her blind and low vision students. The Try It Workshops bring groups from the LightHouse community to fitness and sport studios in the Bay Area to try activities like pole dancing, aerial silks, lyra (aerial hoop) and more.

Hannah Chadwick, 27, said that she thought the pole class was a good introduction to the style of dancing, which she probably wouldn’t have tried alone. She said attending a class for the first time as a blind person can raise uncertainty about an instructor’s teaching style and level of knowledge about making the class accessible, noting that instructors are typically accustomed to teaching from a visual standpoint.

“It was super tactile and inviting — and that’s the kind of atmosphere you would want to go to,” she says.

Hannah said that the pole instructor used a tactile teaching style, which encouraged students to place their hands on her to feel her body’s movement and position in different poses and moves.

“When you walk into a group of sighted people you might not know what to expect,” says Hannah. “If there’s a class that you’re not sure you want to try, and the LightHouse offers it, it’s a great way to check it out because they know that you’re coming, and might modify the teaching style.”

She added that knowing the teaching style would not be purely visual made it easier for her to dive right it and try to learn a new skill. Plus, having a group to learn with fostered a welcoming, supportive environment.

Upcoming Try It Workshops will introduce additional varieties of fitness classes for anyone looking to try a new way to move. On Saturday, February 24, LightHouse will host an AcroYoga class at Bay Jiu-Jitsu in Berkeley. This class combines partnered yoga, acrobatics and thai massage for a dynamic movement experience.

On Saturday, March 9, Amber will host an Intro to Lyra class at San Francisco Pole and Dance. For those who’d like to try hip hop dance at LightHouse’s Headquarters, Amber is hosting an Intro to Hip-Hop Dance class on Saturday March 30.

These are great ways for National Fitness Challenge participants to stay fit! LightHouse has partnered the United States Association of Blind Athletes and Anthem Blue Cross for the challenge.

And, for those who seek weekly, accessible wellness classes – LightHouse offers meditation, chair fitness and more. From rock climbing to yoga, LightHouse has a fitness program for everyone.

Focus on your health this fall: participate in the National Fitness Challenge

The San Francisco LightHouse for the Blind & Visually Impaired is proud to be one of three California partners with the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) and the Anthem Foundation for the National Fitness Challenge in 2018.

The goal of the National Fitness Challenge is to raise the physical activity levels of each participant to the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This includes 10,000 steps and 30 active minutes per day.

The campaign provides participants with Fitbits to track their steps and fitness activity between October and May.

In addition to helping participants find creative ways to increase their daily steps by matching them with fitness partners and offering discounted gym memberships, the LightHouse supports participants throughout the course of the campaign with a wide variety of fitness and wellness programming and services.

Join us in the coming months for a variety of activities, from hiking to yoga and beyond! To foster overall wellbeing, we also have non-fitness oriented programs in lifestyle skills like cooking and technology.

At the LightHouse, you can:

Blindness is not the barrier many think it is to achieving your fitness goals and enjoying greater well-being — and the LightHouse is here to help get into the rhythm.  It’s not too late to join the NFC if you already have a Fitbit — we welcome new participants to join throughout the campaign.

For more information on the National Fitness Challenge, For more information, contact Amber Sherrard at asherrard@lighthouse-sf.org.