Come On Arlene!
With classes now reopen (HOORAY!) we can all begin to think about mixing it up and adding a Body Attack, Core Stability or Spin Session back into our exercise routine. With this in mind, we thought we’d catch up with one of LAL’s longest-standing physical activity instructors for some post-lockdown motivation!
You may have had her tell you get lower at Body Pump, perhaps she brought you back to peak health in her cardiac class, or maybe you can go waaaaaayyyy back to the nineties and her Exercise to Music class. Whatever your connection to this amazing woman, we know you all love her – and she loves you too!
Enter the powerhouse that is Arlene McWalter.
How long have you been teaching at Live Active Leisure?
Oh my goodness! I started in 1998 at Live Active Atholl and I was there for 20 months. It was a duty officer job which I really enjoyed but when a teaching position came up in Perth in 2000 I jumped at it and I’ve been there ever since. I enjoy being at the customer contact side of fitness, that’s where my passion lies. Please don’t give me paperwork!
So, let’s see. I’m 21 with Rodney this year and 23 years total with LAL.
What inspired you to get into fitness for a living?
I just love it! I always competed at sports at school, mainly athletics and swimming. I joined RAF straight from secondary and served for nine and half years. In that time I represented the RAF at various different things - athletics, skiing, netball, volleyball – any sport going really. I think if my station was a team member down, they just said, “Get Arlene, she’ll do it.” And I did!
When I left the RAF, I started at Pitlochry when I was on resettlement leave from the RAF so there was a wee overlap. I’m 50 in June and really, fitness has been my life.
What is your favourite part of your job?
That’s easy, teaching. I love, love, love the interaction with clients, and seeing the improvement that people make and how good it makes them feel.
It’s especially rewarding in my Cardiac Rehab class where I’m working with people who have had heart attacks or heart operations. I offer 6 classes a week and I’ve been running the programme for 20 years now – there are actually people who have stayed with me all that time!
People are often scared when they arrive, particularly older adults, but we get them going and the difference is amazing. And then you get the ones like Dave Angus – people will know Dave as a spin instructor? Dave was in my cardiac class after he had a heart attack and he started to get into Spin – next thing you know, he’s trained up and teaching classes in seventies. I love that story!
How do you keep up to date with research and developments in fitness?
Well, alongside my Cardiac rehab classes I also teach Les Mills classes, and I’m trained as a gym instructor and personal trainer. And if you go way back, I qualified as an ‘exercise to music’ teacher. That was the nineties, and it was amongst the first qualifications I did.
Its hard to say one thing I do because I feel as though I’m always learning. From going through the new releases with Les Mills to reading up on what my exercise referral clients need.
I also think it’s just who I am – it’s in my nature. Because I’m interested, I keep up to date. Even if it wasn’t my job I think I’d want to research how activity can keep you healthy.
What did you miss most during lockdown?
Definitely routine and social interaction. And for me, these two things are completely combined. I like routine, I like knowing what I’m doing in a week, seeing my people – my clients and colleagues.
Come last autumn I was doing some of the live classes with Blair at Bells. And as much as that little slice of norality helped me, and our customers, its just not the same is it? I love everything about what I do.
There’s nothing beats standing up in front of a class and seeing everyone in real life – getting a wee smile or a wee grimace from our regulars when you announce the squat track in Body Pump is all part of the fun!
What did you do at home to keep your fitness levels up?
Well, just before lockdown 1 was announced I had started training for a treadmill marathon. Lots of our regulars will know that Neil Johnston’s daughter, Hayley – Neil has worked for LAL for years - was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2019. As a family they were going through so much and we all wanted to help.
Anyhow, it never happened as I couldn’t access the gym so now, I’ve decided to tie it in with my big birthday in June and I’m doing the equivalent of an Ironman 70.3 across Perthshire to raise funds. We’ll be announcing the full details soon but I can confirm we'll be raising funds for TCCL (you pronounce it tickle) which is the Tayside Children with Cancer and Leukaemia charity.
As you can imagine, training for an ironman on your 50th keeps you pretty fit!
What class is your favourite / what are you most looking forward to?
All of them!
What are your tips to people to help them get back into classes after lockdown?
Listen to your own body! I cannot stress this enough. Unless you’ve been able to continue training at your normal rate during lockdown, you probably won’t be able to lift what you did before or push yourself in the same way.
I know that’ll tough for some people but remember that muscle memory is an amazing thing and it will come back quick. So please don’t risk an injury by pushing too hard to soon.
And from a practical point of view, remember to book in advance, and to bring your own water bottle, yoga mat and mask!
What have you learned in 20 years of teaching, and will you still be doing it in another 20 years?
HAHAHA!! You know I recently worked out that I’ve taught over 15,000 classes in my time at LAL and some of my customers have been with me throughout. That makes me really happy.
I think – I hope – that I’ve become a better teacher with age. I really do believe that experience helps me bring more to the table. I have a deeper understanding of what people want and what they get out of it. The bigger picture is so much more important to me now.
Will I be here in 20 years? I might have my Zimmer frame on stand-by but I’ll be here!
BACK TO CLASS
You can join Arlene and our other amazing instructors, in various classes across Perth and Kinross from 17th May 2021.
All venues have easy-to-follow processes to keep us Covid-safe and for those of you who visited in Autumn 2020, you will know we worked hard to ensure your experience remains an enjoyable one!
- Anyone who was a paying member in December 2020 will have been reinstated now, and can book via their pin. If you would like to join as a new member please click here - we'd love to have you with us!
- You must book online in advance of the class. Check out our handy video below.
- You will find an up-to-date timetable for your preferred venue on the website here >
- If you want to refresh your memory on how things work, or if you’re new to the venues post-covid, check out our walk through videos for each venue here >
- We know you’ll have questions and to keep things easy for you while we all ease back into be opening, we’ve compiled answers to the FAQs here >
- Finally, just like Arlene said, remember your mask, yoga mat, water, towel.