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Birth Announcement

Fitness, community celebrated at non-profit’s first birthday

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POLSON — Fellowship Fitness, a nonprofit group fitness organization based in Polson, recently celebrated their first birthday with the launch of new programming and a black light dance party.

Instructor Jessica Schallock founded Fellowship Fitness in October 2022 with a goal to create a welcoming fitness community open to everyone. As research shows cost and intimidation are the top two reasons why people don’t exercise, Schallock sought to remove those barriers and create a community where people champion each other.

“I think it goes beyond intimidation,” she said. “I think it’s a fear of failure, a fear of looking out of place, not being able to do something and ultimately being embarrassed in front of other people. That’s why we focus on community and building relationships vs. just another place to work out. We focus on teaching the how and the why so every person feels confident and competent with their fitness level.” 

When her husband, Kurt, suggested forming a non-profit the idea stuck. Together, the two invested an initial $12,000 to purchase the weights, bars, steps, mats and more needed to get started. A six-person governing board of directors was formed and the new club was launched.

One year later, Fellowship Fitness continues to offer classes totally free of charge. Those who attend are greeted by name. 

“I wanted to have a place where people felt comfortable working out,” Schallock said. “What most people don’t realize when walking into a room (full of others they may not know) is that everyone in the room feels the same as you.”

“When you come, you’re not going to be a stranger,” she added. “Hopefully everyone will be helpful and friendly.”

Les Mills programming is taught at the club Monday-Friday at various times. Held at Mission: Church in Polson, 30-55 minute classes include Body Pump, Body Attack, Les Mills Grit, Strength Development and Functional Strength. Classes range from weight training to cardio and a mix of the two with one newer Pilates-inspired class called Shapes. 

The improved physical and mental capacity that comes from exercise only brings rewards, Schallock said. “My why is to make people feel valued and valuable through fitness – investing in yourself allows you to invest in others.”

Having taught Les Mills group fitness classes for 16 years, Schallock firmly believes in the programming.

“Les Mills was a former Olympian who pioneered weight training in a group setting in the 60s,” she explained. “Programming was born in the 90s. They science-back everything.” 

There’s not a workout offered she added that hasn’t been tested first by people many times over to assure safety and effectiveness.

A New Zealand-based Company, Les Mills has a presence in over 100 countries with more than 120,000 instructors at 20,000 clubs worldwide. “To my knowledge, we’re the only one that runs completely non-profit,” Schallock said.

Though they’re effective, Les Mills fitness programs aren’t free. Fellowship Fitness’s overhead is about $700 a month. The costs are covered solely by participant donations with any excess funds collected given back to the community on a quarterly basis. Decisions as to where to donate are made by the Fellowship Fitness board of directors. 

In the past, donations have been made to Helping Hands and the Boys and Girls Club as well as to Mission Church for allowing free use of their facility for classes and to house equipment.

While there are other non-profit gyms – like The Wave in Whitefish – Fellowship Fitness is unique in that none of its instructors are paid. Instruction is all volunteer based. 

In addition to Schallock, three class participants have stepped up to the plate to help teach. 

To see those she’s trained become confident enough to start helping others has been particularly rewarding for Schallock. “Taking people from participation to the instruction side is a big deal,” she said. “It’s a completely different perspective on how you work out.” 

The process of becoming Les Mills certified isn’t easy. Those seeking certification have to attend a two-day training to learn how to teach others. Choreography has to be memorized, good, clean technique demonstrated, capability of being a safe and effective coach with an ability to connect people also has to be proven via video submission within 60 days. The process is so rigorous however, Schallock said it typically takes people an extra 30 days to get certified. She’s proud of her team of instructors, none of whom had previously taught fitness classes, for transitioning to now teach others. With some classes regularly full with a waitlist, an expanded group of instructors will allow the club to expand and reach more people she noted.

Seeing different segments of the community who don’t normally cross paths get to know each other has also been rewarding for Schallock. “I’ve been doing this for 16 years and I have friends now that I wouldn’t have made without this,” she said. 

With 150 people registered via the scheduling app and 50-60 people rotating in and out of weekly classes Schallock is both pleased and surprised by Fellowship Fitness’s growth the past year. “I didn’t expect to have six programs and four instructors in a year,” she admits.

Anyone interested is encouraged to come try out classes. People can view the Fellowship Fitness class schedule, sign up and donate via the Fitli app on their I-phone or desktop computer. 

“It’s free,” Schallock said, “and anyone is welcome to come try a class. We really want to make it work for you. That’s the beauty of this program - it’s nearly adaptable to all people in any physical state. Come give us a try.”

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