Sharon’s keeping Kinlochleven’s fitness on track during virus crisis

NO F14 Sharon Ashwell
NO F14 Sharon Ashwell

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By Peter Newman


As the world goes into lock down, many people have been struggling to keep their fitness regimes going.

Some have turned to celebrities, such as Joe Wicks, for help with their children. But, at a more local level, Sharon Ashwell has been managing to run the classes she usually runs at the Kinlochleven’s Leven Centre online.

Ashwell told us: ‘When coronavirus struck a lot of people were worried about keeping up their exercise routines, which they had worked so hard to achieve.

‘I thought about recording just a couple of videos to help people out.  It has gone down so well I am trying to do 3-4 per week, I have done a core class, high intensity interval training class, general circuit class and kettlebells class. Just things people can do in the house or garden with limited equipment.’

It has not necessarily been a seamless adjustment but Ashwell has found that it has been more enjoyable than she at first feared. ‘I found it strange at first because I don’t particularly like being in front of a camera and I love the interaction with people in a class, which you obviously don’t have when you just make a video.

‘I have to keep talking and giving them different options and explaining because I can’t see them, but I think for the people watching it’s much the same as me being in front of them in class – (I just can’t shout at them as much – I like to call it encouraging them!)

‘The videos have gone down really well and everyone has been so, so kind and encouraging. The response has been fantastic and everyone seems to be loving them.

‘It’s worked really well because people can do them when it suits them and they don’t need to be online at a particular time, they can save them and do them more than once.

‘Peoples’ routines are so out of kilter at the moment, with kids being at home and things, so they can just do the videos at a time to suit them.

‘The videos are just on my own private, closed group (Kinlochleven Fitness Group) which I set up years ago and all the people on there come or have come to classes over the years, so I know most of their capabilities and where to pitch the classes. So I know they have an idea of what to do and won’t be hurting themselves.’

Ashwell’s journey to being a fitness instructor began slowly. ‘I worked in the health food industry years ago, selling and marketing herbal medicine and then 18 years ago my husband and I moved up here.

‘A complete change in lifestyle and environment made me think more about my fitness and health, so about nine years ago I decided to try and get fit, at the time I was 37 and completely new to exercise and overweight.

‘I am not a natural exerciser and found it quite difficult, so I can relate to people coming to classes who have never exercised before.  I decided to give myself a goal and aimed for the Inverness half marathon to raise some money for Diabetes Research for young people,’ said Ashwell, who has had Type 1 Diabetes since she was nine.

‘I have since done about 15 different runs, raising thousands for Diabetes Research. At the same time I decide to learn more about health and exercise and signed up with Lifetime Fitness to do my Level 2 Gym Instructor and Exercise to Music Instructor Courses.

‘I continued to study and I have since trained to be a Circuits, Metafit, Spinning and Kettlercise Instructor.

‘I have done some private work with the local shinty club and a few classes in Ballachulish but the biggest thing was getting involved with High Life Highland and the Leven Centre.

‘I normally teach about 9-10 classes per week including aerobics, boxfit, circuits, Metafit, Kettlercise and spinning.  The amount of people now coming to classes has increased significantly over the last couple of years, with it being a small area I got to know many people really well.

‘Maria (MacDonald) and Ewan (Thorburn) at the Leven Centre have been fantastic and are so supportive, they encourage new classes and new ways of doing things. The centre has definitely thrived and is now a busy, hive of activity.’

With the immediate future of getting together to exercise still in doubt, Ashwell says she is finding this way of working as positive an experience as it could be.

‘I will continue to do the classes for as long as everyone wants them, the feedback has been great.  Possibly the next step will be to do some live classes, so I can get a bit of that interaction (although I’m not very technical minded!) And our Internet connection is rubbish, so that may be a challenge, it took me hours the other day to upload a video!

‘I love seeing people improve and get so much out of the classes, its great fun and a great way to socialise.  Although we can’t do it in person at the moment the social interactions have continued online and we are all supporting each other in any way we can.  I love my job and hope to do it for many more years!’




NO F14 Sharon Ashwell