Meet Kristy Vandekerckhove

Kristy has been teaching classes at Park Center Health & Fitness for nine years. She teaches seven classes a week including fan favorite heart-pumpers like WERQ, Intervals and Aqua Zumba.

How do you ensure that group fitness classes are inclusive for individuals with varying fitness levels and abilities?

I don’t ever want participants to feel excluded. I don’t teach classes tagged as “advanced” or “beginner.” I’ve never been a fan of those terms. What if you aren’t sure where you fall? Or if you find yourself somewhere between? Any movement is better than no movement. I present multiple options for many exercises to meet participants where they are. If there’s a specific physical limitation that needs extra attention, talk to me and we can figure out an option for you.


How does the group dynamic in a fitness class enhance motivation and accountability for participants?

What better way to find people who enjoy working out in a similar modality as you than in a class?! I’ve met some of my best friends in fitness classes. In the group fitness space, camaraderie definitely plays a role. From the moment you enter the studio, people are greeting each other and chatting while they set up. It’s a supportive environment where we get to know each other, recognize when you’re there, and miss you when you’re not (and hope that everything is ok). I’ve seen years-long friendships form in our classes. Our aqua classes even host potluck luncheons several times a year!


What strategies do you use to keep participants engaged and committed?

I try to design and present effective classes that provide both interesting variations and traditional, proven exercises so that participants can work safely, at their own level. Fun music always plays a part—especially in my dance classes. In addition, I try to encourage our members to try new class modalities. Want to get stronger a row with me? Try TBC or my new 321-Go class. Like to dance or always wondered what a water workout is like? I’ve got you covered. Variety is the spice of life!


Have you witnessed any inspiring stories or transformations within your classes?

Definitely. Of course I’ve seen participants make significant physical changes—weight loss, body composition changes, recovering from injuries or surgeries, etc. Those are all great things! But, I think it’s the unseen changes—often impacting mental health—that have been most important to me. The participant who tells me that classes lifted her spirits after surviving breast cancer or the loss of a spouse…The stressed young mother who finally feels more like herself after letting loose in a weekly dance class…The participant who faithfully logged on to a virtual class from home during COVID lockdowns because she craved the normalcy and social connection…These are the reasons I do what I do.


How can beginners overcome any initial hesitation or anxiety about joining a group class?

In my experience, the group fitness studios in Park Center are the most welcoming places in the gym! Seriously, the party is in here where we are all working out together (not just next to each other on separate treadmills while wearing earbuds). My classes are a judgment-free zone. Come on in, and I’ll let you know what the class is about and what you need to set up. Our participants are pretty amazing ambassadors as well; I’ll often see another member introducing themselves and pointing out the equipment before I can even get to them.