EVERETT — When Gael Gebow wakes up before dawn to prepare to teach a workout class, she feels like she’s preparing to perform on stage.
For over 20 years, Gebow has poured her “heart and soul” into her work at the YMCA of Snohomish County.
As an instructor, she teaches multiple classes a week ranging from spin classes, strength training, kickboxing and cardio focused classes.
Boot Camp is known as one of the more difficult group exercise classes, Gebow said. The class involves high-intensity interval training, mixing calisthenics, cardio and weight training.
But still, she is adamant that the classes remain inclusive for anyone who wants to try them.
“They may have a perception that it’s hard, and it’s going to be as hard as the effort they want to put in it,” she said. “But they’re still welcome to come in for that class.”
Over time, she’s noticed a wider range of people try out the class. Some just try once and don’t come back, but she feels most proud when people come back.
“That’s the thing I value the most is that they showed up twice,” Gebow said.
According to an Iowa State University study, nearly 40% of people who exercise regularly participate in group fitness classes.
It’s a good match. Exercising with others has benefits. It can provide social support, improve motivation and reduce your likelihood of dropping out and throwing in the towel, the study said.
Gebow is originally from Scotland. She came to Washington state after being in America for just a few years, knowing no one but her two small children.
After walking by the old downtown Everett YMCA facility everyday, she finally walked in and attended a few group exercise classes.
A couple of months into a kickboxing class, the instructor asked Gebow to volunteer and lead the class. Twenty-three years later, she teaches more than 10 group exercise classes each week and serves as a full-time staff member at the YMCA of Snohomish County.
Gebow thinks group exercise is far more effective than working out alone.
For the vast majority of people who come in to work out alone, the chances of them leaving and not coming back is high, she said.
But if they attend a group exercise class, there’s more motivation and expectation to return.
“If we can attach them to another human, and the power of a group is the most influential, it’s going to keep them coming back,” she said.
The YMCA uses group exercise programming from Mossa, a national physical fitness company. Instructors learn fitness programming from videos made by Mossa.
Twice now, Gebow has been chosen by Mossa to travel to their headquarters and film new program videos, that are later sent out to instructors across the country.
She felt honored to be chosen to film and represent Snohomish County on a national stage.
Her biggest accomplishments aren’t completing an Iron Man race or running a marathon time that qualified her for the Boston Marathon. She said those accomplishments are things she wouldn’t have been able to do by herself.
What she’s most proud of, she said, is the effort she put into her work and training.
“It’s hard to say what my greatest accomplishment would be,” she said. “Sometimes, it’s just nailing a group exercise class on the first day it’s released.”