The fitness industry plays a vital role in the health and wellness of our communities. COVID-19 has forced the industry to adapt in order to survive. We want to celebrate the individuals and teams who have found ways to bring classes, movement and community to people during COVID-19 lockdown and beyond. Today we are celebrating Cherise Vermeulen, director, producer, writer, and owner of Media Creations as well as the owner of the Callanetics/Barre Studio in Somerset West.
Romi: That is quite a handful! Could you tell us a bit about how you got involved in Media Creations, being nominated for the Woman of the Year in Media Awards in 2018, plus managing your own studio?
Cherise: Thank you so much for the opportunity! I run a media production company, which is focused on telling the stories of mainly non-profit organizations through video and short documentaries. Part of my work involves the Children’s Film Movement, aimed at teaching children how to use media creatively to tell beautiful, uplifting stories. It was for this and the production of a children’s TV series called KidsHubTV that I was nominated for the Woman of the Year Awards in the Media Category. It was a tremendous honour to just be nominated!
When we moved from Johannesburg to Somerset West in 2014, I felt like I really wanted to give something back to the community of Somerset West. So I started the Callanetics Studio here.
Running Callanetics, Ballet Barre and the media company certainly keeps me on my toes in more ways than one! I am a firm believer in the philosophy that work is a gift, so I enjoy keeping my mind challenged. I love Callanetics and Barre! Growing up I trained as a dancer and knew about Callanetics, but I thought it was old fashioned! Then a dear friend inspired me to do the Callanetics Teachers’ Training and I have never looked back.
Romi: Could you tell us a bit about Callanetics/ Barre that you teach at your studio? What are some of the benefits of these exercises?
Cherise: Let’s start with Callanetics which consists of tiny movements or pulses. These are precisely coordinated with each other to improve muscle tone and transform the body in weeks. Callanetics is a proven training method. Thousands who have experienced and seen dramatic transformative changes to their entire bodies, swear by it! Kylie Minogue, Madonna, and others are known to have practiced Callanetics to keep their bodies toned and in shape.
Often people who see these tiny pulses say “these movements are so tiny, they are hardly visible!”. That’s the secret to the success of Callanetics. Even though the pulses are tiny, they’re really precise and targeted, gentle on the body, yet highly effective. We target the deepest muscle layers plus dynamic stretching and relaxation. As a result, flexibility improves and muscles are lengthened and strengthened. The end result is that beautiful lean look we all long for.
The Ballet Barre I teach is a unique barre-based class that combines Barre, Ballet, Pilates and Cardio. It’s a fun and fast-paced workout. Clients build strength by using challenging positions that are taken from ballet and dance. This helps tone and strengthen the body. It’s a fast cardio class with a lot of laughter!
Was the transition to teach classes online manageable for you during the lockdown? Did you teach any classes online before?
Cherise: I had wanted to transition to online classes in the past, but never got around to it. With the lockdown, of course, we were all forced to transition, quickly! I found the transition manageable and quite easy and helped a few fellow teachers in South Africa to get set up to teach online classes. I think the lockdown really forced many people to ‘think out of the box’ and to try something that was previously not even a real option.
Transitioning from the ‘face-to-face’ personal experience we have in a studio environment, to an online environment, which is quite tricky, is very challenging for many instructors. I have found that, because we mute the participants on Zoom, it becomes a very monologue type of class! I really miss the interaction and immediate feedback in a studio environment. So now I’ve developed hand signals so clients can give me silent feedback. These include signals for: “Doing great”, “I’m dying here”, and “I am dead!” LOL. Clients love it and have joined in with much gusto! It also helps me to gauge how they’re all doing.
Romi: Will you continue to teach online classes partially after lockdown has ended?
Cherise: Yes, I have gained new students from all over the country. Even as far as Australia and the UK so I would really like to continue to give them the option to join online in the future too.
Romi: Have you gained new students during the lockdown? We love seeing the online classes giving people all over the world a chance to connect.
Cherise: Oh yes, I have actually seen an increase in class attendance, particularly during the first 4 weeks of lockdown here. I have new clients who joined from countries like the UK and Australia, which has been a real joy.
Romi: How are you balancing between Media Creations and running your own Callanetics/Barre Studio?
Cherise: One of the biggest time savers for me has been Bookamat. All my clients make payments directly through the Bookamat online payment system so I can log in to see who has made payments anytime. This means my clients’ credits become active immediately without my having to go in and activate or load them. I spent so many hours managing that before Bookamat and believe it is the one element that helps my studio run effectively. Thank you Bookamat, you are my software hero!
I believe strongly in planning my days ahead of time, and although life hardly ever goes according to plan, planning still makes a huge difference in my day.
Someone once said: The weakest ink is stronger than the strongest memory. So, write it down! In our technology era we now type more than we write, but the saying still holds true.
I also try to block off times for Media Creations and do the same for Callanetics and Barre classes. I think it definitely helps to be organised and detail-oriented. But while I do a lot of planning, I am very aware that planning is just a guideline, and sometimes the plan has to give way to the reality. It’s just a matter of being flexible to what life presents you with.
Being kind to myself when my plan doesn’t work out is important too. We can be so unforgiving toward ourselves sometimes. I’ll tell you one thing, I can’t go without my electronic calendar for very long! I put a lot into that piece of software!
Romi: I saw that you’re donating ALL CLASS FEES from 26 March until the last day of the lockdown to charitable organisations who help vulnerable children, or people in need with food and other basic living needs. That is incredibly inspiring! What made you decide to do this?
Cherise: Ah yes, when the pandemic struck, my husband and I were talking one evening, and he was saying: “A famine is coming” and that really moved me. I wanted the Callanetics & Barre studio in Somerset West to be part of the solution and believed my clients would love to be part of something like this.
We have managed to give a large amount to these charitable organisations and all my clients have loved being part of this joy of generosity! It truly is more blessed to give than to receive, and this is a time for us to be sowing.
I count it a tremendous honour because I know that many of my fellow instructors around the world are fighting for the survival of their businesses and are not able to do this. My heart really goes out to them and to this end, I have identified one studio owner I want this month’s fees to go to.
Romi: What are you most excited about after lockdown? And what helped you cope through these uncertain times?
Cherise: Seeing people in person, visiting special friends and family whom we have not been permitted to see at all! My faith in God as well as keeping busy have been my anchors. This has been such a global shaking, and I know that something good will come from this, perhaps not now, but in due time. I want to look back and say I used the time wisely. But I must be honest, snacking has not been at the wisest levels!
Romi: What does a typical day look like for you during lockdown?
Cherise: A typical day for me during the lockdown, consists of classes, planning new workouts, my media business, and a good ol’ G&T with my husband! I love reading, and the day always ends with a good book.
The original ‘Hip & Butt’ exercise developed by Callan Pinckney still works today! It works so effectively to lift the butt and tone beautifully.Cherise Vermeulen
Follow Cherise and her Callanetics & Barre Studio: https://www.facebook.com/CallaneticsBarreStudioSomersetWest/
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