In just two years of existence, the No Excuses Fitness Club has been making an impact on the lives of many Tobagonians.
Key to its success is head instructor and founder of the club Dr Amelia Joseph, who knows first-hand the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
Joseph, originally of Trinidad, is a medical doctor at the Scarborough General Hospital. She studied medicine in Cuba and later did her internship in Tobago.
The club started with three people, Joseph said, and has expanded to 25 active members during the period.
Training is generally concentrated in Mt Pleasant, but shifts to other areas, to explore a change of terrain and scenery.
Joseph who played competitive football and cricket as a teenager, said she has always been passionate about sports.
She said the motivation to start a fitness club was kindled by observations in her profession, the impact of covid19, the closure of gyms, and the need for personal fitness.
“Tobago is plagued with heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and obesity," Joseph lamented.
"And as we are aware, persons with comorbidities in addition to not being vaccinated are more likely to develop serious illnesses from covid19."
Joseph said the covid19 lockdowns provided the perfect opportunity to "combine my background in sports and knowledge in medicine, to influence a positive change in lifestyle awareness.”
Asked about the objective of No Excuses Fitness Club, Joseph said, "The general philosophy is to promote a higher level of physical activity, encourage dietary changes and cessation of toxic habits, decrease stress, boost self-esteem and build a positive social atmosphere.”
She said chronic illnesses can be prevented or delayed through education and lifestyle modification.
Among the club's activities include gym sessions, biking, beach workouts, hikes, long-distance walking, jogging and aerobics.
The closure of beaches during the pandemic was a frustrating period for Joseph. She said, “I missed the sand training, and I was ecstatic when the beaches were reopened in December.
“Sand training is a productive and metabolically-challenging workout for running, agility drills and plyometrics, which help with cardiovascular fitness. It is very demanding and great for strengthening lower-body muscles, which include hamstring development and hip extension strength.”
She added, “Apart from that, who doesn’t love the beach? More burn, less boredom, serotonin and vitamin D boost, the landscape, soundscape and bare feet, also natural therapy.”
Joseph said the public health regulations posed its challenges for her group.
"We were not able to get the entire group to workout together, however we do workouts in small groups and switch up occasionally, which allows everyone to be affiliated with each other.
“We also had a couple of members who contracted the covid19 virus, but thankfully they bounced back in no time. Their speedy recoveries were attributed to being vaccinated, staying active, and proper management of comorbidities. In keeping with our strict health protocols, the virus was not spread throughout the club.”
Joseph, who is assisted by instructor Sylon Slyvan, said that some of the club members prefer the sanctuary of personal workouts, which are also catered for.
"The private sessions enable us to build a stronger bond with clients, especially those who have stressful jobs and days and just need an outlet in a confidential space.”
Joseph said the name of the group speaks for itself. "It is impossible to pour from an empty cup. You have to make time to invest in yourself. Your health is your wealth and responsibility. No shortcuts, and no excuses.
Two members, Rachel Spann of Signal Hill and Ronnie Neptune of Buccoo, spoke of their experience since joining the club.
Spann said, “I was introduced to the club by a coworker in October 2020. At that time, I was really stressed out with various things in my life, and I was seeking an outlet to de-stress.
“Training with Amelia and the team has definitely changed my life for the better. Her club provides a safe space where I can leave everything behind and focus on bettering myself. Amelia and Sylon have definitely pushed me beyond my limits, and the experience has given me confidence and the courage in other parts of my life.
“I can proudly say that not only am I stronger physically, but I am stronger mentally and emotionally as well.”
Neptune said, “I was no longer comfortable in my appearance. I had gained rapid weight during the first covid19 lockdown, so I decided to make some changes, as to how I eat and also get someone to help me.
“My sister is the one who directed me to doctor Jacob to assist me in my journey. It is one year and counting since I have been part of the club. From day one to this present moment, I have absolutely no regrets to have Amelia as my trainer.
“She has exhibited patience with me as a trainer, and I have been very patient with myself, in making the necessary changes to achieve my weight loss.
“I can never omit the fact that she has made me feel like family, and I am sure the other members will express the same sentiment.”