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NORMALLY, IF A friend asked me whether I wanted to spend my Sunday morning doing aerobics for four hours instead of sleeping in, I would tell them to kick rocks in flip-flops.

When I was asked to participate in the annual Aerobic-a-Thon put on by the University of Ottawa Sports Services, which raises funds for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), I was more than happy to join. When you know you are supporting research and services for Canadians living with ALS, sacrificing a few hours of sleep and working up a sweat is absolutely, 100 per cent worth it.

Gym three of Montpetit Hall was full on Sunday morning as a large crowd of participants and spectators of all ages showed up to demonstrate their support. We were led by group fitness instructors through a number of fun aerobics sessions—Tae Cardio, Zumba, Step, Tae Step, and Everything-in-One.

I struggled a bit with the coordination and choreography, which are key to both Zumba and Step. I tend to look like an off-beat, confused, heavily intoxicated ‘80s backup dancer—minus the neon bike shorts. Thankfully, the Aerobic-a-Thon was full of participants of all abilities, and the atmosphere was more chill than competitive. My friends and I had many a laugh trying to master some of the moves: The “wiggle”, “opening the window,” and the “L-step.”

After a few solid hours of heart-pumping exercise and failed attempts at shaking my booty, I was ready for a cool down. Marla Ericksen of EmpowerME yoga led the crowd through a fantastic yoga session. Unlike some yoga classes I’ve attended, which move through the poses so quickly I end up feeling more stressed than soothed, Ericksen’s class was the epitome of relaxation. My muscles, which had been working hard all morning, were stretched to the point where I felt like I was melting into my yoga mat.

The day ended on a peaceful note, with a relaxation exercise led by Siobhán Rock, a personal trainer who has worked with the University of Ottawa Sports Services for over a decade as a Group Fitness and yoga instructor. Rock was diagnosed with ALS last summer, and her smiling presence reminded us of why we were there—to support a member of the U of O community in her journey with ALS, and to support the wider community of Canadians living with the disease.

—Sarah Horlick