BRONX, N.Y. - Van Cortlandt Park, known for its sprawling trails, lush forest and as an outdoor gym?
At least that’s how Johanna Edmondson sees it.
She’s here nearly every morning inspiring women to get off the couch and reach their fitness goals.
“Bringing everyone together as a community helped support each other, it gave us a reason to continue, to believe in each other, rooting for each other every day," Edmondson said.
Before the coronavirus hit, Edmondson was a yoga instructor at “24 Hour Fitness.” But because of state mandates, the gym had to close its doors in March. Then the following month the owners announced it would be closing for good.
“We were hit with life changing decisions, our health, our relationships, unemployment, we were hit hard," Edmondson said.
The fitness instructor turned her disappointment into positive energy, practicing what she knows best - exercising and helping New Yorkers get in shape.
The socially distant group workouts start bright and early and last for at least two hours.
And with the help of social media and word of mouth, what started with just a few of her past clients, its quickly turned into the “Female Fight Club,” with over 200 members.
“I felt a responsibility to open this space to everyone. Especially women," Edmondson said.
Edmondson says that it’s important for people to exercise regularly, even if gyms aren’t open.
She offers a variety of classes - from yoga, pilates, to kickboxing - all for free, to make up for the experience her clients have been missing.
“I think this is a way for us to let out steam. The music, the positive energy, the reps all of that just helps," said Stefanie Hunt, a participant.
Edmonson says these classes keep participants physically and mentally fit.
"I saw depression, anxiety, a lot of women would come to me in the morning as they walked past and would tell me their stories, how tough it was for them to stay home and learn new things," Edmondson said.
Edmondson dreams of one day owning her own gym. But for now, Van Cortlandt Park will have to do.
“Our slogan is what are you fighting for? We fight here for our health, for our lives, for equality, for relationships, for our children. That’s what Female Fight Club is about," Edmondson said.
So, for helping women stay active and healthy during the pandemic, one rep at a time, Johanna Edmondson is our New Yorker of the Week.