If you’re at almost any group fitness class at Halifax’s Park Lane GoodLife Fitness, you’ll see Farida Sardiwalla near the back. Farida is a regular and has been coming to the gym for years. She knows most people in the class and all the instructors know her name.  

Born in South Africa, Farida studied and worked as a Medical Laboratory Technologist for years. She moved to London, England and worked in pathology at London University in Kings Cross while her husband trained as a surgeon. 

Farida’s husband was offered a position in Canada and her family moved to Cape Breton, then Halifax. Although Farida was not able to work in Canada, she started going to the gym because it not only provided fitness training, but opened up friendships and social relationships that have stood the test of time.

The gym for me is a way of life. Having worked for a long time, I didn’t want to stagnate. It not only provides fitness but it’s also a community. I meet people and we talk. The instructors are my reason for getting to the gym. They lift your spirits, remind you to breathe and always, always tell you ‘You can do this!'

Farida has two adult sons who are both medical doctors. During the pandemic, she felt additional stress and worry because they were working on the front lines.

“My older son is a surgeon in South Africa and was required to put in central lines on COVID patients in the ICU. He contracted COVID-19 and because of lockdowns we couldn’t be with him,” she explained. “My other son is a registrar in plastic surgery in Ontario and had to cover COVID wards. The enormous stress of having them up front throughout this has at times been almost unbearable.” 

During the pandemic, Farida kept coming to Group Fitness classes as long as the gym was open. When gyms in Nova Scotia had to close during lockdowns she would walk, exploring different parks, historic sites and the waterfront. She even climbed the 16 floors of stairs in her apartment building on cold and snowy days.

“I didn’t want to lose my sanctuary so I kept coming as long as it was safe. I tried the online classes on Instagram but I still prefer the live classes with the instructor’s voice urging me on.” 

Whenever gyms would re-open throughout the pandemic, Farida says she felt joy. Each time gyms had to close and then re-open, she says it was more difficult to regain her previous fitness levels. But not getting back to the gym was never an option.

“I don’t lift particularly heavy weights. I sometimes can’t do as many reps in BODYCOMBAT and maybe not as high on tension in RPM but I get there regularly and enjoy myself. This routine has kept me fit. I have no chronic health issues. I don’t take medications. Fitness has kept me mobile and relatively sane,” she laughs. 

Farida looks forward to new release days so she can learn different routines in her favourite Les Mills classes. 

“Those changes make you realize how your body needs to work in different ways. The mental stimulation of listening and learning the new program is so beneficial. And the fun of seeing the whole class lying on the floor exhausted. It couldn’t get any better!”