From Northwoods ‘boomers and Beyond magazine
By Sue Schneider
Tori Cihla knows plenty of ways to keep fit. Through Nicolet College Community Education, she teaches a variety of classes using exercise hoops, foam rollers, fitness balls, drumsticks and kettlebells, to name a few.
Techniques include aerobics, yoga, pilates, tai chi and striptease. Chances are pretty good that she can find the right fit for just about anyone who wants to get active.
With training in physical therapy and certification as a personal trainer, Tori is well-equipped to help her students. “Everyone learns differently,” she explains. “Finding the best way to help an individual is something I’m pretty comfortable with. I get to know my students during the course of a class and I can usually tell what they need and how to get there.”
When she first got her Fitbit® this summer, Tori set herself a goal of 5 miles a day, or 10,000 steps. “I was showing it to my daughter one evening and the Fitbit said that I was still short of my daily goal. I kind of shrugged and said I’d try again tomorrow. My daughter said, ‘Mom, that’s just an excuse!’
“I realized she was right, so I put on my walking shoes and headed out the door to finish my 10,000 steps, and I haven’t missed a day since,” she says. “I can really see this as the wave of the future in health and fitness. I believe that, in the future, this technology will be able to monitor many things including blood sugar for diabetics.”
The best part about using the device, according to Tori, is that it makes the wearer face reality. “Usually, when we exercise, we think we’re doing more than we really are,” she explains. “When you are trying to make a change in your lifestyle, you need good feedback. Fitbit gives you that.”
It’s also a good motivational tool, Tori says. “I’m teaching a Fitbit class this fall. I hope to get people keeping track of their progress, sharing their results, comparing and competing with each other. For those who learn to like this device, it could make a big difference.”
Looking back on her 30 years of teaching, Tori says she didn’t always want to be a fitness instructor. Right out of high school, she enrolled in training to become a pilot. “Since I was little, I wanted to fly, and now I have the skills to do it,” she says. “I really can’t afford to fly now, unfortunately.”
When she was 22 years old, she taught her first fitness class at a small gym in Rhinelander. “People told me I had a real talent for it,” she recalls. “It was easy for me, and came quite naturally, so I just kept on doing it.”
Through her years of marriage and raising a son and daughter, she kept on teaching and learning. “I’d teach myself new techniques and use my own learning process to help my students,” says Tori. “Since I’ve been through all those stages, I can relate to what they’re going through.”
For six years, she also trained in martial arts. “That goes deeper than just physical fitness,” she says. “Being strong and confident is amazing; being able to hit someone and be hit takes courage. It’s not something that we, as women, often really understand.
“A lot comes with the ability to defend yourself and avoid conflict,” Tori explains. “I’ve never had to use it, and I’ll be happy if I never do. I don’t practice much anymore, but I think about it all the time; it gives me a better understanding of myself, knowing I’m ready for anything.”
Tori’s Nicolet College classes take place all over the district at various locations. She doesn’t mind the traveling, and feels her teaching is more than just an hour of exercise and out the door. “I know I can help people lead better, healthier lives,” she says. “It really is more of a mission than a job.
“The hardest part is motivating people, of course. I can tell them and show them, I can lead by example, but it’s up to them to do it,” she continues. “I enjoy exercise myself, and I’ve found that if I can keep somebody in class long enough, I can convince them of the benefits.”
With dozens of different classes attended by students of varying ages and fitness levels, Tori has developed different techniques to address individual needs. “I see so many people who may have limitations or problems that we need to consider. For example, if someone has a shoulder injury, they may have to go about a certain exercise in a different way.
“It’s a challenge I enjoy,” she says. “I get to know them, and they get to know me. Sometimes it takes people more than just one class session to learn something complex, and they’ll come back and take the class again. They’ll drive to Three Lakes or Minocqua to take a class and that’s a big compliment.”
Many students in Tori’s classes are women over 40. “They may be sitting too much at work, developing back or neck problems,” says Tori. “My challenge is to try to help them work on balancing flexibility and strength. I try to make it as easy as possible – make the right thing the easy thing.
“There’s a myth that getting older is all downhill,” she says. “That is just not true. With the right activity, you can stay level for a long time. I’ve had so many students tell me they feel stronger and better. When they say I’ve helped change their life, I know I’ve succeeded.”
*Fitbit is a registered trademark and service mark of Fitbit, Inc.