Watching Nathalie Durand lead a fitness session at the YMCA of South Collier (the Marco Y) makes one think of a drill sergeant.
But, a very nice drill sergeant.
Someone who’s firm and encouraging, and is clearly totally committed to the wellbeing of those she’s instructing.
In this case, the group happens to be participants in the “Rock Steady Boxing” program, which is designed especially for people coping with Parkinson’s disease.
Durand is the Y’s newly hired Group Fitness Leader, and besides the Rock Steady program, she conducts water fitness classes in the pool, as well as spin, boot camp and weight training.
She’s also a personal trainer.
“I had been working at Fiddler’s Creek, and when I saw an ad (for the Y job), I applied, had an interview and here I am,” said Durand. “My background met what they were looking for at the time.”
No kidding. A criminal justice and economics graduate of Rutgers University where she did competitive tennis, dancing and track and field, Durand gravitated to promoting fitness after having her daughter, Maya.
“I worked in gyms, wellness centers and did corporate fitness training,” she said.
Ironically, part of her ongoing dedication to health and fitness arose from having an injury.
“I took some time off, working at a chiropractor’s office and also with some physical therapists and occupational therapists over the years,” Durand said.
A further catalyst to her commitment was while she was working with the Lee County Parkinson’s Association.
“What really got me into it was working with a nurse who was young (around 50) and in the beginning stages of Parkinson’s,” Durand said.
“She changed my whole outlook, which is no matter what disabilities you have, you can still work with what you have, train with what you have and still have fun with it.”
Add to that an inherent passion for boxing, and it’s clear why Durand has morphed so seamlessly into helping people with Parkinson’s.
She also emphasized that her type of training isn’t necessarily about body sculpting.
“Fitness is about being strong and capable,” she said. “It’s being able to reshape your body as it is, and be OK with what you are.”
Durand was born and raised in the Caribbean (on the island of Martinique), and after moving to the USA and graduating at Rutgers, she initially worked as a banker and also a paralegal.
“But all along, I always did fitness classes on the side,” she said.
Durand is also available for personal fitness training. Contact her at Gonat@comcast.net.
For information on the Y’s wide variety of programs and activities for adults and children, visit marcoymca.org or call 394-YMCA (9622). Follow on Twitter at ymcamarco; on Facebook @marcoymca, and Instagram at ymcamarco.