By Kristen Miller
The Lamson Evangelical Free Church parking lot was packed last Wednesday evening not for church service, but a fitness revolution.
Inside the church’s fellowship hall, music is thumping as women of all ages get their fitness on, guided by lead instructor Laura Bunker.
Bunker, a Cokato resident, is a certified REFIT trainer and instructs classes six nights a week, inspiring women to make a lifestyle change.
Last February, Bunker became certified in the REFIT program, “a revolutionary cardio dance program that engages the whole person body, mind and soul through simple steps, exhilarating rhythms, and a community-driven mission,” according to its website. It also provides family-friendly moves and music.
Time for change
In 2010, at 280 pounds, Bunker decided she needed to change her lifestyle so she could be there for her four children. Not only did she want to be alive for them, but she wanted to be an active participant in their lives.
“I wanted to be a fun mom, who was able to play with them,” she said.
Bunker’s “ah ha” moment came when she was helping teach her daughter’s dance class. She was doing one of the moves and was unable to stand from a sitting position.
That was the turning point for her.
From there, she began her weight-loss journey. From different diets to over-exercising and restricting calories, Bunker said, “I’ve tried it all.”
What Bunker was really looking for was balance and something she could maintain for life.
For her that’s been eating clean and participating in the REFIT program.
Building a fitness community
After trying other cardio dance programs, Bunker decided to go on her own and find a program that she could introduce to her church family.
REFIT allows her to do just that.
REFIT uses three different types of music to get the class moving faith-based, positive, and neutral.
“All the messages are good because music is powerful,” she said.
Bunker teaches classes two nights a week at Lamson Evangelical Free Church to women of all ages and stages in the REFIT program. The youngest in her class is 7 years old, and the oldest is 84.
“Just move and have fun and find what works for you,” said Bunker, who became a certified instructor last February.
Since then, she’s had an overwhelming response. Now she instructs six classes a week, with classes in Dassel, Cokato, Hutchinson, and Monticello (see below for her schedule).
“This was where my heart was . . . and fortunately for me, that’s where other people’s hearts are too,” Bunker commented.
Since Bunker took charge of her weightloss, she has lost 100 pounds.
“If you can find something that you love and do it with people you love, then it’s easy,” she said.
What she likes about REFIT is not only that it’s a fun workout, but that she gets to meet new people, encourage others, and open the door to a healthy lifestyle.
It’s also become something she can enjoy with her children, as they help her pick music, dance together, and just be silly with each other, Bunker noted.
Through her weightloss success story, Bunker has been able to reach other people who struggle with weight.
“It’s given me a platform to talk to other women,” she said.
“I’m not someone you would think to be a fitness instructor,” Bunker said, noting she isn’t a size 2.
“I’ve struggled through what half my participants struggle through daily,” she said.
She no longer is consumed by losing weight and counting calories each day.
“I still enjoy food, I enjoy my workouts, and now I have freedom from the pain of weightloss,” Bunker said.
In her classes, the focus is never on weightloss. Instead, “let’s get together, get to know each other, have fun, and the sparkle (sweat) is a bonus,” she said.
Connie Gorres, 50, of Dassel, has been coming with her daughter, Olivia, 17, for the past two years.
“It’s phenomenal,” Connie said. “I’ve never looked forward to a workout,” she said, noting she enjoys biking, but hitting the treadmill takes a lot of effort.
With her “two left feet,” Connie said she came to class reluctantly at first, but she left with a passion to come back.
Olivia enjoys the fun workout, but also that she becomes “filled with a really good spiritual energy,” that keeps her coming back.
To try the REFIT program
Bunker’s REFIT classes:
• Mondays at the Monticello Community Center at 7 p.m. and 8:15 p.m.;
• Tuesdays and Thursdays at Miss Wendy’s in Cokato at 7:35 p.m.
• Wednesdays at Lamson, 5:30 p.m.
• Saturdays at Riverside Church in Hutchinson, 8 a.m.
For up-to-date information and to learn more about Bunker and REFIT, visit her online here.