Kinesiology alumna puts education to work with free online fitness classes during pandemic

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: June 26, 2020 9:00 a.m.

Darby Kraus (left) and Ben Flahr (right) doing surfer squats as they lead an interval workout. “It was a new move I wanted to test out to keep things interesting for online participants!” says Kraus.
Darby Kraus (left) and Ben Flahr (right) doing surfer squats as they lead an interval workout. “It was a new move I wanted to test out to keep things interesting for online participants!” says Kraus. Photo: Twitch

During the first week of the COVID-19 pandemic, University of Regina alumna Darby Kraus BKin’19 felt compelled to put her education into action, helping people who were no longer able to work out at public gyms.

“I knew it was going to be a depressing time for a lot of people who wouldn’t be able to go to the gym and socialize with others,” says Kraus, a Lifestyle Coach at OPEX Fitness in Regina, and a former fitness instructor. “I enjoy making workouts for people, so I decided to take my workouts to Facebook and do them live.”

Since April, Kraus and her partner, Ben Flahr, have been offering free weekly live-streamed fitness classes from the basement of their home. Darby leads the workouts, while Flahr provides technical support and participates alongside her. In the beginning, Kraus offered one class per week, but due to demand, she now offers classes twice per week over the interactive web platform Twitch.

“I wanted to help people keep their health and moods up,” says Kraus. “I know this is already a stressful time mentally and financially, so I am offering these classes for free. I want to help people feel like they still have control over their health, without being financially burdened.”

Krauss (left) and Flahr (right) doing a t-spine rotation as part of their mobility workout.

Kraus is committed to making her fitness classes accessible in other ways, too. Knowing that not everyone has fitness equipment at home, she offers creative suggestions for how to use household items in place of weights. Kraus has led an entire workout using towels for resistance training. She has also encouraged participants to use backpacks filled with textbooks for bicep curls and shoulder presses, as well as milk jugs for kettlebell swings.

Perhaps the most creative household contraption involved two reusable grocery bags, filled with tin cans, with one bag hanging from either end of a broomstick. Participants used their weighted broomsticks to do bent-over rows and overhead squat-to-press.

Kraus also tries to make her classes accessible for people of varying abilities and levels by suggesting ways that each exercise can be modified.

“Darby is very good at making adjustments for people,” says Carrie Livingstone BKin’18. “It makes me feel like I’m not stuck to a rigid plan. I can adjust the routine, and make it my own, and still get a really good workout out of it.”

Prior to the pandemic, Carrie regularly worked out at a gym. When she saw that Kraus was offering free online classes, she signed up.

“Knowing that there’s a planned class and a routine that I can follow, as well as someone who’s showing me what to do, is a lot easier than exercising on my own,” says Livingstone. “I’m so grateful for these classes. Without them, I probably would have completely stopped working out due to lack of motivation.”

Although gyms have started to re-open in Saskatchewan, Kraus is continuing to offer her classes online.

“I know lots of people are still anxious about going back into the gym space,” she says. “Instead of stopping the service, I have decided to give people the option to still participate in free fitness classes from the comfort of their own homes, which can help to ease that anxiety.”

That’s good news for Karmin Janzen BAdmin’17, who says Kraus’ classes are challenging, fun, and uplifting.

“I really enjoy that Darby asks you to challenge yourself,” says Janzen. “She will ask you to count how many reps you can do in a certain amount of time. She explains that you’re doing this for yourself, which helps to hold me accountable.”

Although Kraus is giving back to her community, she says that leading these classes has been rewarding for her, too.

“It’s a great feeling knowing that our classes are helping to keep people active, healthy, and happy during the pandemic,” she says. “I like knowing that people are benefiting from these workouts, and I’m able to get in a few extra workouts a week that I might not have normally done on my own.”

To join Kraus’ online fitness classes, visit: Classes are offered Wednesdays at 6:00 p.m. and Saturdays at 9:00 a.m.

Check out #UofReginaCares for more stories about U of R students, alumni, faculty, and staff who are using their ingenuity, resolve, and hearts to care for our community during these challenging times.


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