Congratulations to Sara King-Dowling, our Member of the Month for November!
Sara joined Momentum in March of 2016 as a kinesiology graduate student who was slightly less inclined to have a gym membership. When she thought about gyms, her mind immediately went to all the gym stereotypes, and she simply wasn’t interested in being part of that culture. “If you could believe it, I think I was one of the only kinesiology students who didn’t have a gym membership.” Sara checked out a few different gyms before joining Momentum, and as soon as she walked in our doors, she knew that this would be the right fit for her. Conveniently, her lab was right across the street from our George Street location and one of her friends was already a member, which solidified her decision to join.
Breaking Down Barriers
A little over six years ago Sara began experiencing severe joint pain. After many years and numerous doctors she was eventually diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS), a type of inflammatory arthritis that attacks her spine and large joints. At this point, she was in so much pain that she could barely walk, let alone run and working out felt impossible because it was just too painful. She was told that her spine was progressively fusing together. Once she started receiving treatment to control the inflammation, she knew that getting and staying active would be the best way to prolong her mobility.
“When you think of arthritis, you expect that moving hurts more. For me, it’s the opposite. The more still I am,the more I seize up. This meant that I had to find a way to stay physically active, and also stay consistent with it. I knew I had to find something that I actually enjoyed.”
Shortly after joining Momentum, Sara started attending our classes on Frid Street and immediately fell in love with them. Now, she crushes at least 3 classes a week and never misses a beat.
“Momentum’s classes really help me because I need something that’s scheduled into my day. After a little while, I started to see familiar faces and then the more people I met, the more I felt like I was part of a community. Now I’ve built relationships with the other members and with Coach Brian. Being with other people I know is enough to make me feel accountable and never miss a class.”
Sara is currently completing her PhD in Kinesiology at McMaster University and has just submitted her thesis on the effects of motor coordination on physical activity and fitness in young children. She was considering moving to the U.S. to complete her post-doc, and as happy as we would have been for her, we were really hoping that she’d stay. “I’ve formed a life here and a community here. Momentum is a huge part of it.” Let’s just say that we lucked out big time that she decided to stay. Sara is an integral part of our community here at Momentum, and we value her friendship and her hard-working, positive energy.
Sara was also in our Climb Club with Coach Darren as well as Coach Jackie’s Breakfast Club on Thursday mornings at 6am. “The Clubs are great because they’re open to anyone – you don’t need to be a member to join. It’s the perfect way to get a taste for Momentum and become part of the community here.”
On top of attending Climb Club, Sara also came to the lululemon Climb at the Chedoke Stairs. She was at the Pop-up Climb for Cancer in October, and is a big supporter of the cause. “I loved doing the million dollar loop at the Pop-up Climb for Cancer. It was really empowering to climb the entire stadium. I think this is going to be the best year so far.” Let us just say she crushes the stairs, clearly. After listing off everything that she’s involved in with our community, she couldn’t help but laugh. “Yeah, I guess I tend to do the stair climb events.” And if you ever see her flying up and down those stairs, you’ll completely understand why.
All About the Mission
Sara believes in making healthy choices and living an active life as a preventative measure against ailments, but also to combat illness.
“Momentum’s mission of making Hamilton the healthiest city in Canada is amazing. I think they’re doing everything they need to do to make that mission come to life. Momentum has had a huge impact on my life, I’m just really happy to be a part of that mission. It’s been part of the reason why I’ve become more fit, happier and healthier. But it’s the community that really makes the impact. I’ve made friends here, and I’ve been able to impact other people’s lives by integrating them into the Momentum community. That makes it all worth it to me.”
Sara’s biggest goal is to maintain her current level of fitness. Like she mentioned, the more sedentary she is, the worse her condition is. Staying active helps her to stay in remission, so to speak. She’ll do anything she can to stay at this fitness level. “Being part of Momentum and attending the classes has actually made me enjoy the gym – for the first time ever. It’s crazy, but I actually look forward to coming to the gym. And I’m not just saying that!”
Sara was reminiscing about the first few classes she attended, and you could see the nostalgia in her expression. “I couldn’t believe that I was coming to a fitness class and that people were actually welcoming me and taking the time to get to know me. That’s a pretty unique experience and I’ve only ever experienced it at Momentum. It’s one of the best things about it.”
Advice for Others
“My advice for other people is to just try it. You can’t come here with the idea that all gyms are designed the same way, because they’re not. Come here with an open mind, try different things, and just find something that motivates you. You can’t get motivation only from other people – it has to be intrinsic. You need to find what it is that motivates you and then stick with it.”
We’re so fortunate to be part of Sara’s fitness journey, but ultimately, she came to us with the strength – both mentally and physically – to do what she’s doing now. She’s a true testament of how hard work and perseverance can help a person overcome any challenge. She shows us that our only limit is ourselves, and Sara’s future is certainly limitless.
We’re quite honoured that Sara gave Momentum and Coach Brian acknowledgement in her thesis for the impact that he’s had on her life. We wish her all the best in her thesis defense, and can’t wait to see her grow in her career.
Congratulations again, Sara, on being our member of the month! Thank you for sharing your journey and your experience with our community.