Fitness and Faith
Seventy-one-year-old Val Edge got into keep fit when she was just 19 and lived in Sale, Cheshire. She used to help the music and movement group at her local centre and put on records for the routines, when one week the teacher was unable to take the class and asked if Val could step in. The rest, as they say is history
She became part of the keep fit association and began teaching keep fit during evening classes from the age of 21. She spent the next few years in the health and education sector moving to Blackburn and continuing to take evening classes.
She married in 1974 and travelled for a year before settling in Lancashire.
Her career involved working and training at various adult centres and colleges across the region including Blackburn and Chorley, responsible for the progression and improvement of non-vocational courses. Forty years on and now retired, she is still continuing with her passion for keep fit and considers herself to be fortunate to still teach classes.
Tragically Val’s husband Graham was killed in a road accident in 1995 at the age of 46, but her amazing family, friends and neighbours helped her keep going. Val was 44 years old and carried on with her work developing courses.
In 2005 the government withdrew all funding for adult learning and all non-vocational classes stopped, meaning Val’s role was made redundant She was now 58. By this time, she had around 80 students as she was taking four or five classes a week, so she decided to set up her own company under the umbrella of an adult community college and include other courses such as yoga, soft furnishings, flower arrangements and fitness.
Then 10 years ago Val was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and had to have major surgery at the Christie along with six months of chemotherapy. While she lost hair, had blisters on her feet and was very weak and tired, she still turned up to her classes every week just to sit and watch and despite having surgery in December, chemotherapy in May she was back teaching in the September of the same year.
Life took another bad turn three years ago when she was diagnosed with bowel cancer and had part of her bowel taken away. After her surgery she had a second course of chemotherapy for six months at the Christie. But once again she still carried on and taught her classes from a chair.
Now fit and healthy, Val now aims to give back to her community, helping others to get through their own struggles by creating a strong community of enthusiastic people, who want to keep moving and keep spirits lifted.
But then Covid-19 struck. Pre lockdown the fitness instructor had been teaching classes for over 40 years without ever missing a class and Covid-19 was to be no different. She decided to turn to an online learning platform Learning with Experts to help her deliver them.
Learning with Experts is the only online course to offer direct feedback from top experts and so was the natural choice for Val to continue her characteristic teaching style. Echoing Val’s much-loved community-building classes, Learning with Experts’ virtual classroom has allowed Val to keep motivating her ladies whilst also welcoming new members to her community from around the globe.
The 10-part course was all filmed on two iPhones directly in Val’s living room during isolation. Technology was something else she had to get used to, as she had to video herself at home. She filmed 10 weeks of classes in just two days in her lounge. “It was tough on my own,” Val says. “While I have two children, my son lives in America and my daughter in Chester, so we didn’t see each other while lock down was in place.”
All of Val’s students enrolled, many of whom have been with her throughout her 40-year journey, with some in the classes 86 years old! “I plan the lessons around the needs of the people in the class and they are based on chair work and mental and physical ability,” she says.
She puts her amazing strength down to the fact that she is so fit and that has helped with her illnesses, but also her faith. She is a Lay Canon at Blackburn Cathedral and during lockdown has been able to join in worship daily at the evening prayer service on Zoom from her home and continues to worship at St James Church Blackburn where she taught Sunday School for 25 years from 1978 until 2003. Val is also on the board of Governors of St Wilfrid’s C of E Academy Blackburn, having held the post of Chair for six years and now continues as a member.
“I just want to motivate and encourage people of all ages to enjoy life and keep fit. My classes cover everything from stretching top to toe to a bit of dance, chair and floor work with a whole range of movement.”
Join Val and her ladies, in Val’s living room. You’ll feel just like you’re doing your exercise class in your village hall and can join in wherever you are in the world. If you’re looking for a like-minded community of people who are keen to try and keep their energy levels up, would like to take part in some gentle exercise, but don’t want to be doing it by yourself, join Val and her students to help keep your spirits up wherever you are in the world.
You can sign up to her course on: learningwithexperts.com/wellbeing/courses/val-edge-fitness