Virginia’s Addiction to Exercise Benefits Cypress Cove Residents
By Cypress Cove Resident Donna Miceli
“It’s hard to know how many hours of walking and exercise Virginia Hanley has totaled through her lifetime.” Thus began a story in the Spring 2015 issue of Cove Currents that officially introduced Virginia to Cypress Cove residents, many of whom had already experienced her enthusiasm for fitness. During the eight years since her story first appeared, Virginia has continued to play a major role in encouraging Cypress Cove residents to stay active.
As the 2015 story revealed, Virginia is a native of Brooklyn, New York, who began her career at the General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC) headquarters in New York City, which eventually relocated to Detroit, Michigan. Her position at that time was Executive Assistant to the President. From there she made a career change with GMAC – involving specialized computer sales—and moved to Pensacola, Florida, where she reconnected with fellow GMAC employee Patrick Hanley, whom she had known since the 1980s. Both Virginia and Patrick had lost their first spouses and their renewed friendship turned into a romance. They were married in Pensacola and six days later, moved to Overland Park, Kansas. They celebrated their 30th anniversary this past November.
According to Virginia, she wasn’t someone who did a lot of exercise and she never considered herself athletic. “I attended and graduated from college later in life,” Virginia explained. Because of her work schedule, she took classes at night at various colleges – depending upon where she was living at the time. While living in Overland Park, Virginia developed a friendship with a New Yorker named Laura, who was a fellow student in her nutrition class and resided in their neighborhood. She noticed a positive change in Laura’s energy and exercise interest, and asked, “Laura, what are you doing?” Laura then introduced her to a fitness center called LaFemme, which was a local all-women’s gym, and encouraged her to give it a try. Virginia admits that she wasn’t very enthused about it, but the two-week free trial was something most of us can’t pass up!
Her first visit began with a tour of the fitness equipment room, and she wasn’t particularly impressed. However, Virginia heard music coming from what turned out to be an aerobics class and that piqued her interest. “I was hiding and watching behind a pillar adjacent to the class, but the instructor noticed me and simply announced anyone could join in at any time.” Eventually she participated in the class and many others, including yoga, strength and resistance, trekking, spinning, etc. She made wonderful friends and because of the highly qualified instructor, Kathy Murphy, she became hooked on fitness.
In addition to the variety of fitness classes, Virginia participated in numerous 5Ks, three half-marathons and even the Pike’s Peak Ascent, during which she missed the first cutoff by three minutes. “I was not disappointed,” she declared. “I was just amazed that I even tried!”
Patrick and Virginia eventually retired to Delaware where Virginia was disappointed that she couldn’t find any fitness activity even close to what she had experienced in Kansas. Her friend and mentor, Kathy, suggested that Virginia learn to teach aerobics. Although reluctant, she joined the local YMCA in Delaware and began taking instructor classes to teach at the Y. She earned her YMCA certification in 2006.
In order to expand her teaching locations, Virginia certified with the Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) in 2009. “This national institution requires re-certification every two years,” she explained. “To re-certify, 14 continuing education credits (CEU) including CPR and AED training are required. These CEUs are available in person, online or home study. I do a combination.”
Virginia and Patrick moved back to Florida in 2007, settling in Ave Maria where she taught “Sit and Fit” and aerobics classes at their local center. After they decided to move to Cypress Cove in 2014, Virginia talked with Jill Cerami – the wellness coordinator at the time – and asked if she might need an occasional substitute. She recalls that Jill was happy to have her on board.
Although she had been conducting classes for seven years, Virginia admits that she was very nervous the day she taught her first class at Cypress Cove. Apparently, her nervousness didn’t affect her teaching because the class was a success. Before long, she was teaching one, two, three and four classes per week, including low-impact aerobics, resistance, and balance. She even initiated a class entitled, “Wheels in Motion,” for residents who use walkers.
When the COVID pandemic halted all group activities, a couple of residents approached Virginia about the possibility of holding her exercise classes outside. After clearing it with management, she started having classes at the Yacht Club Pavilion. Virginia explained that it was an ideal location because it was outside, and chairs and fans were available. She placed the chairs six feet apart and only seven participants were allowed. Classes were held six days a week. “No sign up was necessary,” Virginia recalled, “so if a chair was available, they could participate. If not, residents had to come another day. This worked out perfectly. They had fun and I had fun, too!”
When Hurricane Ian decimated the entire first floor, including Edison Hall, all exercise classes were halted until the first stage of the clean-up was completed. When classes started again, Virginia quickly realized that Edison Hall was not a safe environment for her classes. As an alternative, she offered to hold classes in the 4th floor lobby by the triple elevators and limit the size of the class to 12. Until the renovation of Edison Hall is completed, that will probably continue to be the location for exercise classes.
After the renovation, Virginia would like to attract more residents to her classes. “Right now, I am not seeing many new faces,” she commented. “I like to teach a variety of classes, so no one becomes uninterested.” She added, “There are three important elements to my classes: safety; do what you can do, not what I can do; and, especially, have fun. I try to ensure that everyone can do something in each class even if they have to sit through some exercises. My hope is that residents will look forward to attending my classes and leave feeling good about themselves!”