Smashfit: The wāhine workout that's transforming lives

A group of Papakura women are feeling the transformative benefits of a gym class, and it's not just about weight loss and getting fit.

Smashfit is a workout for wāhine that's helping them to transform their lives.

"We are work as a unit, we're a band of sisters," says personal trainer Emma Dunn, who devised the group fitness sessions four years ago.

"When we started we were just looking at helping a couple of women just lose some weight - I never expected it to become what it has."

Mother of three Amelia Wilson joined the group to gain strength to manoeuvre her 14-year-old son Reeves.

Reeves has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. He has limited speech and is reliant on his mum for so much. Amelia is gaining mental strength from the classes, and she says it's helping her be a better mum.

"You've got to have a bit of a grit to be able to get through your workout, some of the classes as well. You feel quite empowered after you come off doing a class and you spread it through your family, you spread it through your children," Amelia says.

It's about more than success on the scales - for Amelia, she's discovered courage she never knew she had.

"I used to blame myself a lot for Reeves' disability but since being in Smashfit, I've been able to use the tools that Emma has taught us to find that strength again and stop blaming myself," she says.

Smashfit
It's about more than success on the scales. Photo credit: The Hui

Renee Shaw was a teenager when she first met Emma through netball. The 23-year-old is one of the younger members in the class, and was a lifeline during a tragic event in her life.

"I just lost my mum to cancer and Emma was a massive support through that time, and she said you know, come to the gym, just come work out. I really enjoyed it, and loved being around other people, especially older ladies who were kind of like mums - they were really supportive and kind of took my mind away from it."

But Renee's tragedy wouldn't be the last to touch the group. This year, they lost one of their own Smashfit sisters.

Sueanne Awhitu, 42, died from stomach cancer in February, her passing deeply affecting the women.

"She's left a real hole in my heart," says Amelia.

 They joined at the same time and the pair were close.

 "Just from the first hello I knew we were going to be friends… we were going to stay connected some way. She came with the same goals, to lose weight, get fit and be the best mum she could."

Last month the class, along with the Papakura community, turned out in full force showing their support for Sueanne's husband and five children, putting on a 24-hour fundraiser and generating $27,000 for the Awhitu whanau.

These women are tight; many friendships have been formed through fitness. Physio Leah Pearsall-Belle has been there from the beginning.

 "It's that sense of sisterhood and being able to accomplish something that you set out to do, that you didn't know you could do, or how hard you could push yourself," says Leah.

The benefits go beyond their own personal achievements, to making huge lifestyle changes.

It's got so popular Emma's trialling a version of the classes called Smashbros for the boys.

"Some of the husbands were seeing the difference that it's making to the wives and to themselves 'cause the wives are changing their diets, that they now want a slice of the pie as well," says Leah.

The Hui

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