Alma Bonilla, a fitness instructor from the Dodge YMCA, is an absolute joy to work with each summer. Her energy and happiness are so contagious, it’s hard not to smile in her presence - even when she’s making you SWEAT (and, yes, we know this from personal experience)! Get to know her off the dance floor below:
What do you do when you’re not in the park?
I used to work for corporate America. However, fitness has always been my primary focus, so now I am a full-time fitness instructor.
Please describe what you do for/with the park
I lead a one-hour Zumba class every summer at Brooklyn Bridge Park, starting July until the end of August – rain or shine.
How did you become interested in fitness?
I have always enjoyed physical activity, but I was never very good at sports. One day I picked up a body building magazine, and I knew what I wanted to do. Immediately, I joined a hardcore gym, and fell in love with everything weights. I started reading more about fitness, dieting, different workout routines. The better conditioned I became, the more empowered I felt. And I wanted to share this feeling with others. Eventually, I became a Spin instructor, from there I got my certification as a Zumba instructor, became AFAA certified, and soon I was teaching Total Body Conditioning, Trampoline, a Core class, and Kettle Bell class. I love to make a difference in peoples’ lives, whether it is losing weight or a bicep muscle that they found.
Why do you think outdoor fitness is important for the community?
People get together and now they have a shared interest: meeting new people, exercising together, and sharing experiences. It unites them, makes them stronger. It also encourages others to come out and do the same. One helps the other and, before you know it, it becomes the focal point, the one thing that everyone can do and enjoy doing.
What’s an interesting fact you’ve learned about Brooklyn or the park since you started collaborating with us?
Interesting fact about the park that I found out, was that this was the site that linked Brooklyn to Manhattan. This area was a very busy marketplace…
There was the tobacco factory, breweries, merchants, businesses, businessmen, dock workers, the ferries going back and forth from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Walking around this area, you can still see the freight containers, old buildings, some of the street are still cobblestone. You can spend an entire day here and always find something new, it is fun trying to imagine how it used to be back in the 1900’s.
- What do you like about the park?
The variety of activities provided. Movie nights, cycling, fitness, education, tours. I can go on. It is like a toy store, you don’t know what to do next. Or you can do nothing at all and stare at the Manhattan skyline.
What motivates you to partner with the park?
Helping people move. Getting people that would otherwise not workout, have an hour in which they enjoy the day whether it is raining or the sun is shining. Seeing them come out and meet people, dance, shake and just laugh and have fun. Forget about everything for an hour and just let loose!
Why is it important to provide affordable fitness classes in Brooklyn?
In today’s economic times, people are cutting back on their budgets. It is easy to say, “OK I need to cut back on the gym” or “I need that money for another item.” They neglect themselves. Affordable classes are essential. Stresses of the day, health issues, depression, all those problems affect your overall health. If you can get to the gym, park, anywhere that you can release all that stress and tension, it makes such a big difference in a person’s life.
What is your favorite feature of the park?
My favorite feature of the park is the view. Watching the sun setting. The carousel!!! It is beautiful.
What is your favorite memory of the park?
My favorite memory is teaching a Zumba class in what was the old tobacco factory. It was pouring outside. People heard the music, stopped, started watching, started taking photos, and then just joined the class!! We had such a great time!!!