Resolved to get fit? The Penn Hills library has you covered

Patrick Varine
| Friday, Jan. 18, 2013, 2:40 p.m.

When adult librarian Jean Kanouff saw the plans for the new William E. Anderson Library of Penn Hills, she took particular note of the spacious community rooms. More specifically, she took note of the variety of the potential opportunities they afforded.

Since the new library opened five years ago, Kanouff has offered the room for rent to community groups seeking a location for their programs.

This month, Kanouff is expecting an influx of residents for fitness programs.

With many New Year's resolutions involving exercise, getting into better shape or simply losing the holiday pounds, instructors for the library's five fitness classes hope to see some new faces.

“Whoever shows up, shows up,” said George Bender, who leads a yoga class Wednesday nights.

“But I have a core group of about eight people who are always there, and then folks sort of come and go.”

Bender emphasized the “whole body” approach on which yoga focuses.

“It deals with the whole person,” he said.

“It can be approached in many different ways and styles. There's the emotional, spiritual and physical aspect of each person, so you're stretching, but you're also working your muscles, developing balance and coordination.”

In his job in the UPMC oncology department, Bender said he often utilizes meditation, another aspect of yoga.

Along similar lines, instructor Connie Ainsworth recently began offering the library's newest class, a weekly tai chi session, that is geared toward people suffering from arthritis or fibromyalgia.

For people seeking a more rigorous workout, instructor Darryle Allen offers the “Hercules Fitness Boot Camp,” which also runs on Wednesday evenings.

Gwen Tucker leads a Zumba class Saturday mornings.

High-energy Zumba combines elements of Latin dances with a regular aerobic workout.

“It's sort of like a fitness party,” she said.

Tucker said between 10 and 20 residents are regulars at the morning classes.

Kanouff said the community rooms have gone far beyond her expectations.

“We knew that we needed more meeting rooms, just for our own library programs, but we never realized that the community needed them as well,” she said.

Since opening up the rooms to community groups, Kanouff said the library has hosted birthday parties, receptions and even a wedding.

The fitness classes, however, are among the most common uses for the rooms, and Kanouff said this time of year usually brings a boost in the class numbers.

“Everybody decides after the first of the year that they're going to do something, whether it's get in better shape or keep their body toned up or lose a few holiday pounds, so it always peaks this time of year,” she said.

“We see a lot of people signing up for classes after the new year.”

That's music to the ears of fitness class instructors.

“I think it's a wonderful place to be able to draw people in,” said Raylene Cooley, who teaches a body toning class Tuesday evenings.

“Everyone just thinks that the library's there for providing reading (material) and a place to study, but it was a wonderful opportunity for me to be able to go in there and do a fitness class.”

Tucker agreed.

“For the community, (the fitness classes) are something to do, and for the people who live close by, including me, it's very convenient,” she said.

For more information on the library's fitness classes, call Kanouff at 412-795-3507, ext. 120.

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or

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