This fitness instructor is stepping out

Kathy Kaplan retires after 23 years leading exercise classes for seniors
By: Paul Cambra, Features Editor
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Kathy Kaplan doesn’t deny she will tap dance around certain situations. It’s just that she might not be very good at it.
Kaplan, the fitness and health instructor at the Placer School for Adults, began her career there as a substitute teacher for a substitute teacher.
“Turns out it was a tap class,” Kaplan said. “I didn’t know anything about tap dancing. But we muddled through it together and I decided then that I loved working with seniors.”
Twenty-three years later, Kaplan, 55, is stepping away from her job teaching fitness classes at the DeWitt Center. Her last class was Thursday. A few of her seniors have been with her for more than 20 years.
“I’ve attended Kathy’s classes for nearly 14 years,” said Ione Parrish, of Applegate, “I have participated in exercise classes of many types all of my life. I can say without a doubt that she is the finest physical activity teacher I have ever known.”
Applegate, who is “approaching 70,” says Kaplan keeps the routines interesting by mixing things up a bit.
“No two class sessions are ever exactly the same,” she said. “From the warm-up to the cool-down, she challenges our brains as well as our bodies by continually changing routines, techniques, and equipment.”
The school offers classes in stretching, strength training, aerobics, Tai Chi and clogging, all at various levels of expertise.
Arnold Chung, of Meadow Vista, has been attending Kaplan’s classes for 10 years.
“When I first moved here 10 years ago I went looking for a Tai Chi class,” said Chung, 71. “I came around during an aerobics class. She convinced me to stay and try it. I enjoyed it and stuck with it.”
Kaplan said Tai Chi is one of her more popular classes. She said a lot of physicians across the country are recommending it as a good exercise for older adults.
“It’s not a high-impact exercise,” she said. “It’s about fluid movements, breathing and relaxation. It’s not extremely strenuous on the body.”  
Some participants want to be pushed, Kaplan said. They like it when things get a little difficult, though she will always encourage them to do what they can.
“Most of us there just want to make sure our joints are moving and we get exercise,” Chung said. “Develop some balance so we can catch ourselves if we need to.”
One dance form she does tap into is “clogging” a conglomeration of Irish, Scottish and Appalachian step dancing. Some of her stretching classes use a little yoga or Pilates. Kaplan feels there is so much in the world of exercise, she want to make sure they are always getting something new and working different muscle groups. But it’s not all squats and lunges either.
“I enjoy when the students participate in telling stories and are quite animated,” Kaplan said. “There are moments when they make me laugh hysterically. A lot of it is very spontaneous. It’s hard for me to say goodbye.”
On Friday, the students threw a going away party for Kaplan. They were good at it, since they regularly held potlucks that got all of her classes together on a social basis.
“She’s always been more than a teacher to us. She’s a real good friend, she cares for her students,” Chung said.
Those students won’t stop exercising once Kaplan is gone. They will just have to get to know a new instructor. Or two
“She has become such an important part of our lives that it is difficult to imagine what we will do without her, she is such a warm and caring person,” Parrish said. “We understand that plans are in progress to continue the program with several other teachers. Believe me, there is no single person who could replace Kathy.”