Passion is subjective to everyone. Some people are passionate about their pets, and some their video games. Some people feel strongly about their collections of records, and some their collection of values. A few people are even passionate about being passionate.
Courtney Foote Fell and Cindi Bonner are two remarkable women zealously passionate about life. This fiery devotion to making the most out of every experience has been born anew in their brainchild Fitness Onboard.
Both ladies have extensive backgrounds in fitness. Fell grew up on the water and started skiing at the age of seven and surfing at 19. She has competed in numerous 5Ks and half-marathons and has practiced yoga for over 12 years, becoming a certified teacher in 2010.
Bonner, with a very similar story, spent much of her youth waterskiing on Bayou Texar and advancing in soccer and tennis. She holds a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology and has used her expertise in various capacities, from personal training to cardiac rehabilitation.
With the combined adoration for nature and paddleboarding, they developed a set of classes held on the water, including Vinyasa Flow Yoga and boot camp on a board. Fitness Onboard incorporates all the elements of beauty and strength—characteristics that Bonner and Fell equally possess in abundance.
IN: When did you first try stand-up paddleboarding? How would you describe that experience?
Fell: I tried SUP about two years ago. My first experience was a little shaky because I attempted it in waves, which is a very different experience than in calm, flat waterways. Most people wave ride these things, but I prefer to surf on a regular board when there’s swell and to paddleboard in calm, glassy conditions. I love the vantage point you get while SUP. It’s like walking on water. You can peer down and see stingrays, dolphins, sea turtles…it’s just fantastic. Plus, the workout is great for your core.
Bonner: Like Courtney, I also enjoy the diversity of what you can do on the board. There are days I just want to paddle to get out on the water for solitude and quiet time. Then there are days I want to go out with a friend and paddle for distance and chat. Some days SUP is the sole focus of my daily workout for cardiovascular, core and strength training. I first tried paddleboarding in the early summer of 2009. I loved it the second I tried it. It was like riding a bike.
IN: How would you describe the physicality of the sport?
Bonner: Paddleboarding is very much a full body workout, focusing mostly on the core and upper body. Without core strength, our bodies run into all kinds of issues. Many back injuries could be prevented with increased abdominal strength. I recommend SUP to people who are afraid of strength training in the gym because of their uncertainty of how to use weights or unease with the surroundings.
Fell: It works just about every muscle down through your toes. As Bonnie (Bonner) said, it’s a great workout for your core, but also for your legs and even your feet because you are always unconsciously trying to remain balanced on your board.
IN: Why do you think there is this sudden influx of people SUP along the Gulf Coast?
Fell: The oil spill. People were looking for alternatives to surfing in the Gulf. The bay and sound seemed safer, so we migrated. Why did it suddenly become so mainstream? Well, I’d say it’s because of Facebook. Electronically sharing your passions through visual media is much cooler and more effective than word of mouth alone. People see pictures of their friends paddleboarding and they want to try it. I think that’s how it spread.
IN: Why is fitness and general health so important in your life? Who are your fitness inspirations?
Fell: Exercise is my outlet, my therapy. It is my way to regroup and revitalize myself. Physical activity has always been a huge part of my life. My high school running coach Drew Bell is such an inspiration. The guy has more energy and enthusiasm than anyone I have ever met. He helped me achieve things I never would have imagined doing on my own, so I have to give him major props.
Bonner: After college, I worked in Snowmass, Colo. in a variety of roles on and off the mountain. It was then that I changed from being a team athlete to focusing more on health and wellness. I learned to appreciate the outdoors and all that it has to offer in terms of athletics. I would say my biggest inspirations are my children. I want to be a good role model of health for them, as kids are challenged more today than ever with computers, television and fast food. When my kids question why I am going to the gym, my answer is simple: “so that I can be healthy at your weddings!”
IN: How would you motivate someone who lives a sedentary lifestyle and wishes to start paddleboarding or working out in general?
Fell: I am wired to exercise for relief, so for me it’s a must. Plus, I enjoy being active, so it’s not a chore. For those who don’t enjoy it or are looking for a new exercise routine, I would say that Fitness Onboard makes working out a fun experience overall. In a class setting, there is this sense of camaraderie. Our sessions are four weeks long, so you can improve and strengthen over time with the same group of people. Together, we are achieving more!
Bonner: To start an exercise program, you have to want it. It’s not for anyone else. Yes, it is very difficult to start, as you can think of a million excuses why you can’t. Treat it as you would a meeting. Put it on your calendar each day. It takes this effort at the beginning until you become comfortable with it. Exercise is not temporary; it is a lifestyle change. Pick activities that you enjoy. Find a buddy to exercise with and you both will help keep each other accountable. Write down your pros and cons for exercise and also your goals. Work toward those goals and then set new ones. You will see and feel some immediate results both mentally and physically, but stick with it, and after about six weeks you will be hooked!
49 Gulf Breeze Parkway
For more information, call 485-4098, or visit fitnessonboard.com.