A lot has changed in St. Charles Parish over the years, but one thing has stayed remarkably the same – if you want to use an elliptical machine at NDurance Fitness in the early morning hours, you better pick one that isn’t in front of the televisions. That is, if you’re not Pam Albanese, Mary Clair Hotard and Beth Creed.
The three friends have been gathering in their sacred workout spot each morning between 4:30-5 a.m. for over eight years.
“They have watched each other’s kids grow and talk though the world problems over the news and the elliptical trainer,” Brandi LeBlanc, who owns the gym, said. “Everyone that comes into the gym knows these three ladies. It’s been amazing just to see that relationship flourish … they’re just there for each other …. true friends.”
Creed said nearly a decade ago the trio established their one-hour, early morning elliptical routine so that their workouts didn’t interfere with time with their families.
“We take pride in making the mornings at 4:30 a little brighter,” she said laughing.
Albanese said having such faithful workout companions has been a blessing, and that the group is there for each other during life’s good times – like their children’s graduations and the birth of grandchildren – and in life’s tough times – like family illnesses and the death of parents.
“I am very grateful to have them in my life,” Albanese said of Hotard and Creed. “I look forward to the weekday mornings to meet up, not just for my physical health, but also my mental health. We are there for each other when life throws a curve ball.”
A huge life curve ball came in the form of the pandemic, which threatened to destroy the group’s exercise regimen.
“When the pandemic started and we received the notification that the gym had to close, we started right away texting each other trying to figure out what we could do in order to continue our daily workout together and still follow the COVID guidelines,” Albanese said. “That very next morning we started meeting up in front of my house right before daybreak and started walking and jogging on the levee in the neighborhood. I’m not sure I would have made it through the lockdown without having them to talk to.”
Creed said she and her friends were adamant to find a way to still see each other and get an early morning workout in.
“We were determined,” she said. “We would put lights on our heads to see any alligators or snakes, but Mary Clair always promised to save us.”
Hotard said working out with Creed and Albanese over the years has enhanced her life in the best possible ways.
“Getting to the gym at 4:30 a.m. every morning may seem crazy to others, but to us it is the time we can do something good for ourselves,” Hotard said. “When our workouts are over, we feel accomplished, confident and strong to face whatever the day has in store for us. Knowing that they are there every morning keeps us accountable in our workouts, which is important. Consistency is key to anything in being successful.”
Hotard said each of the trio brings something different to the friendship, which makes it interesting and fun.
“We have been there for each other through the many ups and downs that life or the world often throws at you at any given time, and many problems have been solved during our workouts,” she said. “It is so comforting to know that there is always a kind ear and heart to listen to the issues you may be having. It is the best kind of therapy sessions.”
Albanese said there is no end to their ritual in site.
“I have seen a lot of people come and go from the gym through the years, but the one thing that has been the same for over the past 8 or more years is the three of us in the front of the gym between 4:30 a.m. to 6 a.m.,” Albanese said.