Working out in good spirits during the Friskis&Svettis Luxembourg “Christmas mega session” held at the École française on 13 December 2015. Photo: Friskis&Svettis Luxembourg’s Facebook page/Patrik Österblad
Founded in Sweden in 1978, Friskis&Svettis (“hot and sweaty” in English) launched its Luxembourg chapter 16 years ago.
Now rebranded the “Swedish workout club”, the group’s aim is to make exercise inclusive to all regardless of an individual’s abilities, fitness level and financial circumstances.
Friskis&Svettis’ philosophy is a million miles away from the majority of fitness centres and gyms you find in Luxembourg, explains Susanne “Suski” Ahonen, the group’s president. “We believe that exercise should be fun and encourage a sense of community. We hope that our members not only ‘want’ to come to classes, but smile when they are taking part.”
It is a non-profit organisation and all trainers and hosts volunteer their free time to motivate others through exercise. Instructors receive training in Sweden and are regularly advised and updated from the organisation’s headquarters. “The instructors, including me, really love what they do,” says Suski. “Otherwise they just wouldn’t turn up. It’s not a job, but a hobby and a passion which spills over into the classes.”
In Luxembourg, the outfit has over 400 members of varying nationalities and all age ranges; starting at three years old and going right up to the late seventies. Unlike at most conventional fitness courses, Friskis&Svettis classes are taught in a circle with the instructor in the middle, and there is an absence of mirrors. “It’s not about comparing yourself to your neighbour or ensuring you have the trendiest fitness wear,” says Kathy Liput. “We promote exercise for everyone and encourage all varieties of individuals to participate.”
The types of exercise classes on offer range from barbell intervals to outdoor running, from yoga to the extremely popular aerobics class. “The family class held at the École française on Sunday mornings is probably our most attended class,” Suski says. “Unfortunately the École française is moving, so we are actively looking for new premises, something that’s never easy to find in Luxembourg.”
Classes currently take place in a variety of locations, including the European School in Mamer and the International School Luxembourg, but Suski, Kathy and the rest of the board are eager to find a more permanent home.
Whilst exercise is the foundation of the organisation, the “social” aspect is something that is particularly important. “If you are new to Luxembourg, it’s a great place to meet people,” adds Suski. “I think most of my close friends here are people I’ve met through Friskis&Svettis!”
Susanne “Suski” Ahonen, president of Friskis&Svettis Luxembourg, and Kathy Liput, one of the group’s instructors, in a portrait for Delano. Photo: Lala La Photo
Each year the club holds a big Christmas party, as well as smaller events throughout the year. On 3 June members were invited to a free “Afro Tonic” workshop, for example, and on 22 and 23 October there will be a “Boot Camp” style event in Echternach with overnight accommodation.
Throughout their 16 years in Luxembourg, Friskis&Svettis has always taken part in charity events including the ING marathon and Relais pour la vie. This year the team have partnered with the Don Bosco asylum and refugee centre to offer a weekly aerobics class for female residents.
“It’s something we have just started to do and we are fortunate that one of our hosts is an asylum seeker himself,” explains Suski. “We are really looking forward to working with the Croix-Rouge on the project as it really is testament to our mission statement: ‘offering fun and accessible high quality workouts for everyone.’”