Waldo, five pirates, a unicorn, Bob Marley and a number of their friends hold pumpkins out in front of themselves as they do squats. They do as many as they can in 25 seconds before passing the pumpkin to their partner.
Today, costumes are replacing workout clothes and pumpkins take the spot of kettlebells, as the annual Halloween workout at Fukumoto Fitness begins.
Johnny Fukumoto, the gym’s owner, shouts encouragements over Michael Jackson’s Thriller. He walks around the gym, dressed in a bacon costume, giving out high fives and telling partners when to pass their pumpkin.
This year, Fukumoto’s pumpkin workout is a fundraiser for the Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba (MDAM), a cause Fukumoto feels personally connected to.
“In my last year of high school, I was really struggling,” says Fukumoto. “I had put all my value in achievement, and I wasn’t living up to my expectations.”
As Fukumoto welcomes everyone to the Halloween workout, he tells them about how he used to have high anxiety. He shares with them how, during his Grade 12 year, it had overtaken him so much, some days he couldn’t get out of bed and get to school.
Fukumoto found being healthy and working out helped him manage his anxiety.
“Exercise was the only thing that helped me think clearly and make better decisions,” he says.
Since then, Fukumoto has been sensitive to mental health struggles and is passionate about advocating for healthier lifestyles.
Rachel Westman says she has benefited from Fukumoto’s gym. Over the past year and a half, Westman has worked out at Fukumoto Fitness three times a week.
“I know it can be a mental struggle to even just get to the gym,” says Westman. “But I find for me, getting here does make a difference. It helps stabilize my mood and makes sure I’m staying on the right track.”
Westman, a staff member at the MDAM, helped connect Fukumoto with the organization.
Workout classes at Fukumoto Fitness generally have 15 participants, but for the special Nov. 1 workout, more than 50 people cram into the open concept gym.
First timer Shari Bielert came to the workout with her family. Her husband has come regularly to the gym over the last three years, but this is the first time Shari has set foot in the facility.
“This seems like a great place,” says Bielert. “They have the right people and the right atmosphere here to make it fun.”
The energy level, the clapping, the cheering and the volume, all greatly increase as the hour-long workout continues and the costume clad gym goers rotate partners.
As the workout wraps up, Fukumoto brings everyone into the centre of the gym for one last group cheer and a group photo.
“Don’t forget to flex for the camera,” says Fukumoto.
He shares with everyone they’ve raised more than $1,400 for the MDAM. He then tells them to check their email inboxes when they get home.
“I’ll send you recipes so that you can make a healthy smoothie or soup with your pumpkin.”
All photos by Zach Peters