Christian fitness class in St. Cloud builds community among women

Tucked into a library-turned-studio on the second floor of the Mary Center in St. Cloud, a group of women meet regularly with Heather Sukut, parishioner at Immaculate Conception in Rice and fitness instructor for Pietra Fitness.
Sukut teaches classes which integrate stretching and strengthening exercises with prayer and meditation and is intended to not only strengthen participants physically but emotionally and spiritually.
“‘Pietra’ means ‘stone’ in Italian,” Sukut explained.

Heather Sukut  leads a class at Pietra Fitness, a stretching and strenthening program that uses many traditional poses used in other forms of fitness and dance. (Dianne Towalski / The Central Minnesota Catholic)

Just as the apostle Peter was the solid foundation for building the Catholic Church, Pietra Fitness believes that every person needs their own solid foundation to support the temple of their body.
The program website states, “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, a beautiful cathedral for God’s glory. And every cathedral needs a strong base upon which to stand.”
Participant Jan Hoelscher, a parishioner at St. Peter’s in St. Cloud, has been attending since the program started in St. Cloud, nearly three years ago.
“I’m proud to say that I am as flexible at 82 as I was when I was 40,” Hoelscher said. “I come once a week and it’s just the amount I need to maintain my strength and flexibility.”
Sukut opened the May 29 class with the Sign of the Cross and read a verse from Scripture. Later participants moved their bodies into many traditional poses used in other forms of fitness and dance.
“We calm our minds and take our thoughts to Christ,” Sukut instructed. “Lift up your gratitude for this morning, reaching to heaven with your right hand.”
Participant Mary Beth King, who is a parishioner at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud, describes the experience as “authentically Catholic meditation.”

Heather Sukut,demonstrates a stretch during a class at Pietra Fitness. (Dianne Towalski / The Central Minnesota Catholic)

“The prayer part is so calming,” added Hoelscher.
The Mary Center location offers the Women’s Gentle Series on Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. and Fridays at 9:15 a.m. Women of all fitness levels are invited to participate. The classes are free, but participants are asked to bring their own mat and water bottle.
“If you haven’t attended a class before, it’s important to know we seek gentle stretching and movement,” Sukut said. “That means something different to each one of us. We should listen to our own bodies and do what we can.”
Modifications are provided in the class to assist participants at every level.
“I have arthritis,” said King. “Heather does a beautiful job of adapting each stretch and has taken the time to show me these adaptations.”
Class participant Aimee Bates, a parishioner at St. Luke’s in Clearwater,  adds one additional reason to give Pietra Fitness a try.
“There are many benefits but I most appreciate the women,” Bates said. “This is a welcoming community.”
For more information about Pietra Fitness, visit

If you go –
Mary Center
823 1st St. S., St Cloud
Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m.
Fridays at 9:15 a.m.
Summer classes begin on July 3rd
For questions, email Heather at

Author: Amber Walling

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