Thursday, June 23, 2016

Feeling Good about Retirement

When I retired 8 years ago Kelly and I knew I would need to replace the daily interactions I had with coworkers. Social interactions are important for our mental health and play a role in reducing the risk of conditions such as schizophrenia and depression.  In fact, I just read an interesting article that talked about how good it can make you feel when you help someone else. 

OK – I hear you thinking “What does this all have to do with retirement?”

Retirement afforded me the chance to “scratch” the fitness itch that had persisted through many years of lunch-hour workouts.  Rather than 30 or 45 minutes, I could work out as long as I wanted!  This allowed me to ramp up my time at the gym to over 3 hours each weekday while giving me the “people” time I lost when I retired.  Social interaction and fitness – what better recipe for retirement? 

Gyms are a challenge for many people.  Way too many folks think working out is just not fun, a drag, or not something they will ever try.  As part of my gym “social reality”, I think it is important to do what I can to make others feel welcome.  Saying “Hey”, “Wow – well done”, or heck, any simple compliment helps people feel better about being there, and hopefully encourage them to show up tomorrow. 

Back to what I read – the best way to feel better is to make someone else feel better.  What better place than at the gym, where most folks are uncomfortable and feeling out of place?

I start my workouts with 30 minutes on an exercise cycle.  Great opportunity to say hello to folks as they walk by and catch up on the news, in that we don’t have a TV.  Once warmed up I spend 45 minutes stretching and doing simple balance and core exercises - my “Wellness” session.  These sessions keep me flexible enough to do the workouts that I enjoy while incorporating both core and balance exercises. 

I would say they are easy exercises, but that totally depends on a person’s fitness level.  My Wellness sessions proved immensely popular at 24 Hour Fitness and are growing at the Cascade Athletic Club where I now workout.  Participants range from teen-age to gentlefolks in their 80’s.  These sessions are another way for people to connect with others – one of the truly heart-warming paybacks is when I see a teenager helping someone old enough to be their great grandparent.  WOW.

Having stretched I move into my workout routine.  Each day has a different focus, but all emphasize core, balance and flexibility.  Strength comes right along, but not strength focused on individual muscles, more strength developed while doing things in tune with the moves we make every day.  Specifically those moves that can pop our backs out and leave us hunched over for days.  The goal is to get the bodies’ core strong enough to defend our backs!

Being a Certified Personal Trainer with a focus on biomechanics, my goal is to strengthen joints and musculature while avoiding injury.  For me, and for the folks who choose to work out with me.  A typical day will see teenagers working out with folks in 50’s – all focused on building strength while avoiding injury.  As with the stretch sessions, there is nothing like seeing a 17 year old assist a 40 or 50 year old in a challenging move. 

OK – my workouts are not what you normally think of when picturing working out.  Heck, people have asked me if I do anything at all that is normal!  Problem is, even with the 15 to 20 hours a week I spend at the gym, there are so many muscles to develop.  One cannot work even a fraction of our musculature if focused on individual muscle groups.  And, to make things more interesting, my exercises usually entail both balance and strength – with a goodly dose of core thrown in.  A great example is what I call my “Old Man Pushup”.

Then, once a week, we break out the gymnast’s rings and spend a session focused on moves more appropriate for a member of Cirque du Soleil.  None of us are ready for the big-time, but we all enjoy the challenge.



Best of all – Cascade’s management wants to develop a sense of community at their gyms and accepts my guiding others whilst helping them achieve their fitness goals. 

While giving me the social interaction and camaraderie that is so much a part of a great workout.

As an aside, with my wife’s work in Legacy’s joint replacement group, I am very mindful of the challenges we all face when aging.  Past 60, a simple fall is, at best, painful.  At worst they are life changing or even threatening.  Balance, core, aging gracefully – these all go hand in hand.

Retirement is truly a time to achieve our life-long goals.  For me, fitness goes hand in hand with ageing gracefully.  And time at the gym gives me a chance to make others feel a bit better about themselves, which just makes me feel that much better about myself.

See you at the gym!

Steve is a retired engineer who spends each weekday afternoon from around 2 to 5 at the Cascade Athletic Club in Vancouver.  He welcomes you to come check out his Wellness sessions!
This article was published in Lacamas Living!



Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Tilting with Windmills

Wow - been a long time since I posted anything. Like 2 years. All I can say is - sometimes life just gets too busy. 

For those of you that know me, it will come as no shock to find out I value my workouts more than about anything other than time with Kelly. When I retired from my day job, eight years ago (but whose counting), Kelly and I discussed how I would maintain my social involvement with others. The first thought for both of us was my time at the gym. Sure, I spend time (some days a lot of time) communicating with clock and car folks. But most of this is on the phone or via email, not face to face.

The thing about gyms is you make them what you want them to be. I see a lot of people who just want to work out and get out of there. They don’t like the gym, they don’t look like they like the gym, or that they are enjoying themselves.

OK - there are also folks who go to the gym to socialize - not much working out gets done, but they do get to talk to folks. If you want to work out - well, you might want to avoid these folks.

Then there are people who just plain enjoy working out with others. I am clearly in that category. There were a couple of other people at my previous gym who were in this camp - folks who end up with people working out with them because they want to share what they are doing, and enjoy helping others work out.

Those of you who are awake might have noticed my reference to a "previous" gym. Perhaps the biggest change in the past 2 years was my switching from 24 Hour Fitness (24) to Cascade.

Funny that (in sort of a very sad and pathetic way). I spent 4 years at 24, watched managers come and go, and enjoyed helping folks. I had a group of 5 to 10 who spent 45 minutes each weekday stretching with me. And 2 to 6 who then worked out with me for about 2 hours. In as much as the routines I have developed are not your normal curl/bench/squat type of exercises, I tended to do a lot of coaching - helping people develop their strength while focusing on protecting their backs (building their core) and improving their balance.

Three of the managers had no problem with this. Then there was number 4. Let’s call her "Prunella". Ol Pru did not like it. At all. As in Pru threatened repeatedly to have me thrown out if I worked out with others, or if I led the stretch group. Heck, at one point Pru told me the only person I could work out or stretch with was Kelly. Make no mistake, I love working out and stretching with Kels. But she was only there one or two days a week. And all these other folks wanted to join me...

Long story, Pru had me kicked out. Forever. Period.

About 20 folks sent e-mails and letters to the president of 24, lots of phone calls, even a petition. Some of the folks used Twitter and Facebook to try to get the word out...

Kelly and I moved on.

We switched to a locally-owned club - Cascade Athletic Club. Before joining up I talked to the club manager and the corporate training manager. Both were open about their desire to build a sense of community in their clubs and in their welcoming me to work out with others. OH MY! A complete reversal of the focus at 24 where they say they want community but tell folks like me to not work out with others.

We love it at Cascade. Where the trainers at 24 were loath to admit that my stretching and workout routines had any benefit - the trainers at Cascade join us. And hey, Cascade actually cleans things, like bathrooms, the exercise mats... Can you imagine how disgusting it is to use an exercise mat that has a distinctive odor? Or dumbbells that make you hold your breath when you pick them up from the rack? I could go on, but heck, one might think I was making things up. Reminds me of a comment one of the folks at Cascade made when I started working out there: "That 24 Hour is the filthiest gym in this area". So be it.

At the end of the day Kels and I are very happy where we ended up.

It seems like every other week someone walks up and asks if I used to work out at 24 - they remembered seeing me helping folks. I explain the situation and do my best to make them, and others at our new gym feel welcome. A part of a group. Make them want to smile when they see us, make them feel like someone is glad to see them at the gym.

So, why post this? I suppose, on one level, I wanted to share the fact that one does not always win when going up against a company. They are there to make a profit and don’t appreciate it, at all, when someone provides for free what they charge for.

I fear that, over these two years I haven’t been blogging, I ran up against two such defeats - I’ll write about the other in the future.

Flip side, Kels and I are very happy where we are. We accepted the inevitability of change and made the best of it.

Sometimes that is for the best.