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!