I have been working with a group of residents at a senior living community and enjoy every minute of our time together. When I first arrived to introduce myself, I was met with a bit of skepticism in terms of what we could accomplish together. This is because of what I call “Fitness Perception.” I coined this term as a means of describing the many perceptions that come into mind when you hear the word “fitness.”
When the word “fitness” is spoken, thoughts and visuals of people in neon spandex, boot camp instructors yelling, muscle-head bodybuilders lifting huge amounts of weight, offensively perky group exercise instructors and of course, the countless fitness infomercials come to mind!
After a few minutes of outlining that we as a group were going to define our own plan of action, the class participants started to get a little more interested. This is because they thought some young man, with no understanding of what it is like to be “old” was going to come in and have them do exercises and routines that they as “senior citizens” were not capable of doing. I asked that they stick with me for a few weeks and then judge whether or not progress can be made at advanced ages and with people who have conditions and limitations that may seemingly not allow them to exercise.
They trusted me enough to do so and after those few weeks we created a situation where 10-15 people are all showing up ready to go with dumbbells and water bottles in hand! We have people with walkers, carts and many other seemingly prohibitive factors that stop most people from exercising…all participating and progressing. Every participant has different goals, abilities and levels of conditioning yet we work around them and now have a supportive group of people who are getting stronger, more flexible, more mobile and functionally capable.
Am I a magician? No but I do understand the amazing powers of adaptability that the human body possesses at ANY age and challenge people to test those powers by participating in a basic plan of exercise for 4-6 weeks. Rarely if ever have they not got hooked! The key is to keep things basic at first so that your body can slowly adapt to physical activity. Through consistency, the body will realize that physical activity is the norm and will rapidly progress and increase its capacity for exercise and recuperative functioning. If you try to force the issue and do too much too soon like 99% of the population, you create a restrictive ceiling in terms of how far the body can progress.
Starting off slow and working your way up to higher levels of conditioning allows a natural progression of conditioning and the body then takes over and stays on a slow yet continuous climb to high levels of fitness conditioning. This is true for high level athletes all the way down to the average person who is simply seeking basic, overall good health.
The human body is amazing. Don’t underestimate it, be sure to put it in the position to where its instinctual drive to adapt can flourish and you can’t lose. That instinctual drive is within all of us…that is the power!