It was a pleasure to visit my former homes in Michigan and New York City last month and spend time with friends of long duration, some of whom I had not seen for many years. But alas, I found that a couple of them were just plain out of shape. Souls that formerly radiated energy had lost their vibrancy.
That was sad, and it caused me to think about deconditioning — fitness lingo for being deficient in health components such as cardiovascular capability, muscle strength, endurance and flexibility and skill components such as agility, balance, coordination and speed. There are no figures on what percentage of the population can be thus described, but the Centers for Disease Control estimates that 64.5% of Americans are overweight and almost 33% are clinically obese. The International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association reports that about 12% belong to a health club. And the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association says that only 20% engage in regular physical-fitness activity. Factor in an aging population and it’s likely that a significant percent of Americans are substantially deconditioned.
Making matters worse, being that way tends to be a negative self-fulfilling prophecy. They don’t like to exercise. They are in no hurry to show their bodies in gym clothes in a workout environment. They may not have knowledge of how to correct their situation and may in fact think it’s hopeless. It’s a nasty snowball — being deconditioned leads to being more so.
But it does not have to be that way. The fitness profession is full of successful approaches to “reconditioning” and amazing case histories. Here are some examples.
• Steve Schewe, personal trainer
Approach. Schewe says he “works as much with the brain as with the body, getting clients to realize and believe and desire to be healthy.” After just a couple of weeks, he encourages them to “observe whether they are feeling better emotionally and physically.”
Success story. Doctors told a 78-year-old male that he would need surgery for lower-back pain and a walker or wheelchair. Schewe reports that “over the course of six months of dietary modifications, exercise and stretching the muscles in the lower back and hips, the client regained thigh, hip and arm strength allowing him to walk independently with better balance. He also lowered his blood pressure and cholesterol and slowed progression of his osteoporosis.”
Steve Schewe, personal trainer. At Your Door fitness instructor on Longboat Key or at the client’s home. Call 400-4438 or e-mail [email protected].
• Barbara Bertelle, personal trainer/group fitness instructor
Approach. Bertelle says that personal training and classes can be of equal benefit and that the key for both is to “set attainable goals, so clients will be pleased with themselves and say, ‘Wow! I can really do that!’” For classes, she recommends starting with pool, basic stretch and gentle yoga and progressing as condition allows.
Success story. Bertelle took special interest in an octogenarian male who was using a cane. He started slowly but now does it all, including Zumba, body sculpting and weight classes, two to three hours a day, six days a week. The client says, “She told me, ‘Just go easy and do what you can do.’ And sometimes she just says, ‘Not for you.’” He no longer needs a cane and, in Bertelle’s words, “Blossomed into a real aerobic junkie.”
Barbara Bertelle, personal trainer/group fitness instructor. Longboat Key Club (members only). Call 383-2080 or e-mail [email protected].
• Bernadette Kathryn, personal trainer/licensed massage therapist
Approach. Kathryn finds that “a certain generation that never exercised finds it offensive and is a little bit angry about it. I get them to think about it as grooming, like flossing and brushing teeth. Nobody likes to do it, but we do it anyway. And it’s the gateway to staying independent.”
Success story. An 84-year-old male had never exercised and hated it. A fall and broken bones scared him into doing something. When he started, he couldn’t stand on one foot and could only walk a half-mile. Four months later, he can stand on one leg for 15 seconds and walk 2 miles.
“He still hates it, but I think he’s committed,” Kathryn says. “He’s dressed and ready to go when I get there.”
For contact information for the trainers, visit www.YourObserver.com or e-mail [email protected].
Bernadette Kathryn, personal trainer/licensed massage therapist. At client’s home or gym, in New York City. Call 917-886-0265 or e-mail [email protected].
Molly Schechter is an ACE-certified personal trainer, with a specialty in older adult fitness plus YogaFit Instructor Training, SCF Yoga Fundamentals and Power Pilates™ Mat Certifications. She teaches classes at the Bayfront Park Recreation Center and the Longboat Key Club. E-mail her at [email protected].