For Christmas I gave my 80-something dad 10 tickets to the local community gym plus my time to go with him. When the 10 passes ran out he bought a 1-year membership. It’s been a year now and we have a regular 2x per week date. My work schedule is erratic and the days can be long. My dad’s days are full too but we manage to make it work.
(Photo of Joe Pilates, the founder of Pilates exercise, powerful at 82. Is he really standing in the snow, in his bathing suit? When you’ve got it flaunt it.)
Once the commitment is there the time somehow appears.
This is the best present that I ever gave him. When you’re old you don’t need stuff, you need time and health. We’ve both benefited. Dad’s strength continues to grow and his balance is impressive. He can stand on one foot on a bosu. The bosu is lots of fun. You can do a full workout on it if you want. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
It is surprising how much physical energy is really inside of you when you think you are all tapped out from using just your head all day. We leave the gym feeling fantastic. Your carriage improves immediately. It seems counterintuitive but expending energy gives energy. A study involving more than 6800 people concluded that regular exercise is more effective than stimulant medications in increasing energy and reducing fatigue. This holds true whatever the individual’s health. Exercise benefits healthy people as well others with serious health challenges like people with cancer, diabetes, and heart conditions.
The gym is an ideal place for us to exercise together because we can work side-by-side at different intensity levels which we couldn’t do on say, a hike. I always remind my dad that we are a-m-a-z-i-n-g. It’s not like anyone else is standing at the door waiting to pat you on the back and tell you the obvious truth! Someone’s got to say it. Dad always laughs but inside I know he thinks so too. :)
I love how the workout makes my dad walk tall and proud. He’s fun to work out with and he helps me get me there! The body is a great path to the spirit.
Half an hour twice a week <– This is how we started. KISS! A year later it’s organically progressed to an hour.
- Cardio – 5 minutes
- Our first day my dad took a break during the cardio. Now he does 2-3 times more. We vary the cardio machines. He likes the rowing machine and he usually does 1500 metres.
- Abs – about 5 minutes
- Strength – a little more than 5 minutes
- We mix this up too, doing whatever we feel like with light weights or using our own bodies for resistance. We do full body exercises and avoid machines that work on a single muscle group in order to incorporate balance, coordination, and more muscle groups. We don’t do anything where we sit down.
- Balance – 5 minutes or more
- Balancing on the bosu or the wobble-board
- So important when you get older to avoid falls.
- After a year we’re trying some fun stuff. Today we tossed one of those 10-inch light balls back and forth while standing on one leg. People have much more power than they think they have.
- Stretching – over 5 minutes
- Dad loves the hamstring/glute stretching machine. He zones out and closes his workout this way.
- Hamstring stretch: you place one foot on the ground while keeping the other leg straight. You let it rise toward the ceiling. When he began, he managed a 70 degree stretch. Now his flexibility is 100 degrees.
- Glute stretch: No feet are on the ground. Bend leg #1 and place foot#1 on the foot platform. Cross leg #2 over leg #1. You feel a small stretch in the glutes. Now gently let the foot platform rise toward the ceiling. You will feel your stretch deepen.
You Next Year Principle
Make fitness space for yourself in your life and never let anything or anyone (not even you) take it away.
A man is as young as his spinal column.
Joe Pilates, Inventor of the Pilates exercise system