The typical over 50 crowd has a different terrain to deal with, not only from a bodily standpoint,
but a mental perspective as well. The majority of my generation that has finally decided to
reenter the fitness community has most likely been sitting on the sidelines for a decade or longer.
Their vision of what they expect to accomplish can vary greatly from those in their 20s and 30s.
Trying to recapture the baby boomers’ physical health too quickly, particularly at the outset, is
not an ideal methodology. Jumping into the ‘deep end of the pool’ is a likely recipe for trouble.
Why? Their muscle/tendon/ligament complex is not organized, they don’t operate as a unit.
When one’s physique has been on hiatus from any strenuous challenges, such as lifting weights
(the linchpin of my platform), reintroducing those challenges must be modified, particularly in
the first 30 days. The signal system has to be reset to optimal. Going all out in the beginning
without the full cooperation from all the body’s various components could result in the client not
even wanting to return. If nothing else, your credibility probably will have taken a hit.
From my own experience, I have had several people over the years who had come to me because
they heard I wouldn’t ‘hurt them’. They had been literally chased from another gym because the
instructor failed to identify this issue. And, in some cases, they left still having paid sessions on
the books. That’s how unpleasant the encounter was! That first workout could be your key to
gaining or losing the business.
Another concern that may need to be addressed is being uncomfortable with starting an exercise
program in the first place. While that day the individual signs up can give them a positive boost,
reality sets in the next time they step into that same gym to actually begin the process.
They will look around at all the members running on the treadmill, pumping iron or working a
mile a minute with the ropes. All of a sudden, they begin to wonder why they joined in the first
place. Thoughts that run through their mind are along the lines of “Everyone is in great shape!”,
“I can’t do what that person is doing!”, “I don’t belong here!”.
Be aware that your first step may be to alleviate those fears and make them understand that this
is where they belong. Once you broach this subject you’ll kind of know their mindset by their
response. If there’s apprehension, over time, with your encouragement, that will dissipate and
their efforts will turn entirely toward your coaching.
Let me pass on a couple of practices that I employ that may help get your client over that initial
unease. This list is in no way complete but should get you thinking about how you would
address this matter.
I emphasis that this journey they are embarking on to regain their health will be something they
will be committing to for the rest of their lives. For example, I will tell a 62 year old “you have
38 more years to work out. Plan on living to 100. You’re in no hurry. You just have to be
consistent”. Point out the statistic FAI presents in their training. “The population of adults over
the age of 85 will increase by almost 400% by 2030”. Also call attention to the fact that the
fastest growing demographic percentage wise is 90-100.
Recognize that baby boomers take their personal freedoms seriously, having been independent
for decades. I point out that, if they allow themselves to neglect their health, they could become
a burden on their family, end up having to allow strangers in their home (Visiting Angels, etc) or
find themselves having to contemplate the looming specter of assisted living.
Another consideration is, what if your client have taken on the responsibilities for a parent or
other family member? You can point out that first taking care of themselves translates to them
being in a better position to shoulder this additional load of caregiving.
A caveat: With me being over 60 and having personally faced the assisted living/nursing home
challenges for over 7 years, I have more leeway in presenting this stark assessment. You have to
judge when or if you want to take this tact. While all of the above points are relevant, some can
be a little blunt. This is where your own life experiences will come into play. Again, use your
Be mindful that recovery times will increase as a person ages. A 20 or 30 year old body has a
better capability of regenerating/rejuvenating after intense resistance/plyometric workouts.
When a person enters the second half of their life cycle, even if they are in shape, it will take an
extra day (or two) to recover from the challenge.
The growth of the fitness community will come from the over 50 populace. The simple
explanation for this fact is that their bodies are telling them something is wrong….sometimes
every day or, worst case scenario, every hour. They are looking to you for solutions. They have
20 other things they would rather be doing, but they are sitting in front of you because they want
Often, the medical community, because of legal issues and the lack of a ‘one size fits all’
strategy, is reluctant to get too detailed about recommending specific exercise plans. Walking is
generally the ‘go to’ move. It’s safe, requires no instruction and, if anything goes wrong, the
individual will usually blame themselves.
We are the soldiers on the front line of the health crisis. To be able to take someone and teach
them ways that go past physical therapy and lead them on the path toward optimal fitness makes
our career choice rewarding on many levels. Your livelihood is no longer a grind when you’re
paying it forward and, in the process, enjoying what you do.
Good Luck and Good Health!
ACE and AFAA Certified
1st Dan 2 nd Stripe Tae Kwon Do