Your Fitness After 50
Back in 2016 I ran across an email announcing a new fitness initiative call Functional Aging Institute. The title was intriguing because, since redirecting my career path toward personal training, my focus has been on the baby boomer generation. I immediately recognized Dan Ritchie and Cody Sipe’s names, knowing them as well respected members of the fitness community since the turn of the millennium.
Their website provided a detailed prospectus, outlining the goals of FAI. Upon downloading said prospectus, my excitement grew as I read through the presentation. Their understanding of the over 50 community in terms of both the business opportunity they present to gyms and trainers going forward plus the responsibility we have toward that populace mirrored my own mindset. Finally, someone in a position to have a direct impact was stepping up to the plate and addressing this critical issue facing our society today.
In 2017, a fitness conference was held in Atlanta, sponsored by individuals whom I’ve known since 2004. And guess what? Dan Ritchie was scheduled to speak. I reached out to Amy and Jerry, who in turn, were able to set up a breakfast meeting. (Just another example of the power of networking.)
Long story short, we had a good talk, sharing our experiences and goals which were very similar in nature. I left Dan with several of my fitness columns (which I have been writing monthly for over 10 years), offering my services in any way he felt would help move FAI’s agenda forward. As you are witnessing, the results of the meeting were positive because I am privileged to have been given the opportunity to speak directly to you today and in the coming months.
At the turn of the millennium, I made the fateful decision to change professions. Without boring you with the details (the subject of a future column), I went from being a territory manager in corporate America to personal trainer – from being an employee with perks to a true entrepreneur. What I discovered in the years that followed is best summed up in a quote from Mark Twain: “The two most important times in your life are when you are born and when you find out why”. My true calling became self-evident with this new career gradually evolving into my avocation.
But why would my focus be on the baby boomer generation from the get go? A key motivation came from a life chapter experienced earlier. In 1991 my wife and I took on the responsibilities for five family members, four of whom were elderly. Over the next 7+ years I visited various assisted living facilities around 100 times and signed in to numerous nursing homes well over 150 times.
Back then, I saw but did not see. One rarely looks at this warehousing of people and envisions that scenario as one possible future life for themselves. I only truly began comprehending what I had lived through when I started training. Those experiences also enabled me to look a potential client in the eye and unequivocally affirm the absolute necessity for taking care of their primary asset – their physical health. I have seen the most likely future for anyone who tells themselves ‘I’ll get around to it later’. I had become Karnak, knowing the answer to the question in the envelope (see Johnny Carson).
I have always been reluctant to give advice to another trainer, to someone who has developed over the years a system that has brought them success. At the same time, we all are in a learning curve, especially when it comes to the senior citizen demographic. (Hence, the emergence of FAI). What I want to do is pass on my life lessons earned over the preceding 16 years. Hopefully, my future columns will be useful in supporting your business.
One of my keys is to always explain my thought process so it makes sense to the client. Explaining the ‘why’ is addressed with the same importance as the ’how’. There is a tendency for my fellow seniors to become more like a Missourian, the ‘Show Me’ state. Why are you asking me to do this or that? The highest praise I can receive from a client is “I’ve never heard it put that way before. That makes sense.”
Another key you should appreciate when working with the over 50 crowd is to make sure you know what that senior wants? The vast majority of baby boomers are not looking to bench press 200#, they are not planning on running a half marathon and the thought of looking like someone on the cover of a fitness magazine has not even entered their minds.
What my generation is aspiring to when they look to start an exercise regimen is (1) to have more energy at work (many are having to delay retirement), (2) to be able to enjoy their kids and their grandkids. They don’t want to be a ‘sideline older adult’ who can’t participate (even if they wanted to) and (3) for their leisure activities, be it golf or gardening or tennis, they want to enjoy those moments in time and not wake up the next day regretting their decision.
Basically, they want to be functional. They are tired of being tired. They want to arise each morning not feeling like it’s a struggle. They don’t want to perceive their life as being on a downhill slide with little confidence in a future. What we as trainers bring to the table is to give them hope for a better tomorrow. Life should still have an upside.
You have a great opportunity in front of you. You have the power to turn an individual’s maladies to ‘manageables’, negatives to positives, trepidations to dreams. Time and again I have witnessed this transformation from apprehensions to hope. To know that the change will take place once they commit makes the job not a job, but a calling, a mission. You are paying it forward with a purpose.
Good Luck and Good Health!
ACE and AFAA Certified
1st and 2nd Stripe Tae Kwon Do
“To love what you do and feel that it matters — how could anything be more fun?”