The American Senior Fitness Association presents Experience!

October 2, 2007              

Table of Contents
  • Somebody's in Trouble (A missed anniversary!)
  • Putting Wit to Work (Creativity pays off for exercise instructor and clients)
  • Personal Training Plus (Happy trails for fitness clients with disabilities)
  • Keeping Things Cool (Winter sports training for seniors)
  • Share With a Friend and Save on SFA Programs (Fitness industry news)
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Somebody's in Trouble

Say it's not so! How could we commit that classic of all faux pas -- forgetting an anniversary? We plead being too busy to consult a calendar. Somehow we let the two-year anniversary of publishing Experience! slip by unnoticed!

The first issue of Experience! (then called Round-Up) hit the internet on July 15, 2005. Since then it has come out twice per month and has garnered a strapping international readership. Designed to inform both laypersons and professionals, Experience! is growing every day and keeping more and more subscribers up-to-date on the latest in senior fitness research, health news, and wellness advances.

So, readers, please tell all your family and friends about Experience! And, professionals, remember that you can distribute copies of Experience! to your patients and senior fitness clients as a free newsletter service.

In belated celebration of our anniversary, we've prepared a very special issue for today. It features three memorable fitness programming approaches implemented by innovative SFA members past and present. They might make you laugh, they might make you think, and they just might spark your imagination to develop exciting new activities of your own! All are reprinted by permission of SFA's Senior Fitness Bulletin.

Today's newsletter focuses on inventive programs conducted by an all-man cast of SFA members. We'll share great ideas from the SFA ladies in future issues of Experience!


Putting Wit to Work

Eric, an SFA-certified instructor
-- and charmer -- from Pennsylvania has grabbed both attention and success with his outrageous humor and keen sense of the unexpected.

When he hosted a registration meeting for his very first senior fitness class, Eric met with disappointment. "For several hours I sat there alone. Not one person showed up," he recalled. "It was a real heartbreaker. I'd handed out more than 700 fliers at grocery stores on their senior discount days. Only two people had called in reservations over the phone. A little discouraged, I was still determined to start the class for just those two people." So that's what he did. Soon Eric was leading multiple, filled classes and had a long waiting list of facilities wanting his program. How did he do it?

It wasn't through a costly marketing budget. "I don't rely on running a lot of ads," he said. Instead, the program's success arose from being special. Eric's methods were unorthodox enough to gain media attention, while not only satisfying but also delighting his clients. "Word of mouth is essential," he said. "At the registration for my second class, many of the people coming in had heard of my reputation."

Of his original group, Eric said, "We have built a little family. They call when they can't make it. Most have shirts printed with the program theme. We have taken over bulletin boards at the YMCA. I have experts in to talk with them about sports shoes, exercise accessories, and health topics. We track our body fat, chart our exercise progress, and monitor our results. Most everyone has lost weight. Others can walk better and have more endurance. One lady, after several months of training, became able to raise herself up from the floor without assistance for the first time in years!"

Now here's where Eric gets really different. Seeking publicity for his YMCA class, he invited every area newspaper to visit a workout. But he made it clear that the invitation was to actually perform the class right along with its senior members. When the youthful journalists arrived, the mischievous members had a surprise for them. Each reporter was given a pair of glasses covered with clear plastic wrap. Cotton balls were placed in their ears, and their knees were wrapped with ACE bandages surrounding just a little uncooked macaroni to represent bone spurs. The participants had a hoot, the reporters got the point, and the program received rave newspaper reviews.

When a local radio show planned to cover the program, Eric opted not to attend the interview. Instead, he let his clients do all the talking -- live on the air. "By describing their experiences in the class, the members did more to generate interest than I could have," he chuckled.

Eric's members thrive on variety and fun, including fitness walking, interval training, and playing ball with wiffle and beach balls. In their one-of-a-kind circuit obstacle course, the exercisers move from station to station. Their periodic nature treks are always topped off by picnics. They're even given "homework" assignments related to setting daily, weekly, and monthly goals and developing healthy diet plans.

To balance out the serious work, members are ceremoniously awarded elaborate certificates of success for mastering a whimsical performance assessment called the Golden Penny Fitness Test. Employing his best military bearing during one YMCA holiday party, Eric informed his ranks that, like sheets on an army bunk bed, their buttocks should be tight enough to bounce a penny off. The YMCA director materialized to conduct a general inspection. Amid gales of laughter, gold spray-painted pennies started flying and the official documents of merit were conferred.


Personal Training Plus
Trainer with Client Rick, an SFA trainer and gym owner in Florida
, provides all the usual recommended training activities for his client Lois who has multiple sclerosis. But in addition to their training routine in the club, Rick and Lois also enjoy a unique conditioning approach: equine therapy. Rick regularly takes Lois horseback riding at a nearby ranch offering a program called Handicap Athletic Riding Therapy.
Of her mount Cheetah, a 13-year-old palomino, Lois said, "She really takes care of me. She gives me a lot of confidence." Enhancing self-confidence is one of the program's goals. Additional goals directly addressed by the riding program involve posture and balance, as well as conditioning of the thigh and pelvic muscles.
Mounting UpUtilizing a specially designed access ramp, Rick assists Lois in getting on and off the horse. At the beginning of the 30-minute riding session, he walks alongside holding the reins to lead Cheetah toward an open field while Lois gets the feel of being in the saddle. Later on during the session, Lois will control the horse independently. With Lois aboard, Cheetah walks at first and then canters -- all under the watchful, expert eye of Robin, the therapy ranch owner.
"These horses have had thousands of hours of training in order to be able to work in this program," Robin said, referring to Cheetah and a huge 14-year-old chestnut gelding named Tiny.
A successful rideAs riders progress, Robin introduces more advanced forms of training. "Most riders eventually undertake upper body exercises while seated on a stationary horse," she said. "I also train participants to ride bareback, when possible, because it better engages the muscles and activates additional control mechanisms."
Everyone involved in the program agrees that the bonding process that takes place between horse and rider is a wonderful phenomenon. "The relationship with the animal means so much," Rick observed, "in addition to the physical benefits that participants gain."
Lois had never ridden much before Rick took her to equine therapy. Asked for her opinion of the program, she responded simply, "I love it."


Keeping Things Cool

Larry -- an SFA trainer,
licensed emergency medical technician, and certified adaptive ski instructor in Vermont -- combined his many skills to launch an exceptional training program for snow skiers aged 50 and over. The result was an exercise regimen great not only for ski conditioning, but also for addressing the physiological concerns of all older adult fitness participants.

Larry's ski program instructors pay particular attention to certain age-related changes, including:

  • reduced visual acuity;
  • slower adaptation to darkness;
  • lessened tactile sensitivity and kinesthetic awareness;
  • inflexibility of tendons and ligaments;
  • reduced strength of muscles and ligaments;
  • reduced cardiovascular efficiency;
  • slower reactional movement time;
  • unstable balance; and
  • loss of auditory acuity.

The program goals include:

  • improving or preserving muscle strength, joint flexibility, balance, and overall fitness;
  • losing or controlling weight; and
  • helping maintain a healthy independent lifestyle that allows participation in enjoyable activities.

Here are the basic ingredients of Larry's 50-plus conditioning program:
Participants work out for 20 to 30 minutes per session, up to 6 times per week, alternating strength and cardiovascular training days. Every session begins with a thorough warm-up period and ends with gradual cool-down activities. The cardiovascular program involves continuous rhythmic activities for the large muscles, for example, brisk walking, bicycling, swimming, or dancing. Strength training begins with low weight and progresses to 75 percent of maximum capacity. Participants build up to performing 2 to 3 sets including 8 to 12 repetitions of 8 to 10 resistance exercises, emphasizing leg work (for example, leg curls, leg presses, and single leg extensions). Flexibility is promoted by proper stretching of the shoulders, back (including the lower back), arms, hamstrings, quadriceps, and other leg muscles.

Balance is important in everyday life and vital in skiing. It is dynamic -- that is, it involves automatic responses which enable a person to maintain equilibrium through a series of changing postures. While balance is largely a function of the inner ear, one's vision and muscle sense (regarding pressure) also play major roles. Following is one exercise used in Larry's program to assess and train participants in terms of balance: Stand with feet together, first with eyes open, then with eyes closed. Next, stand with feet shoulder-width apart, first with eyes open, then with eyes closed. Try to hold each of the four stances for 30 seconds.


Share With a Friend and Save on SFA Programs

Until Monday October 15, 2007, when you order any of SFA's educational programs you can share the program with a friend or co-worker for next to nothing.

  • Buy any SFA Part One or Part Two program and share with a friend for only $15.00. You'll both earn continuing education credits accepted by most fitness organizations

  • Buy any SFA Certificate of Completion program (Parts 1 and 2 combined) and share with a friend for only $25.00. You'll both earn a recognized fitness credential to enhance your portfolios and continuing education credits accepted by most fitness organizations.

  • Buy any Full (Professional) Certification program and share with a friend for only $50.00. You'll both earn an internationally respected professional fitness certification plus continuing education credits accepted by most fitness organizations.

Don't Delay. This special offer ends October 15 and yes, your member discounts apply!
Please click here for more information. For a "PDF" order form click here or call (888) 689-6791 to order by phone. If ordering by phone be sure to mention that you are an SFA Member.


Experience! readers:
Thank you for your interest and questions. Due to the high volume of contacts SFA receives, we cannot respond to individual queries or comments. However, the newsletter does address frequently asked questions and topics of vital interest to our members.

Free SFA basic membership: If you aren't already a member of the American Senior Fitness Association (SFA), just sign up online at There are no fees or membership dues. And, we don't give out our members' personal information to others! When you join SFA, you'll receive our e-newsletter "Experience!" which will bring you older adult fitness news, research, and wellness tips.

Fitness and health professionals: You may distribute copies of Experience! to your exercise clients and patients as a free newsletter service. Copies of Experience! or excerpts therefrom must always ascribe credit to the American Senior Fitness Association (SFA). To fulfill that requirement, include the complete banner (title information at the top of each newsletter) as well as all post-newsletter notes, messages, copyright information, and the SFA logo.

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