Age is the Silliest Number of All

Today I taught a Pilates class to the best of my non-Pilates-certified ability. This particular class time is turning into a Les Mills BodyFlow class when our club’s Fall schedule begins next week, and so it was a convenient substitution choice for me to present a low-impact, Pilates-inspired warm-up, followed by 30 minutes of BodyFlow.

One of the things I love most about freestyle teaching is I come to class prepared with a wire-frame of what I’d like to do, but I can easily adjust my routine based on my participants’ needs and abilities. For instance, one fabulous Saturday morning during my regular Lean Conditioning class (similar to Barre3 and PureBarre), the stars aligned and I had, what seemed like, all former ballerinas so I was able to throw in even more advanced barre work using real dance lingo.

As a group fitness instructor, there’s a fine balance between offering a challenging class, and safely catering to a variety of fitness levels while still engaging people who THINK they only need a high-intensity butt-whooping in order to achieve results. I come across the latter most often when I’m substituting a class. And when I let those “where’s so-and-so” groans from the instructor’s loyal followers play into my confidence, I end up offering a much more difficult class, only to find the participants’ form and technique go by the wayside. I say repeatedly throughout my classes that form is THE most important aspect. If you skip the basic modification and go straight to the most difficult, and lose good form, then you’re actually hurting your results more than if you would have just mastered the technique first. That’s not to say you shouldn’t push yourself to get to the next level, but that’s why I like to often hold poses a bit longer than normal or do more reps, so that you can work through the various levels of modifications until you reach that sweet spot between great form and being out of your comfort zone.

Today though made me realize that I may be too quick to judge my participants’ abilities. Within my small “Pilates” class, I had a participant who was an 80 year-old woman. My first thought was, “maybe I should skip the BodyFlow part” thinking that all those twists, graceful rolls up from the floor, and balancing poses would be too much for her. As I began the class, and realized that she was easily following along with modified Scissors, Hundred, and other on-the-mat Pilates techniques, I decided to power through with my original plan.

For those unfamiliar with how Les Mills programs work, it’s a pre-choreographed workout set to music that certified instructors receive every 3 months; refreshing 4 times per year. Whether you’re in NH or CA, you’re guaranteed the same awesome workout. What I LOVE about Les Mills, especially BodyFlow, is it’s an excellent litmus test for your growing strength and ability. What may have been very difficult the first two classes, will become easier to you the more you keep attending class. You’ll know what to expect, and can more easily follow along; but right as you may start to get bored, we switch it up and present the newest release. Additionally, each program follows a pattern. Each song is called a “track” and though the music changes with each release, the tracks are always in the same order. So for BodyFlow (referred to as BodyBalance in the UK) the order is: 1. Tai Chi Warm-Up; 2. Sun Salutations; 3. Standing Strength; 4. Balance; 5. Hip Openers 6. Core Strength; 7. Back Core Strength; 8. Twists; 9. Hamstring Stretch; and 10. Meditation/Relaxation.

In my class today, I did tracks 5-10. Everything was going great, as planned, and then the most amazing thing happened! In Track 7, Back Core Strength, there’s a sequence of plank…down to hover (on forearms)…and then back up to plank. I immediately quipped the modification to be down on your knees, or even to just go into Child’s Pose. I glanced out at my participants and I saw this 80 year-old woman holding a perfect plank ON HER TOES. She then lowered down to her forearms, before slowly pushing herself back up to a plank, again ON HER TOES! My mind was blown!

I thought of all the times I wimp out and go down on my knees for push-ups, and here’s this woman telling her age to shove it. AMAZING.

I am so jazzed up and inspired by this woman! I did in fact approach her after class and asked if she wouldn’t mind sharing her age. We need to celebrate people like her!

Sometimes I feel like by working in a fitness facility I am exposed to a ton of fit and fabulous senior citizens, who make it seem like the norm. But physically active seniors is certainly not the norm. Sadly, it’s not even the norm for those in their 50s and 60s to be physically active.

The Baby Boomers began turning 65 in 2011, and as of 2015 there are 75.4 million of them. According to HealthWorks Collective, 39% of baby boomers are obese, and yet a whopping 52% report a sedentary lifestyle with no physical activity! However, I would guess the statistic of those who are truly active and taking an intentional interest in their physical health is dramatically lower.

Click on the info graphic below for more interesting facts about Baby Boomers.

Baby Boomer Infographic

Meridith Oram
Meridith Oram is an ACE-Certified Health Coach at Below the Fork where she encourages women to love themselves towards healthy. She is married with two boys, and lives outside of Philadelphia. She earned a B.A. in Communications from Villanova University. Meridith writes about FASTer Way to Fat Loss, fitness, nutrition, Celiac Disease, and easy (but delicious!) gluten-free recipes at belowthefork.com. Follow her @belowthefork on all social channels.

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