Turning 60

A friend of mine who is VERY close in age to me recently turned 60. He posted an article from WebMD.com about what we can expect during the upcoming decade. What follows is the (mostly) depressing list:

  1. Most people in this decade report that they are actually happy! There is a bell curve and most sexagenarians are still near the top.
  2. Cancer diagnoses rise in this age category; make sure to get your scans!
  3. 40% of Americans in their 60s have some kind of hearing loss, and yet only 20% of people who could benefit from hearing aids actually wear them.
  4. Weight slowly increases. I have blogged about this before; our metabolism does not slow, but rather our eating habits get worse and we exercise and move less as we age.
  5. Skin changes. It thins out and gets visible lines; make sure to wear that sunscreen and moisturize!
  6. Heart disease; the mid-60s are prime time for heart failure, strokes, and heart attack. Maintain a healthy diet, stay smoke-free, and exercise to prevent these issues.
  7. Cognitive decline. Our ability to learn new things becomes more challenging, but long-term memories, knowledge, and wisdom generally stay with us. Keep active and play brain games.
  8. Vision issues. By age 65 about 1/3 of us have some kind of eye disease. Make sure to have regular check-ups since pain is not usually associated with eye problems.
  9. Bones and Joints do not work as they used to. Keeping active and doing resistance exercises can help bone strength. Talk to your PCP about supplements that might also help.
  10. Sleep quality decreases. Our bodies produce less melatonin naturally which regulates our sleep. Supplements can help, and physicians can also prescribe safe sleep aids that allow our bodies to rest and regenerate.
  11. Blood pressure can become and issue. Years of fat build-up in our blood vessels can raise blood pressure; the vessels can also harden. Monitor this regularly as hypertension can lead to other issues.
  12. Incontinence can become a nuisance. The bladder is not as elastic as it once was; this can lead to more frequent urination and the need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night (see #10). There are strategies to help this and a doctor is your best resource.
  13. Immunity decreases as the body’s production of germ-destroying T-Cells comes to an end. This makes it all the more important to get immunized; pneumonia and shingles can become new concerns for those in their 60s.
  14. Our oral health can be challenged. About 30% of those over 65 have dry mouth. The risk of oral cancer also increases 4-fold from when we are in our 40s. Make sure to have regular visits with your dentist.

This all seems pretty overwhelming, but the news is not all bad. Everything on the list can be controlled or prevented with good diet, exercise, rest, and regular health and dental check-ups. Our “golden years,” do not need to be a slow (or fast) descent into decrepitude. This is precisely why I do the work that I do. I help my clients–and myself–lived the best lives possible from a fitness perspective.

Wishing all my fellow sexagenarians good health and fitness!

What’s Your Goal?

This is one of the first questions that I ask new clients in our intake meetings. It is interesting to note that some people have a pretty clear idea of why they want to begin an exercise program. Some are preparing for an upcoming trip and want to be able to participate fully in all the planned activities; others sense that their mobility has decreased (it is harder to walk or go up stairs) and they want to do something about it; grandparents wanting to keep up with their grandchildren is also a big reason. At the same time, there are those who have given little thought to the question. They may have received personal training sessions as a gift, been “forced” into it by their children, or read that it might be a good thing to do.

I do not just ask this question at our intake meeting, but also at regular intervals. As clients progress, it is important to understand that their needs and goals may shift. When I first began working with a personal trainer in my late 30s, I did it because I wanted to look better. Later on, I was more motivated to be able to achieve challenges I had set for myself like finishing a 5K or a half-marathon. As I am about to turn 60, my goal is to continue to do the things that I enjoy most without worrying that I will not be physically capable of handling it. I expect that in five or ten years my goals will shift again.

Having goals is important. Without a “destination,” there is no way to chart a path. To extend the metaphor, sometimes just getting on the road and driving without a plan is enjoyable–but it is not the best strategy if you have to get to Omaha by Friday! The same is true with fitness and, more generally, with our lives. Goals help keep us motivated. They can keep us on track. They can also be unhealthy if they are unrealistic; we need to be willing to adjust as warranted.

I love to travel. My wife and I, along with my twin sister and her husband, just completed a two-week vacation in South America. It included horseback riding in the Andes of Argentina, walking and climbing stairs along the Iguassu Falls in Brazil, and hiking in the Galapagos Islands. What an amazing adventure, and what a great feeling to feel up to it (even in Quito where the air is thin). It was reasurring as well to learn that I was not the oldest one in some of our group activities. I was inspired to see that taking care of one’s health and fitness can help to ensure that we are able to do what we love better and longer.

We usually think of New Year’s as a time for goal-setting. The truth is that we can do it any time of the year. Why wait? Set some goals, get a plan, and then put it into action!

Is Fitness Discretionary?

Most of us do not have unlimited resources, so life involves regular decisions about what we can afford to do and what we cannot afford to do. Those who follow a budget know that there are certain items that are non-negotiable and need to be accounted for each month like rent/mortgage, groceries, transportation costs, etc. What is discretionary? Going to get a $6 cup of coffee, seeing a movie in a theater, attending a concert, buying that umpteenth pair of shoes….

Where does keeping fit and healthy fit in?

In the United States this is a sticky issue. I recently returned from a trip overseas and had a few conversations with folks who live in countries where health insurance is provided to the public through their taxes. Everyone is insured. No one goes bankrupt because they become ill. No one is denied care because of a “pre-existing condition.” These people find our system in the US to be quite puzzling–especially since our country has the resources to provide medical care for all its inhabitants if only we would set our minds and resources to it. (As a point of interest, these people come from countries like Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and Portugal–all of which have higher life expectancies than the US and all of which provide free healthcare to legal residents).

This, however, is not the system we have in the US. We have to look out for ourselves and our loved ones at our own cost. Even though the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is meant to increase the number of people with health insurance, there are still far too many who do not have access to affordable healthcare. Tough choices have to be made all too often.

What can we do to lower the cost of staying alive and free of illness? As always, a proper diet, exercise, sufficient rest, as well as avoiding smoking and excessive drinking are a big part of the solution. Much of what I do in my work as a personal trainer is helping individuals stay fitter, stronger, and healthier for longer–but the services I provide are not free. For some people, the cost is prohibitive. Even those who can afford it often view fitness expenses as discretionary. Belonging to a gym, taking yoga classes, or working with a personal trainer are seen as luxuries rather than healthcare necessities.

As long as we have the system in place that we do in our country, we need to think about the money spent on fitness and self-care not as discretionary, but rather as an investment in our present and our future. The better job we do of taking care of ourselves now, the more likely that we will have better health outcomes in the future.

I am not sure why the US stands nearly alone in the world in its broken system of healthcare, nor why so many people are so opposed to systems that work with more success in other countries. We should ask ourselves and our elected representatives about this.

In the meantime, consider what is discretionary and what is not. Where does your health and fitness fit in for you?

Looking to Grow (?)

What do most older adults want to achieve as we age? Yes, we want to have financial security, but the biggest concern is that we do not want to suffer from physical and cognitive ailments. It is no secret to readers of my blog that physcial activity helps to ensure both physical and brain health. Working with older adults is rewarding because I am able to see the progress my clients make that allows them to live life more fully.

I am looking to grow my business for just this reason. Of course, I want At Home Senior Fitness to be successful from a financial standpoint, but I know that there many people out there who could benefit from the services we offer. They just do not know about us yet, or they think that there is no one out there who understands them and their particular circumstances. To try to reach out more, I am expanding into social media to help get the word out.

If you are interested in your own personal growth or know someone who is, check out our instagram account or our FaceBook page. These are updated on a regular basis and share the latest that is going on–even some great pictures of my clients doing their workouts! As always, more info is available at my website, or you can email me at michael@athomeseniorfitness.net.

Let’s help each other grow!

Report from the IDEA Personal Trainer Institute

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in the IDEA Personal Trainer Institute. For the record, I did not see this guy there…and if I did, I might have run in the other direction!

This was my third time at the PTI–and the second since the pandemic necessitated two years of on-line sessions. There is an interesting mix of personal trainers at the conference; I seem to recall that the first time I went in 2019 there were a lot less “senior” trainers. Now it looks like we are almost a majority! I think that many older adults who have worked out with personal trainers in the past decided that they would get certification during the pandemic. In any case, it definitely reflects a shift in perceptions about what personal trainers do; it is not all about training elite athletes and well-to-do clients.

The theme of the conference (two years running now) is Train with Purpose. I am not exactly sure what that means, but I will give it a shot. It challenges us to look beyond athleticism and to focus on what we can do to make peoples’ lives better. This is especially true for those of us who work with older adults. A few of my clients are looking to tone up or participate in competitive events, but most are either trying to build or maintain muscle strength, mobility, flexibility, and balance. It is less about prowess on the playing field and appearances, and more about being able to live the lives we want with courage and confidence. This is part of what motivates me.

This year I took four courses: 1. shoulder health and posture, 2. pricing and programming, 3. how to overcome mind traps in building business, and 3. adaptive fitness–working with individuals with disabilities. I was able to learn something in each of the classes. Every month I also do continuing education in order to maintain my certifications. Of course, I do it for the credits, but I find that more often than not I learn valuable insights to bring back to the work that I do with my clients.

I look forward to next year’s conference. The learning never ends. And that helps make me a trainer with purpose!

At Home Senior Fitness is Growing…Again!

It has been about four months since I told you about my welcoming At Home Senior Fitness’ first additional personal trainer, Sam Kalamasz. She is steadily growing her client base and bringing our unique brand to the Brunswick/Medina/Strongsville area near Cleveland as well as the rest of the world via the internet. I am looking forward to her continued success and growth.

As of the first of the year, I welcomed Victoria (Vicki) Yannie to AHSF as well. I hinted at it in my year-end reflection, and now it is official. Vicki brings a wide range of skills and experience. Both her undergraduate and Master’s Degrees are in the areas of physical education and she is a certified Silver Sneakers instructor. She has extensive experience working with older adults, has written papers, and made presentations on a wide variety of topics related to fitness. Vicki will be helping me to cover the eastern suburbs of Cleveland as well as some on-line work.

When I started AHSF, I was not sure if there really was demand for what I was offering. It was a risk, but it has paid off–not only from a business standpoint, but also in the ways that we have been able to help older adults become stronger, more flexible, and even more independent.

The big news, then, is that At Home Senior Fitness is able (finally!) to accept new clients. If you are or know an older adult who wants to get the most out of their years, contact me at michael@athomeseniorfitness.net or http://www.athomeseniorfitness.net.

Thanks to all my clients and everyone else who has supported AHSF! Here’s to a bigger, better, and healthier 2023!

Reflections on 2022

As 2022 draws to a close, I have a few reflections on the work that I have been doing for the last 12 months.

There were many successes. I have engaged two other trainers to work with me; the newest will be introduced on this blog soon. This has become a necessity as I continue to get regular inquiries about my services and there are only so many hours in a week. My book of clients has been maxed out for a while. Once I get these two trainers up to their desired number of hours, I will consider expanding further. All of this was unimaginable to me when I started At Home Senior Fitness over two years ago.

The rabbi work continues to be fulfilling. My part-time pulpit at Beth El – The Heights Synagogue continues to allow me to do some of the work that I enjoy best and for which I have decades of experience. Our small congregation of 80 families feels just like that–family; this, of course, means that there are squabbles just like in any family, but we always look out for each other. The most exciting developments this year have been the addition of some new families/individuals who have brought fresh ideas to what we do, and the inititation of a fundraising campaign to raise $250,000 to write a new Torah scroll and have some money to cover extraordinary expenses.

I continue to help out at a local synagogue that is “short” a rabbi. This is like being a substitute teacher but, in general, the “students” are more respectful and appreciative of the work I am doing. Most of the time (sometimes weeks on end), I have no responsibilities, but there are other times when I have my hands full with hospital visits, funerals, leading services, etc. I am glad that I can help this congregation as my family and I have many wonderful connections there.

I also have a very part-time gig as a consultant for American Greetings, based here in Cleveland. They have a line of greeting cards for Jewish occasions and I make sure the content and artwork are appropriate for the given purpose. This is actually fun and lets me flex some creative muscles (see what I did there?).

On a less positive note, two of my clients passed away. I blogged about one earlier; the other passed away in the fall–quite suddenly. He was one of my best clients, training with me three times/week for 45 minutes; I really enjoyed our time together and miss him and his sense of humor. Other clients have been through injuries and medical crises, but thankfully most are back to working out or on their way to recovery.

Best of all, I have had a good year health-wise: no surgeries! I did have COVID and am still dealing with Long COVID, but I am grateful that my case was mild and my continuing symptoms are mostly manageable.

It has been a good year. 2023 will be filled with lots of opportunities. I will continue to blog about what matters to older adults when it comes to their health, and I will continue to service the community in other ways as well.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and fit 2023!

That Time I was a Guest on a Podcast

As many of you know, I was asked to be a regular columnist for Northeast Ohio Boomer magazine last year. Each issue I wrote about a different issue related to exercise/fitness and older adults. The magazine also hosts a number of blogs and has a podcast as well for which I was interviewed. If you’d like to hear my voice and my thoughts about fitness, click here. The podcast is about 20 minutes long.

I am waiting for 60 Minutes to contact me next….

Two Years on my Own (sort of)

Today marks two years that I am working on my own as a Personal Trainer. November 15, 2020 was my last day employed at the local JCC. Last year I blogged about my thoughts on the one year anniversary; and it was an interesting read.

I wrote “sort of” in the title because I am not exacly all on my own any longer. The addition of Sam Kalamasz to my team means that I have someone who is helping me expand my territory and business. Sam will begin offering on-line classes aimed at a more beginner/intermediate level; my fitness classes are more on the challenging side. Once we get one class up and running, we will expand the offerings further. These classes will be offered virtually, so if you are interested or know others who would be, please contact me at michael@athomeseniorfitness.net.

There are still many opportunities out there. I would like to get into the digital realm and hope that 2023 will be the year that happens. I will be in need of more help the east side of Cleveland soon as I have potential clients whom I have turned away. I am also eager to find ways to partner with others who serve older adults. It is all looking up.

It is important to mark milestones like these. It is a time for reflection–looking back and looking forward. For now, as we are about to head into the Thanksgiving holiday, I am grateful for all the help and support.

Here’s to many more anniversaries!

Is this Blog still Kosher?

Those familiar with the upcoming (in just a few hours) holiday of Rosh Hashanah know that the next 10 days (The Ten Days of Repentance) are a time for reflection. We consider our actions over the last year and plan how we can do better in the coming one. It is a process that we repeat every year and, as we do, hopefully we get closer to the best version of ourselves.

I think about this not only on a personal level, but also with regard to my life’s work as a personal trainer and a rabbi. I know that on both accounts I can always do better and I work hard to achieve that goal. The same is true with this blog. I am grateful to those who have offered me constructive advice (mostly my brother, Joel) as I hone by blogging craft.

When this blog started it was supposed to be about the intersection between Judaism and Fitness; I saw it as a way to integrate the two career paths that have occupied my adult life. Over time, the blog has come to focus much more on fitness–especially as it impacts older adults. I have wondered if (and how) I should change the name of the blog and its description. I often ask myself just how kosher this blog is.

For the time being, I do not plan to make any big changes. Most of the current content–90% of which does not involve anything explicitly Jewish–deals with issues of how we care for ourselves. I began this blog with the premise that caring for our bodies is indeed a Jewish value. Of course, this is not an idea I came up with on my own; the sages of our tradition understood that we could not fulfill our role (individually or as a part of a people) unless we had the strength and stamina to do it. This is borne out in Psalm 117 which states that the dead cannot praise the Lord. Unless we care for our bodies, we cannot serve God nor our fellow human beings. Ultimately, my blog continues to deal with the intersection of Judaism and Fitness–implicitly if not explicitly.

The next Ten Days will be a time of reflection and repentance for Jews around the world and for me. It is my hope that during this period–and beyond–I will be guided to do the most good possible through my work as a rabbi, personal trainer, and blogger.

Wishing all my readers who celebrate, a very happy 5783! May all humanity be blessed with good health, happiness, justice, peace, and fitness!