Motivation has been a theme for me this fall — I find that’s true of a lot of people I work with. As the weather cools, most of us need more structured plans to keep us moving instead of hibernating.
They say that there’s strength in numbers. If the buddy system I wrote about last month has not worked for you, it might be time to try a class. There’s a lot to be said for being part of a crew. And only a few cautions to consider.
When you sign up for a class, you may be focused on finding something you’ve always wanted to learn. But it’s worth keeping an open mind — no matter what the curriculum, a class is more fun than being home by yourself. Ron Fichtner is a regular in the men’s workout class organized by the Truro Council on Aging. After the social isolation of the last year, he says going back to class is like being at a happy family reunion.
Learning new movements is easier when you can watch others give them a try. And within that group experience, one can find a good kind of peer pressure. Paula Richman of Wellfleet was in an exercise class in the run up to hip replacement surgery. “I was nervous,” she says, but then she met another student who had been through a hip replacement. “I saw how well she was doing, and it made me hopeful.”
“Sometimes I get discouraged about getting older,” says my mother, Judy Stetson. Going to a class gets her past that. “I see lots of people even older than me, and they’re still doing it,” she says. And she keeps on going. It’s great to be encouraged by others. Just be careful to check your competitiveness at the door and listen to your own body as you go.
Classes can mean the opportunity to work with someone who has expertise to share at a fraction of the cost of individual personal training. I do think it’s important to look for classes led by someone who is trained or certified as an instructor. That way, you’ll learn proper form, which means you’re less likely to get injured.
A good leader can also guide you in making appropriate modifications of difficult moves or progressions to more challenging ones when you’re ready. You can learn a lot by watching how your leader cues your classmates and makes adjustments for them.
If it sounds like I’m talking only to the silver sneakers set here, I’m not. Classes are efficient, and that’s a real help for people with busy work schedules. Meeting times are set, and the planning is done for you. You can waltz in and get a complete, well-balanced routine, including warm-up and cool-down. During class, you don’t have to count repetitions and sets either, which frees you to focus on good technique.
The pandemic-induced explosion of online classes has changed my mind about what it means to join a “virtual” group. A lot of people I work with agree. If a commute to class is going to keep you from joining, or if you’re just not ready to join a group in person, do it online.
Suzanne Doherty set aside her doubts about Zooming and gave it a try. The truth is, she tells me, it’s not as awkward or impersonal as she imagined. Now she relies on her weekly Tai Chi and QiGong classes to keep her fit and moving well. And there’s a bonus: she has been able to stay in touch with her classmates even though she’s moved from Eastham to Florida. “I’m living proof that distance shouldn’t hold anyone back,” she says.