Real life stories
Mark Dowd’s story
This older gym goer from Sydney is proof that it’s never too late to start working out.
Aged in his mid-fifties, Mark has been going to the gym regularly for quite a few years. He started weight training as part of his recovery from a work injury he suffered in the mining industry. He came to enjoy the discipline and the feeling of his body becoming stronger and more capable. It’s as much a hobby as anything else now, he says. “I can’t see any reason why I would stop going to the gym.”
Mark weighs less now than he did when he left high school 40 years ago. While he may not be as fast as he was then, he is actually stronger now. He remembers his father, who was a bigger, more powerful guy than Mark is, quickly becoming much less physically able as he got into his fifties. “I want to live as long as possible and I want to remain as active and as able as I can, for as long as I can – there is still too much of life and the world to enjoy,” Mark says.
From serious back pain to aqua aerobics instructor.
In the mid 90s, I was a housewife and mother of a grown up daughter and an active badminton player (I caught the bug when we lived in Kenya and then England). After a number of years of playing I hurt my back – 18 months of physio did little to help – there was little to no improvement. The doctor advised if I did not seek medical help in the form of a back operation I would end up in a wheelchair.
I was shocked, but had a gut feel that there was an alternative to the operation. I started reading about the benefits of water exercise, supporting weight, not being strenuous on the spine and started attending aqua aerobic classes, first a few times a week and then after experiencing the benefits for myself, I was hooked and attended 6 classes a week. I felt so great I jumped from beginners to advanced classes and after about a year the difference in my back was so remarkable I was able to undertake land classes and even high-impact classes like Step Reebok.
Seeing and experiencing the benefits first-hand and wanting to help others like myself I undertook training to become an aqua aerobics instructor. That was 17 years ago and have never looked back.
Within just a few weeks of finishing all my studies and getting my qualifications, I received a call to take my first class in Carlton and since then the calls have just kept coming, I took all the classes that came my way and have been more than overjoyed that the calls still keep coming. I’ve taken class all over Melbourne, from Glen Iris to Northcote, Coburg to Syndal, Box Hill to Ivanhoe, Carlton to Camberwell.
Now, as the population ages, I love to focus on classes for older Australians and working with them to keep them active and exercising well into their older years. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to hear about the improvements in health from people in my classes, every week I hear from someone about their better mobility, flexibility, stamina or pain management – it’s very rewarding to be able to give back.
I love people and (as you’ve probably guessed) thoroughly enjoy what I do. The classes are a hoot, often with my large groups singing along to their favourite tunes. I try my hardest to inject fun into the classes. When I first started out, I said to myself ‘if people enjoy my classes, they’ll keep coming’, and they have… some of the people attending my classes have followed me from gym to gym and some have been with me for the full 17 years – can you believe it? They are more than people I teach aerobics too, they are my friends. I encourage friendships between class participants and we often catch up outside of the classes.
I feel privileged to work in this industry and love seeing the benefits that can be achieved. It is not a job for me, it’s a passion.
My top 5 tips for older Australians :
- move it or lose it – there is nothing truer
- exercise at least 3 times a week
- weight bearing exercise is a must
- of course I am biased, but I think one of the best forms of exercise for older Australians is water exercise
- you are never to old to start!
Ohh and my back, never been better…
Shaun Jewell’s story
I would love to share a story about one of the mums in my outdoor ‘Count the Calories’ group fit fun class for ladies. Her friend has a little girl called Isobel who is five years old and has cerebral palsy. You can read Isobel’s story at www.friendsofisobel.com
Isobel’s story has touched my heart. I have a seven year old daughter of my own who is active and healthy, but little Isobel struggles just to get up and move around every day.
I have worked in the industry for over 20 years and love teaching group fitness. I also manage a corporate health club at AirServices Australia, Brisbane Airport. I love helping people to feel good through fitness. Fitness is my passion, it is in my blood.
I really wanted to do something to help Isobel so I decided to run an annual outdoor group fitness class with the help of 3 of my personal trainer friends. We raise awareness of the difficulties faced by Isobel and other children in her situation, as well as donate much needed funds to the Friends of Isobel Foundation. You can follow Isobel’s progress on her website.
The Importance of Family Physical Activity
Physical activity for all the family has multiple benefits apart from the obvious upsides of exercise.
Babies through to toddlers will thrive on the opportunity to get out of the house and absorb the ever inspiring world out there. Watch them take in the vast array of colours and movement passing the pram as you take the footpath, rather than the car, to the local shops. Perhaps the opposite will occur as your young baby finally settles as the pram’s gentle motion rocks them off to sleep. Physical activity comes in thousands of different forms and will give you and your child just as many different benefits and experiences. Just be creative and turn it into fun!
Take the opportunity to spend as little as 15 minutes sitting cross-legged at the local oval while you and your child pore over the tiny forms of life beneath the blades of grass or chat about their favourite colours. Throw a ball to each other. Roll down the hill together – I guarantee you years later they will laugh and laugh as they recall this experience of watching you roll down the slope. Fantastic! Memorable – fun – bonding – rejuvenating.
Underlying sibling rivalry can be both harnessed and turned into a positive through family physical activity. With a little thought and planning, develop games you know your children can each win in turn. With clear but simple guidelines and friendly control, you can muster your kids into healthy, fun-filled respect for each other and for your ingenuity.
Don’t forget yourself. Family physical activity is critical for mum and dad too. Parents are clearly time poor – running from fulltime jobs to school pickups to the supermarket to organised kids’ activities. It’s easy to forget about yourselves both physically, mentally and emotionally. But regularity is key. As the weather warms up, a walk or a jog together not only ensures you clear your heads but your expanding lungs and stretching limbs will benefit just as much as you will enjoy hearing about your partner’s day as you focus on each other.
In time, you may be so inspired to set goals for yourselves – walk faster, after dinner and enjoy your better quality sleep and a better settled night time tummy.
If you are lucky enough to have your parents close by, having the third generation involved in your family physical activity has multiple benefits for all three generations. Your kids will love to hear grandpa’s stories as he takes the kids and dog down to the playground. Not only will their bond grow but he will again see the positive and vibrant view of the world through a young person’s eyes. Gently pushing the swing will open up his lungs, unlock his creaking shoulders and elbows and bring a smile to his face as your child giggles with tummy butterflies. Remember, regularity is the key to gaining those benefits.
Family physical activity will set the foundations for healthy lifestyles from a young age. Your kids will understand the fulfilment to be had from outdoor games, sport and other forms of physical activity. It will ensure they have their own will to move away from the computer and enjoy the world outside and the friendships they can form. Family physical activity will improve relationships, quality of life and provide lasting memories for all generations.
Do you have a real life story of inspiration and motivation you would like to share with us? Have you motivated yourself off the couch and into fitness? Please send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org