For over a year now, I've been working with Jim. A retiree, Jim came to me at 64-year's old wanting to get in shape. He was upfront from the get-go. "I'm overweight, out of shape, sedentary, and I don't eat right. I know what to do, I just don't do it. I need to do something about this." We scheduled a fitness assessment and our journey began. At almost 300lbs, Jim was indeed overweight and out of shape and if not careful, a soon-to-be candidate for coronary heart disease and/or diabetes. Luckily, he had neither so far.
The fitness assessment was an eyeopener. One of the most pronounced findings of the assessment was that Jim's height measured much shorter than he thought. The posture pictures taken, revealed an anterior (forward) pelvic tilt from the hips. This was in part due to a weak core as well as the body fat located around the mid section pulling him forward. The good thing (and you could see Jim's eyes light up when he heard this) was that this was fixable. I told Jim that he could gain back part, if not all, of his lost height by strengthening his core which would help improve his posture as well as by upping his overall caloric burn through resistance training which would help him shed weight all over, particularly from his mid-section. Working on diet would play a part too. The "Before" and "After" posture pictures above show just how much Jim's posture has already improved (click on the picture to see an enlarged version). In particular, look at the pink plumb line behind Jim's ear in side-view pictures. The plumb line in the "Before" picture is almost at the back of his head. It should be running through our just behind the ear. In the "After" picture, the plumb line is much closer to Jim's ear which means the anterior pelvic tilt has decreased and is almost gone. So far Jim's hard work has added about a 1/2" back to his height. He's over 5'10" again!
Like many retirees, Jim found himself without much structured time. Work had been his life and now 24hrs was all his. This sedentary lifestyle soon brought on weight gain and eventually decreased mobility. Jim had had knee surgeries earlier in life and the extra weight was really taking it's toll on his knees. The RunnerDude's Fitness studio is on the courtyard level of the complex where it's located and there's a long set of iron steps that descends to the courtyard from the main level. Jim had a hard time with those steps during those initial visits. He also had a hard time moving in and out of chairs and especially up and down from mats on the floor to a standing position, but that didn't deter him.
We began with basic exercises on the bench and just standing using light free weights and resistance bands. But as Jim gained strength, flexibility, and stamina, we began adding balance elements through the use of stability balls and balance disks like the BOSU. It wasn't easy. Jim would get frustrated with himself when he'd come off the BOSU several times during an exercise, but he hung tough and gradually increased the strength and use of the stabilizer muscles in his legs. We even began adding in some basic plyometric exercises (jumping, hopping, bounding type movements) to his routine. His balance improved. So did his mobility, flexibility, strength, and more importantly, his confidence. Initially it took Jim 30 minutes to complete one round of a 10-exercise circuit. Now he zips through 2 rounds of a 10-12 exercise circuit.
|Jim volunteering his time at |
Safe Haven Equine Rescue
During this life style change, Jim realized he needed to not only add fitness to his weekly routine, but also to add structure to the rest of his day. In addition to two fitness sessions a week in the studio with me, Jim began volunteering at a local equine horse rescue center, the Natural Science Center, and the NC Zoo. These ventures not only occupied his time with something he was interested in, they often had him involved in physical activity beyond his fitness sessions with me. He'd often come to the studio all sore, not from me, but from having hauled big bales of hay at the equine rescue the day before.
In talking with Jim, I learned that he had once been a runner and enjoyed running local races in the variety of places he'd lived. I could tell he wanted to get back to running. He finally expressed interest in joining my beginning running group and I thought it was a great idea. My beginning running group uses a run/walk method that gradually eases participants into running over a 14-week period until they're running a solid 30-minutes by the end of the program. Jim started one group, but felt he wasn't quite ready. He wanted to work a little more on building his basic fitness base. He tried a second time with a different group and again decided he wasn't quite ready. The third try was the charm. I'm not sure if it was the great bunch of ladies he was with that motivated him or that his fitness level was where he wanted it, but Jim hung tough with this third group. He also realized that it was okay to go slow. Go his own pace. Everyone was doing the same increments each week. Pace didn't matter. Jim had to stop a few weeks shy of finishing the program but this time it wasn't due to lack of fitness, it was due to trips to Florida where he was in the process of buying a town home.
Yep, Jim was moving. He's keeping his home here in Greensboro, so hopefully I'll still see him from time to time. I'm not worried about Jim. He's made great progress and has solid fitness fundamentals to take with him to Florida. He's already on the hunt for a good gym and trainer.
In a little over a year,
Jim lost 30lbs and 10" total from his abdomen, legs, chest, and hips.
His body fat % dropped by 4% and his visceral fat score (the bad fat in the
chest cavity) dropped 5 points. His resting heart rate has gone from 83 bpm
to 55 bpm. His waist/hip ratio has moved
from the "moderate risk" category for coronary heart disease and
diabetes to the "low risk" category. His BMI has moved from the Grade
3 Obesity level to Grade 2. Everything is down. Down is good!
Jim have more work to do? Yes. Is he on the right track? YES! Jim could have
lost a lot more weight on a fad diet, but research shows that more than likely
he would gain it back, maybe even more than when he started. Why? Because fad or quick-fix diets usually have a person doing something that they can maintain for the
short-haul but not the long-haul. Instead, Jim took the
smarter and healthier route. Jim's progress is from lifestyle changes not quick fixes. Does he have to stay on top of it? Yes. Can he have that piece of chocolate cake from time to time? Yes. Will he need to account for it eating-wise and/or exercise-wise the next day? Yes. Jim's journey has helped him see that moderation and accountability is the path to take for a longer and healthier life.
In Jim's own words, "As far as what I learned it would be that quite a few of the cliches and statements are true. Statements like...to lose weight you need to expend more calories than you consume....it took a long time to gain the weight so don't expect to lose it over night....you can become more fit by working out...start slowly and progress....do not be afraid to start over if you don't meet your goals...set realistic goals."
Proud of you Jim! You rock it in Florida!!
Side Note: Balance is important for anyone, but particularly seniors. Lack of balance is often what causes falls. A fall often results in a broken hip or other bones. Anyone of any age who is not physically fit will take longer to heal, particularly seniors. A long recovery period means more time off your feet and other complications can set in. Anything you can do to increase your overall fitness level including improved balance will greatly improve your quality of life. Just ask Jim. If you go to a big box gym and they put you on the machines, tell them you want to learn how to appropriately use the free weights, resistance bands, tubes, and med balls as well as how to incorporate balance elements into you exercises. Machines are okay to start with, but they work muscles in isolation and do very little if anything to increase balance. Take a leap of faith like Jim and find a trainer who will work with you at your level and help you meet your goals. And like Jim said, "Set realistic goals."