Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published July 27th 2013
Stretch your balls and elastic
Everything is fine at forty; it's once you hit fifty when things start going wrong.
When my grandma was alive, this is a statement she used to reiterate to my mum time and again. And you know what? She was right. Mum got along quite happily in her forties, but as soon as she became a vintage item, she found bits stopped working quite so well.
I think this is the case with most people, but there are some over fifties that are still as flexible as they were in their thirties. How? A lifetime of physical fitness routines.
Determined to regain a youthful mobility, my mum started taking fitness classes like pilates and yoga. She then read about a Get Up & Go course for over fifty-fives at South Mitcham Community Centre. It includes balls, chairs, dancing, and stretchy elastic. Don't worry, it is not nearly as suggestive as it sounds. Although you might embarrass your grandkids, there is nothing worthy of an X-rating.
Since it lacked any lewd activity and was only £2.50 a session, my mum decided to give it a go. The classes are on Mondays and Fridays between 10.30am-11.30am.
On Monday the classes are taught by Alpa, the same woman who teaches our yoga class. She teaches similar stretching techniques that are part of mum's pilates and yoga classes, plus the additional use of weights.
Already doing three workout classes a week, Mum was going to give the Friday a miss, but when told that Fridays were less strenuous, she decided to give that a try as well.
Friday classes are taught by Claire, and the tougher weight lifting is replaced by some fun dance routines. The classes are a lot more playful and almost remind you of childhood games such as Head Shoulders Knees and Toes, When You're Happy and You Know It, and a bit of the Hokey Cokey.
Stretch and relax.
The first thing you are taught is the importance of posture; throughout the session, Claire reminded everyone to keep a straight back. She then introduced some gentle stretching exercises that are performed while sitting down.
Kumbaya, my Lord?
Soft music is played in the background to help keep the rhythm going, but there is always a bit of confusion when the track comes to an end, and you have to wait for the next song to start.
After about fifteen minutes, Claire moved on to the legs, which they somehow still managed to do all while sitting down (this kind of exercise is sounding more appealing by the minute). Resistance exercises were done with elastic bands by stretching out the legs, and pulling with the arms.
Now it was time for the 'get up and go'. Claire went through a series of stretches that were to be performed while holding a sponge ball. These included holding it out to the side, rolling ind down your side, and swinging it up in the air. Sometimes they got so enthusiastic, I thought they were going to send it launching off into space. Claire certainly got into the swing of things, as the ball leapt out her hand and went rolling down the hall. Keep control of your balls, madam.
Next up, they practised for the marching band. 'One, two, three, four...what's next?' Uhmm...five? Fortunately Claire is a fitness trainer, not a maths teacher.
Do the lasso.
The most enjoyable part of the session was at the end, when everyone put on their cowboy boots and got ready for a line dance hoedown. Just to cool off, at the end, they returned to their seats for some relaxing meditation.
As the facilitator instructor of this class I would like to further explain the aims and goals of this class and to clarify some of the above comments which seem inaccurate.
The Friday morning group is a 'Movement to music' partly chair based exercise group made up of gentle exercises to help improve posture, strength, mobility and flexibility. This will include exercises that require memory, coordination and rhythm. Props such as balls, hoops and batons are used to extend the body further and to provide interest and fun. Sometimes there is work in pairs and this encourages socialization and communication.
The group is of mixed ability and ranges up to people in their eighties. Small breaks between routines are necessary to allow for recovery and to allow members to take water.
The standing routines concentrate on balance, stretch, flexibility and may consist of short routines of coordinated steps. As the level of ability varies greatly the content can be graded and set at appropriate levels for group members.
Part of every weekly group are the exercises with use of stretch bands. These are important toning and weight bearing /resistance exercises that strengthen important muscle groups.
The main focus as well as the exercise goals is to create a group that is inclusive, relaxed, friendly and fun.
If anyone is interested in joining the Friday morning group then I would be very happy to provide any further information.