RE-LEARNING – Ryan Staal helps out Bonnie Hunt as she learns a few simple movements through the Legends CrossFit program

RE-LEARNING – Ryan Staal helps out Bonnie Hunt as she learns a few simple movements through the Legends CrossFit program

‘Legends’ CrossFit helps seniors to stay in shape

Program aims to strengthen those in their golden years

Seniors in Lacombe will soon be able to take part in a class that will help with everyday movements, range of motion, balance and strength training through the Legends CrossFit program.

CrossFit Lacombe is offering the ‘legends’ program with the aim of catering specifically to the needs of elderly persons. It will break down exercises into easy-to-learn movements that will help those in their golden years move through life a little bit easier.

“We want to make the ‘Legends’ program because I know that there is a population for it here, and there weren’t similar senior fitness programs. There aren’t many options, and I think we can provide something that is very different,” said Ryan Staal, one of the owners and coaches at CrossFit Lacombe.

“We definitely have the knowledge to give those strengths to anyone, but I know that seniors are a population that really need that activity.”

Staal and Brendan Aspenes, the other CrossFit Lacombe owner, have been working to make connections in the community with other groups that facilitate senior fitness programs.

Facilitating a seniors’ fitness program has been a goal for Staal since he and his co-owner opened their gym. Staal said that when he worked in Stettler, he facilitated a fitness class called ‘Senior Strength and Balance’ and that he enjoyed it very much.

“It was one of the busiest classes I taught, and I loved it. The older ladies like to have fun and they are really just there to learn. Everyday it got a little bit better. Seniors are just a really fun crowd to be around,” he said.

To make the class appropriate for seniors, Staal and Aspenes would break down movements of exercise and build up strength in easy-to-understand terms, so that anyone can participate, no matter their previous fitness experience.

“We’re adapting it by just essentially taking what we’d do for a regular class, and do what we do for anyone who has some difficulty or who are beginners: we will take the movement that we want to teach the people and break it down into basic components,” Staal said.

“That could be things like extending from the hip, reaching overhead, or bending over.  We want to be taking what they can do and move people within their limitations, but properly. That way everyone gets the same workout but we can specialize it to the degree that they’re able to move.”

For anyone with injuries or problem areas, the program can be altered to address those problems. The idea is that the trainers would present a person with a small amount of exercise that would help them move around during day-to-day activities.

“They don’t need any other fitness history. They can come in, even if they haven’t done anything for a long time. All we care about is getting them healthy. We have no outside judgements, we just want people to come in and give some effort. We want to get them to move and hopefully teach them something that they can take outside of the gym, and apply to day-to-day lives,” Staal said.

“The main goal of this is to be able to give practical skills, as well as being healthy and fit. We want these people to go home, and not have trouble picking things off the ground, or getting up and off the toilet easily. As you get older, simple tasks become increasingly more difficult. We’re going to mimic the everyday movements so that they can get stronger and so that outside of the gym, they are able to do more.”

Staal added although there are other options for senior fitness, CrossFit might be something worth looking into, as it offers a variety of exercises and expertise in movement.

“I think that everyday people weren’t really looking at the proper ways to move before things like CrossFit, where each motion and range of motion is broken down so carefully. It’s getting so much better now. With things like running and standing up from sitting, we think that we automatically know how to do those things well but we forget them over time, and our bodies have more trouble doing them properly,” he said.

For those unfamiliar as to what CrossFit is, Staal and Aspenes would describe it as fitness training for everyday life. They explained the difference between attending a CrossFit session versus a gym would be the change of focus. Aspenes said that they focus on health benefits rather than physical appearance, and practical application in life.

“Even something as simple as standing up from a chair (a squat) can hurt you later. If you’re not taught how to do it properly, and you do it wrong over and over, that’s going to take a toll on your joints as you get older. If you can do it perfectly every time, it’s a lot better. We teach you that with bar bells, or kettle bells, or just body weight. Eventually, that practice translates to you standing up properly every time.”