Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in Sound Publishing’s The Time of Your Life, Spring 2015.
When Ron Canfield was a boy, he’d be the one organizing relays around the cul de sac where he grew up.
In high school, he was an athlete, running track and playing basketball.
So it’s no wonder that now, just shy of 59 years old, he’s a personal trainer, working through the YMCA in Bremerton and Silverdale.
And one of his specialties is working with anyone age 60 and older, making sure that if they’re starting on a fitness routine, it is something that’s safe for them and matches their skill level.
“It’s just very rewarding to see people achieve their fitness goals,” Canfield said. “Just the look on their faces when they complete something that they didn’t think they could do.”
For Canfield, fitness was something he just did as part of high school and college athletics. In his early 20s, he kept that up. But then his career got busy. As a nuclear chief testing engineer at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, he worked long hours and in his 30s, he began to notice that he wasn’t feeling very well.
“I just knew I wasn’t feeling as good as I could,” he said. “So I decided to get fit.”
He’d pack his gym bag in the morning and put it in the car as he headed off to work. Then, when it was quitting time, he’d head to the gym.
“I knew if I went home to change clothes, I wouldn’t leave again,” he said. “So I tricked myself into going straight from work to the gym.”
And his co-workers knew it too.
“I was on call a lot,” he said. “So my co-workers knew that if I didn’t answer a call, I’d get with them when I was done with my workout.”
His workout routine included cardio, weights and an abs class. Soon the instructor saw how hard he was working and asked him to substitute teach the class.
Once Canfield retired in 2011, he decided to get certified as a fitness instructor and personal trainer.
“The certification process meant a lot of studying and testing,” he said. “But as an engineer, I had to re-certify every two years, so I was use to studying.”
Today, he trains clients through the YMCA which contracts with Sound Fitness for personal trainers. Each of them are their own independent businesses with their own licenses and fees, but they have access to all the equipment at the YMCA.
When working with a client, Canfield does a complete assessment of the client’s personal goals, needs and desires, and identifies any health issues or physical limitations. He then uses that information to develop a training plan specify to that client. If needed, a physician’s clearance is sought.
Each program will include upper body work, lower body work and an all-body workout with no weight equipment, but using resistance. The workouts also include warm ups, and stretching.
“If someone has been inactive for a long time, there are very simple exercises that can get them on to a path to better health and fitness,” he said. “Walking is a great start.”
Other options for beginners, he said, include chair jogging, marching in place, followed by wall push-ups, and then chair squats.
At the next level, the exercises can include jumping jacks, jogging in place, regular pushups, bicep curls using armbands or dumbbells, and then squats and walking lunges.
For those who want to try exercising on their own, Canfield suggests the 10-Minute Total Body Breakthrough, by author Sean Foy.
“This is a great book that gives options from beginners to advanced, utilizing a 10-minute principle, progressing over time,” he said.
It includes four minutes of simple cardio, three minutes of resistance exercise, two minutes of core exercise and one minute of stretching.
Working with a personal trainer can be about $60 per session, but as Canfield said, the more sessions you buy upfront, the more the cost goes down.
He also offers a partner program where two clients work with him at the same time and share the hourly cost.
“The buddy system is great because the participants keep each other enthused,” he said. “Sometimes if they see their partner doing something, it can motivate them to work toward that goal, too.”
And, if clients don’t have a spouse or friend who wants to work out, Canfield can pair clients up.
He’s seen clients in their 60s lose up to 40 pounds in six to nine months.
“Once they begin to get active, they also begin to look at what they’re eating,” he said. “They want to get healthy. They begin to eat better and move more. And most of them stay active and maintain that weight loss.”
Whether working out at the Y, another fitness club, or at home, Canfield encourages seniors to find a form of exercise that they like and that includes cardio and weight-resistance exercises.
“It’s all about getting the blood pumping,” he said. “It’s all about feeling better and enjoying life.”
To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The YMCA offers discounted memberships to seniors.