La Posada, a resort-style senior life care community, recently commemorated the opening of its new wellness center during a ribbon cutting with refreshments for residents, elected officials and other invited guests. The new free-standing 3,400-square-foot state-of-the-art wellness center comes equipped with spaces for group and individual activities, top-of-the-line equipment, and an exam room all in a workout space featuring expansive glass walls which allow residents to enjoy views of the lake and the nearby pool while they exercise. Residents living at the senior living community have been eagerly awaiting its completion, and among those most excited is 95-year-old George Heller, a former competitive race walker. Given that Heller works out five to seven days a week, he will get much use out of the new workout space. Even though he has a stationary bike in his apartment, he finds delight in working out in different spaces and being around people for motivation. Heller has already put himself to work in the new wellness center and believes the ribbon cutting is a great way to acknowledge La Posada’s healthy addition and dedication to wellness.
“You never know when someone might want to pick up exercising or make their workouts more intense, so having an amenity like this available to everyone is excellent,” said Heller. “I didn’t pick up a regular workout routine until I turned 55. I was overweight and looking for a solution that would help me feel and look better. I started an exercise routine and lost 100 pounds in the first year. I started by jogging, running, and competing in small races, but I kept getting injured. Then a friend turned me on to competitive race walking, a sport in which I could compete at a high level with much less risk of injury. It’s not nearly as hard on the body as running. I competed all over the world, including a marathon in New York City. I also went to the Masters Race Walking games in Australia, Oregon and Puerto Rico. Many people do not know that race walking is actually a part of the track and field division. I enjoyed competing in the 5K, 10K and 20K races. Athletes are grouped into five year divisions and the World Games are held every three years. Another fun fact many people are unaware of is that the longest race in the Olympics is a 50K race walk.”
Heller acknowledges that race walkers are very fit people. There is a distinct and strict form which athletes must follow, including having one foot on the ground at all times and keeping the knee of the supporting leg straight to avoid “creeping.” There are judges positioned all throughout the course, and if you get called out on form three times you are disqualified. Heller competed in race walking until his 70s, when he suffered from back pain and injuries. In place of race walking, he picked up riding a stationary bike, which he does very carefully.
“I used to walk six miles a day, but now I ride 23 miles a day on my bike,” said Heller. “It has been a great substitute, though I do miss the walking. I burn about 600 to 900 calories each ride, which typically lasts about an hour. My family has a history of cardiac issues, so I am hoping to avoid these by staying active. So far so good, I am probably one of the longest-living men in my family. When I work out on the bike, I use a heart monitor strap to keep my heart in a safe zone. I feel energized and active and have good health, so it seems to be working for me. When I became an athlete, I became a gym rat, and I’ve been going to the gym for 40 years now. The new fitness center is excellently equipped and looks first class.”
Heller is easily one of the most athletic residents living at La Posada. He recently competed in the NuStep challenge for The Longest Day. He took 10,250 steps in approximately 90 minutes, donating a penny for each step he took. This was more than anyone else at the senior living community. His advice for those wishing to start working out or to create a stricter regimen is to first seek a physician’s opinion and consult a wellness team member or personal trainer. He recommends setting achievable goals, making sure your body can handle it and ensuring you use proper form during workouts.
“For those who struggle with committing to a regular workout routine, my advice is this: just do it. Find the desire and think of it as obligatory exercise,” said Heller. “Incorporate ways to make it interesting and fun. Whether it’s reading a book, watching a TV show or listening to music. Personally, I enjoy listening to music. I listen to a wide variety which helps me zone out because the exercise is monotonous. The music brings back memories and helps keep the exercise from being boring. It is encouraging working out around other people as well. Just get in the new fitness center, give it a go and take baby steps to leading a more active life.”
“With the expansion and renovation project at La Posada, we knew it was necessary to create a brand new wellness center to accommodate current and new residents,” said Rick Minichino, wellness director at La Posada. “We are pleased to offer new classes and state-of-the-art equipment. Residents like George are a true inspiration to us all and an example of how to age actively and successfully. Even if residents just exercise 15 to 30 minutes a day, they are doing something good for themselves. It is our hope to see the wellness center full of residents at all hours of the day. We are huge advocates of exercise and living and eating well.”