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Being in the fitness field, we hear excuse after excuse as to why people skip exercising. It’s not that we aren’t interested in your life and stressors, but we do not want you to feel obligated to explain yourself. Life happens, as any understanding person should know, and sometimes we just can’t do it all.
But don’t think you’re off the hook from exercising. The reasoning behind your skipping out is important. I always tell the apologetic exercisers that it’s okay to miss a day, as long as they weren’t sitting on the couch eating ice cream right out of the container or sulking in bed. However, if you were doing something along the lines of getting together with friends, cheering on your child at a ball game, volunteering in the community, or organizing and cleaning your home, missing a workout is not the end of the world.
There is much more to wellness than exercise and diet, and it is important to keep a balance between all of the components to ensure optimal health. Seven defined dimensions of wellness are integrated and work together to help create who we are. If one of them is out of balance, it can infringe on the other dimensions that contribute to creating a “whole you.”
Take some time to analyze the following dimensions in your life:
- Spiritual: The development of a strong sense of values, ethics, and morals. It is the feeling that there is meaning in life, which may or may not have a religious inference.
- Intellectual: The ability to effectively learn and use information for development. This dimension increases openness to new ideas and maintains creativity and curiosity.
- Environmental: The understanding of the impact of your interaction with nature and your personal environment, which will help improve the standard of living in the community.
- Social: The ability to feel connected and participate in your community and enhance your well-being through relationships with family, friends, and coworkers.
- Emotional: The ability to control stress and appropriately express yourself, leading to positive self-esteem and meeting life’s challenges.
- Occupational/Vocational: The ability to find and create a balance between work and play by matching your values with interests and utilizing talents in your world.
- Physical: The ability of the body to properly and effectively function by staying active and avoiding harmful habits in order to accept uniqueness and improve health.
As long as you are contributing to and feeding these other dimensions equally, there is no need to be overwhelmed with guilt for not hopping on an elliptical for 30 minutes. Be conscious of your decisions and don’t punish yourself for missing a workout, because exercise can quickly become a chore if we shift our mind in that direction. Feed your wellness with all dimensions, and if you are falling out of balance in your physical wellness, search for an activity you enjoy. Be active, be healthy, be you.
Don’t forget about the core muscles! The core helps to protect organs and keeps the torso strong enough to connect the upper body with the lower body. A strong core helps with balance and stability in everyday activities. Core strength also helps with all activities and sports. It’s very important for athletes to have strong core muscles. Strengthening the core muscles can help to relieve lower back pain/problems and increase good posture. Just like every other muscle group, our bodies need a good core workout on a regular basis. It doesn’t take long; you can get a full core workout in 15-20 minutes or less. I work at a corporate fitness center and teach multiple core classes a week. Try my workout below and let me know what you think! Form is very important, so view the video clip prior to starting for helpful tips.
- On back, hands underneath you supporting the lower back, legs straight in the air, feet together, lower legs pushing the lower back into the mat. Use the stomach muscles to lift the legs back up. Perform the exercise slow and controlled. 15 leg raises, then hold the legs just off the floor and hold for 15 seconds. Next, 6 little circles one direction keeping feet together. 6 circles the other direction, then finish with a 15 second hold again.
- Flip over to a center plank for 1 minute – on elbows & toes, shoulders above elbows, weight pushed back towards feet, keep hips low, body in a straight line, abs pulled in tight without holding breath.
- Modification can be done on knees instead of toes.
- Turn to a side plank for 1 minute – shoulders above each other, bottom hip up off the mat, feet on top of each other, abs in tight without holding breath.
- Modification can be done with bottom knee on the mat, still keeping bottom hip up high.
- Flip over to the other side for 1 minute – form is important so see details above or video clip!
- Back to a center plank (see video below) – lift one leg for 10 seconds, switch legs.
- Lift one leg out to the side (see video below) for 10 seconds, switch legs.
- Hold a perfect center plank for 30 seconds.
- Back to a side plank, but this time lift the top leg up for 15 seconds, then one leg lift to one truck rotation (see video below) for 45 seconds.
- Switch sides and repeat.
- Back to a center plank hold for 30 seconds.
- Relax on mat (on your stomach) for a few lower body exercises.
- One arm up, other down by side on the mat, use the lower back to lift the chest up & down off the mat. 15 reps. Switch arms and repeat 15 reps.
- Keep neck and shoulders relaxed, exhale when you lift, slow & controlled, always pause at the top to squeeze the lower back muscles. See video for a form check!
- Both arms and legs up & down. 10 reps, then hold for 10 seconds.
- Opposite arm & leg, lift and pause, then switch to the other arm & leg. 30 seconds.
- One arm out to side, other arm down by side on the mat, lift and rotate towards the arm that is straight out. See video. 10 reps then switch arms & sides and repeat 10 reps.
- Back up to a center plank hold for 30 seconds.
- Flip over to your back for bicycles (see video for form and modification) for 30 seconds.
- Not tired yet? Repeat the workout.
Not ready for this long of a core workout yet? It’s ok, start with a couple exercises and work your way up to completing it all. If you like the FREE WORKOUT FRIDAY, subscribe to our blog!
You likely receive feedback from residents on how much they enjoy certain group fitness classes or instructors, or perhaps the NuStep in the fitness center. (This feedback likely comes out in comments like, “Don’t get rid of the yoga instructor,” or “We need another NuStep.” Beyond that, how do you measure the true value of your community fitness program and what it lends to your resident population as well as to your community’s marketing potential?
Don't Just Cater to the Most Active Participants
Your lifelong exercisers will likely find opportunities that they enjoy no matter how much or how little your community is able to offer. Positive feedback from these select participants doesn’t mean that your program is making the grade for your resident population as a whole. We love knocking the socks off of new clients when they see our membership numbers climb and residents they never would have dreamed beginning to take group fitness classes or utilizing the fitness center!
Measuring the Effectiveness of Your CCRC Fitness Program
So that begs the question: Do you even know what percentage of your residents participates in group fitness classes or uses the fitness center from month to month? Which classes are the most popular or which pieces of equipment are most utilized? Have your residents shared why this is the case? If you can’t answer all or some of these questions, that likely means your community fitness offerings could benefit from a more solid foundation to evaluate participation and resident interests.
Consider these simple steps your community can take to begin measuring the effectiveness of your program:
- Utilization of your fitness center and participation in group fitness classes should be tracked daily and reported on a regular basis. Communities should determine the information they would like to evaluate and implement tracking methods for their fitness staff and residents. We find that residents take to simple sign-in sheets fairly easily and fitness staff and group fitness instructors can provide friendly reminders to residents to sign in. Medical release forms, waivers, and health questionnaires can be great ways to establish membership standards among your participants.
- Conduct annual surveys to gather direct resident feedback to rate the overall quality of existing classes, instructors, programs, and services. Learn from the resident population as a whole (don’t just send the survey to active participants) about additional programs that they would like to see or ask them to share why they aren’t currently participating. After processing the results, develop an action plan to follow up with individual residents or on general program improvements to continually evolve the program and hopefully engage more participants.
- Your fit and active crowd will likely be the most vocal about the types of equipment they would like to see or group classes they would like to try. However, it is important to regularly evaluate the balance in class offerings, available equipment, and programs for your residents. Residents of all ability levels should have exercise options in the fitness center as well as group exercise classes for their specific needs. It’s fine for instructors to provide modifications for residents of all ability levels in classes, but it’s important for lower-functioning participants to feel like they have options all their own and that they aren’t simply being condescended to in a group of more able-bodied residents.
Improved Resident Satisfaction Plus More Marketability
Taking these simple steps can help improve resident satisfaction in your community fitness offerings. It will also provide more concrete talking points for your marketing department when speaking with prospective residents. They will have utilization data and survey responses to better identify what is important to your residents and can speak to how the community caters to those interests. They will also be able to market the value in keeping residents of all ability levels as independent as possible through the array of programming options that is available.
We see it all the time – fantastic retirement communities with diverse and enriching wellness programming for their residents, but lacking a unified banner to pull it all together. Instead, the programming is a little bit hodge-podge and lacking in a strategic focus. And senior living wellness professionals, because their busy and pulled in 100 different directions, are missing out on opportunities to capitalize on these engaging wellness activities.
What is your senior living community’s wellness strategy missing?
- Are you able to capture stories of how your wellness services are positively impacting the lives of your residents?
- Is your marketing and sales staff able to effectively articulate what it means to live vibrantly in your community to prospects who may be reluctant to leave their homes?
- Do you have a wellness brand that is well-executed through the community within multiple departments, through a variety of personnel?
If you didn’t answer a resounding YES to all three of those questions, then check out some of the key strategies below that we offer our clients who are working on building a better wellness brand.
- Begin with the end in mind: When you’re just getting started considering the brand you want to develop for wellness at your senior living setting, it is sometimes helpful to think about the end point. Consider what you want to communicate and how that should look. Once you are able to define that end-picture, you can start working backwards on what needs to be developed, designed, created, and transformed.
- Identify and leverage existing successes: Think about what is a huge success at your community? What do your residents buzz about over and over again? What kinds of events, programs, or services get the greatest participation? Those offerings may provide you with a jumping off point for considering your wellness brand. Giving thought to the stakeholders in your community who need to be at the table for these discussions also is part of this consideration.
- Use the wellness dimension model to look for programming holes: Start by writing down all the dimensions (physical, emotional, social, environmental, intellectual, vocational, spiritual) and list out all the programs you’ve run in the last six to 12 months. Then put the programs into the wellness dimension buckets where they belong. (Most initiatives will fall into more than one dimension.) This simple mapping technique should help you identify where you may have some gaps in services. It should also show you low-hanging fruit opportunities for early success in your branding efforts.
To learn about two more strategies as well as some tactics for executing on your wellness brand, view our “Build a Better Wellness Brand” webinar below. Click here find out more about our Build Vitality webinar series.
Do you need to improve your posture? Sit at a desk all day and not realize that you slouch? A lot of people focus on the front of their bodies and forget to work the back side. Go to your corporate fitness center to start strengthening your upper back muscles which will help to pull your shoulders up & back resulting in better poster. Strengthening the upper back can also help with back pain. A stronger back will produce stronger shoulders and shoulder joint, resulting in less risk for injuries. Now that I’ve got you thinking about your posture, sit up straight! I’ve got your “back” so try this upper back workout for an improved quality of life!
*Very important tip when performing upper back exercises is to make sure the shoulders are rolled back and use the upper back by squeezing the shoulder blades together instead of pulling with the arms (biceps). Always focus on lifting with the back, and not holding your breath! Your muscles need oxygen to get stronger so think about taking deep breaths throughout all workouts.
Traditional lat pulldowns – either with a lat pulldown machine or try a dual cable machine to mix it up a little. 12-15 reps, 2 sets
Assisted pull ups – using the upper back, pull up (squeeze), slow & controlled lower the body still using the upper back. 10 reps, 2 sets
Dumbbell row – pick a challenging weight in each hand, palms facing each other, weights out in front of thighs, knees slightly bent, slight bend forward at the waist, pull elbows up high behind you and squeeze the shoulder blades while you pause, then release the weights slowly back to starting position. 12-15 reps, 2 sets (Very important – do not bend in the spine, just slightly at the waist!)
Push up position row – this works the upper back and core at the same time. While in a push up position up on the toes (knees on mat for modification), keep the hips in line with body not up, weight in each hand, alternating sides pull the elbow up high, squeezing the shoulder blade, and try not to rotate your body. Focus on using the upper back and core muscles during this advanced exercise. 10-12 reps each side, 2 sets
Summer will be here before we know it, which means spending time outdoors and hotter temperatures. Men will be working outside or spending time at the pool, which usually means having their shirts off. And women will be wearing dresses and also spending time outdoors. It’s time to focus on our backs for strength and a better appearance. How do you get ready for summer?
Part 2: Your Program Is Set Up... Now What?
In the first part of this blog, we talked about key strategies to set your program up for success. Remember “begin at the beginning” and “map out the ‘how’”? If you’re still intent on getting data you can actually use from your wellness program, keep reading to learn what do to now that you’re ready to run the initiative.
#3: Stick to the Plan
This seems so obvious, so I won’t spend much time on it. Here’s the thing: you spend a lot of time mapping out the goals and the objectives to achieve those goals, and then you design your program around that outline. For heaven’s sake, stick to the plan. Implement the program as close to the original design as possible. If you get into the offering and you find a fatal flaw in the plan, change what you must, but in order for your evaluation to be true, educational, and actionable, you need to stick to the plan.
#4: Evaluate and Report
Drum roll, please. We’re about to get to the goods, so stick with me here. So, you set up your goals, you map out how you will accomplish the goals, you craft your program accordingly, you bravely stick with the plan, and then when it’s all over, you evaluate how you did.
We think about your post-program evaluation in two ways:
- Overall effectiveness of the program: We calculate how we communicated the program, how many people we reached, how accurately we ran the initiative, how many people completed the program, etc. All of that gets folded together into a program-impact score. The numbers that feed into the impact score and the score itself allow for year-over-year (or program-over-program) comparisons for effectiveness over time.
- Achievement of our goals: If we set up the goals correctly so that they were measureable, and we ran the program knowing the data we needed, we should be able to figure out whether we reached our goals.
In addition to crunching some basic numbers, our staff members are responsible for reporting their program results to their supervisor, who then works with the manager on developing strategies for future program improvements. The supervisor also makes sure that best practice information is shared among other staff so that important lessons learned can be used by everyone. After all, if you hit on some brilliant technique for communicating with the audience you need to reach, shouldn’t the entire community working with that audience benefit from your success?
We’ve been following The Wellness Challenge program as an example throughout these two blogs. So let me wrap up with some of the juicy data Reggie, the manager responsible for this initiative, was able to gather based on pre- and post-program evaluation.
Straight from Reggie’s report, here are his proposed changes for the next The Wellness Challenge offering, as well as his quick summary of his goals:
- Goal 1: Have at least 80 participants with approximately 1/4 of them being staff. Did not fully meet: Had only 72 participants, but 29% were employees.
- Goal 2: Increase class participation totals by 15% and increase fitness center visits by 250 per month throughout the challenge. Goal met: Increased class size by 65% over prior 2 months and increased FC visits by 435 compared to prior 2 months.
- Goal 3: Increase fitness center membership by 10 members (5 residents and 5 staff) during the challenge. Did not meet: Increased staff membership by 3 and resident membership by 2.
For next year to improve overall program impact:
- Make the teams smaller.
- Give 1 point/minute walked.
- Establish a volunteer limit.
- Hold an orientation/team meet-and-greet before the challenge starts.
- Reconsider food point system to possibly include fruit.
- Reconsider prizes. Try giving away less money.
So Reggie learned he’s got some work to do if he folds those same unmet goals into next year’s offering. He’ll need to revamp his strategies. He’s already well on his way to crafting that plan because he has this complete outline on which to build an improved The Wellness Challenge.
How Are You Evaluating Your Programs?
Certainly there’s more than one way to skin this evaluation cat. How are you doing it? What are you learning? Program evaluation is only one element of a first-rate wellness strategy. Communicating a strong wellness brand, having quality physical spaces for where your initiatives can occur, and cultivating amazing wellness staff are all central to a fabulous program.
Want to learn more about how to build those key elements in your community? Join us for our Build Vitality webinar series.
Why chose to do pushups over a chest press? For most, pushups may seem harder than a chest press which is all the more reason to get on the floor and increase your upper body strength the old fashion way. Performing pushups on a regular basis helps to build strength in the arms, shoulders, forearms, wrist, and chest. That’s a lot of muscles from just one exercise! Performing pushups correctly can also help to build core strength. I teach a couple strength classes a week at a corporate fitness center and I’m always reminding my participants to use their core just as much as their upper bodies when performing variations of pushups.
Speaking of variations, pushups can be fun because you can get creative from the traditional exercise. Typically, women have less upper body strength than men but that’s no excuse anymore! There are modifications so everyone can benefit from them. Performing pushups on the knees is a little less intense than up on the toes. The best part about this simple yet complex exercise is it requires minimal space and equipment. You can get a great upper body workout in your hotel room or living room performing a variety of pushups. Try some of these I’ve listed for you below…..
- Uneven pushups – One hand up on a step, medicine ball, or stack a couple of books (example – phone book) and the other hand on the floor, arms straight. Lower chest & and hips towards the floor, use the upper body and core to push yourself back to the starting position. Perform 10 reps then switch hands for 10 more. These, just like most, can be done on your knees or toes.
- Incline pushups – Place hands on the edge of the bathtub, step, couch, or bed (something stable), arms straight. Lower chest & and hips down, use the upper body and core to push yourself back to the starting position. Perform 12-15 reps.
- Decline pushups– Place feet up on a step, edge of the bathtub, couch, chair, stability or BOSU ball, or bed (something stable), hands on the floor & arms straight. Lower chest & and hips down, use the upper body and core to push yourself back to the starting position. Perform 12-15 reps.
- This is a more advanced exercise because it may be challenging to do this on the knees. Although, if you use a stability ball place the thighs on the ball for less intensity. Or, roll out so the feet are on the ball to increase intensity.
- Push up jacks– Perform a regular pushup, hands & feet on the floor. Lower chest & and hips towards the floor, use the upper body and core to push yourself back to the starting position. Then, hop both feet apart and back together similar to a jumping jack but on the toes with hands on the floor. One jack to one pushup equals one rep. Perform 10-12 reps.
- If you want to do the push up on the knees, pop up on the toes for the jack part, then back to the knees for the push up.
Pushups get the heart rate up for a great upper body strength workout, so don’t be surprised if you are out of breath! Ready, set, go!!
Part 1: Setting Your Program Up for Success
I think our staff members roll their eyes every time they hear me start talking about gathering data from our programs. That might be because I talk about it a lot; it might also be because I’m a little bit of a geek about data. Regardless, they can eye-roll all they want, because when the data gathering and program evaluation is done right, well, it’s a beautiful thing!
Let me explain by using an example from a program that recently wrapped up at one of our senior living client locations. “The Wellness Challenge” has been offered for two years at the community. It’s a good wellness survey type of program that encourages residents to dig into all dimensions of wellness. There are several positive and important elements to The Wellness Challenge:
- It’s a team challenge, so there’s potential for socialization built into the fabric of the program.
- The program is open to residents and employees, so there is a very real buzz at the community, with individuals across the campus engaged in the challenge.
- It capitalizes on the healthy resolution wave that follows the indulgence that is the end-of-the-year holiday time.
- The challenge runs that perfect, sweet-spot length of seven weeks. (We find that most programs of this type are ideally suited to run somewhere between six to eight weeks.)
Now, to be fair, this program was not the brainchild of the current NIFS manager, Reggie. However, he was able to take the original offering from his predecessor, which involved no evaluation strategy, and transform it so that we have both a rich offering for the client, and actionable data that will inform future offerings of both this program and others like it.
What, you ask, is actionable data? Good question! In this two-part blog, we’ll look at four tips for getting the data you want from your wellness program. Part 1 focuses on the before-you-launch-the-program elements (tips #1 and #2). Part 2 will focus on during-the-program and post-program components (tips #3 and #4).
#1: Begin at the Beginning
The whole evaluation and data thing starts by being strategic with the program on the front end. That’s right; we are moving away from running fun programs just to run them (shocking, I know). The staff members actually set program goals before they run the program and then they make sure that the program they’re offering is set up in a way to allow for evaluation of those goals.
- You can’t assess your progress on the goals if they aren’t actually measureable. This sounds intuitive, but people miss the boat on it all the time. Establish goals that are S.M.A.R.T. For more on this concept, check out this blog.
- Create goals that tie back to your overall program goals. For example, if you’re trying to increase visits to your group exercise classes, establish a goal to increase overall class attendance, or maybe focus on how many new people you can get into class with this program. (If you’re lacking focus for your overall wellness program, you probably should start there before you dig too deeply into meaningless goals for programs that don’t connect back to a larger strategy.)
- Keep the list fairly short. This isn’t a research study with all kinds of grant money and data heads behind it. Stick to what you know, and keep the goals manageable in terms of volume; two to three goals per program has worked for us.
- Before you get too far ahead of yourself with lofty, complicated goals that make you sound really smart, you also need to be sure you have the tools to measure the goals. In truth, most of our staff are operating with fairly traditional supports. We use a lot of spreadsheets (though not infinitely complex ones), and in some cases we have software that helps with visit reporting, etc.
#2: Map Out the “How”
You’ve established these two to three program goals. They are succinct; they tie back to your overall wellness program focus; they are written on a scale you can support. Great job! Now it’s time to map out your plan to actually achieve those goals.
No, it’s not enough to outline the goals and then just run the program. That’s like pulling up to the shooting range and saying, “Ready…Fire!” Forgetting to aim means you will most likely miss your target―unless you are extremely lucky.
For example, if you set a goal to increase group fitness class attendance by 15% for the duration of the program, you need to outline the steps you will take to achieve that goal. In the case of The Wellness Challenge, Reggie built the program so that participation in group classes was weighted more heavily than some other activities, and he gave more points for participating in cardiovascular exercise (which, he emphasized, could be achieved by taking classes). In short, he incentivized what he was trying to drive people to do. (Genius, I know!)
You won’t want to miss part 2 of this blog, where we look into how to run the program and what to do when it’s over.
Imagine you’re back in high school gym class. You walk into the gymnasium and what’s the first thing you do after roll call? That’s right; you warm up with some stretching before getting bombarded with dodge balls. Flash forward to present-day fitness centers, or more accurately, fitness centers in the past 10 years. The current trend is to warm up with some light cardio before dominating your workout and finally finishing up with some stretching to cool down. Sounds much safer, right? Wrong!
There has been new statistical data to support the case that stretching is, in fact, a complete waste of time. The biggest benefit of stretching (so people say) is to prevent injury. How can stretching possibly prevent injury? Simply put, stretching lengthens the muscle. By lengthening the muscle, this only elongates and spreads out the muscle fibers. And by spreading out the muscle fibers, your muscles become weaker and more susceptible to injury. Which is harder to break: 10 individual toothpicks or 10 toothpicks stuck together in a pack? The 10 individual toothpicks would easily break while the pack of 10 toothpicks would work with each other to protect the pack as a whole and become more resilient.
It’s a common and well-known aspect of resistance training. Stay tight. Stay compact. If you are performing the bench press, you do not want your arms and shoulders spread out. That will only lead to a dislocated shoulder. If you stay compact, engaging your chest and core before your shoulders and arms, you will be able to lift more and lift safer. The same thing can be said for running. The farther you reach out your stride, the more that forefoot (the front foot coming down toward the pavement) will push you back upon landing.
In a recent study, 1,543 serious runners were able to link stretching to serious muscle problems. Dr. David Lally found that 47% of male runners who stretched regularly over an extended period of time became injured at some point during the study, while only 33% of male runners who did not stretch regularly became injured.
This has to end! We don’t stretch to loosen up before we warm up anymore. We don’t lock our knees on squats anymore. We don’t arch our backs for additional strength anymore. It’s time to end stretching altogether. Simply use a wide range of motion during resistance exercises to improve flexibility in the muscles and to prevent injury.
And to those who believe a word of what you just read, Happy April Fool’s Day! Now head to your Corporate Fitness Gym or Community Fitness Center and get a good stretch session in to start your week right!