You had a 38-year career selling and marketing capital medical equipment for major companies and a successful start-up. A part of your professional journey led you to be a small group of experts who were VitreoRetinal Specialists working with doctors, nurses and technicians. How did you know that it was time to retire and think about rewiring for a different future?
The last twenty or so years of my career required that I be on the road quite a bit. It was not uncommon for me to be gone three days per week. Consequently, I missed a lot of family time. My wife ran the household. When our son went off to college, she spent many nights by herself. When I turned 65 we agreed it was time for me to hang up my car keys, so to speak, and spend more time together. We now had time to do what we wanted to do, when we wanted to do it. We could do simple things like reading the morning newspaper together or going out for lunch. We also had the freedom to travel where we wanted for as long as we wanted. Having the time to spend with each other without the hustle and bustle of a work life was by far the best reward. However, I also knew that I would not be happy just sitting home all day and getting in her way. I knew I had to be doing something else to make more complete use of my time in retirement. Little did I know the answer would be at the YMCA.
You’ve always had a fitness regimen, but something significant happened when you were in your mid-60’s. You went to an aerobics class, got hooked and asked if you could become a substitute instructor when the woman leading it couldn’t make it. That led to becoming certified through SCW/Chicago for Group Exercise , as well as a Schwinn Cycling Instructor Certification. You also teach spin, pilates , TRX and Kettlebells. WOW! Tell us more about this Re-Imagined self, especially as you are now 70!
Physical exercise has always been important to me. Even when I was on the road, I would try to make time for long walks or spending time in the hotel exercise room. But after I retired and took a YMCA aerobics class for the first time, I realized I was not in such great shape after all. I learned there was much more to physical fitness than lifting weights or running on a treadmill. I started going to all the classes I could. To take my exercising to the next level, I wanted to become an instructor. I was lucky in that the Y management encouraged me to get certified even at the age of 67. It’s one thing to take an exercise class, it is totally different teaching it. You have to really know what you are doing, and you have to always bring your A game. If you don’t, the class will not get the workout they came for. The challenge was to develop myself as an instructor as well as to develop a varied series of dynamic and interesting workout regimens.
You have a very specific view about the role of exercise and longevity. What can you share about what you have learned as you have reskilled in this new career?
My goal is not so much to have a long lifespan. I want a long health span. One of my most admired people is Jack LaLanne, the fitness guru. I keep a picture of him on my bulletin board. He lived to be 96 and worked out the day before he died. We must work to avoid chronic diseases and physical disabilities that slowly sap us and keep us from enjoying life. Heart disease, cancer and neurodegenerative disorders are lurking to ambush us as we get older. One of the worst maladies that can afflict us is diabetes which is running rampant in our society that has access to unlimited calories. These four diseases are what we must try to keep at bay. We must work to keep up our strength. I tell my classes that we are exercising to improve our cardiovascular health, muscle tone and more importantly bone strength. We also must work on our flexibility and mobility. What good is a long life if you don’t have good physical health? How do we ensure we live life to the max and do the best we can to avoid diseases and physical disabilities? The are three components to the answer. One is a good nutritional diet. Another is making sure you get plenty of good quality sleep. However, the most important thing we can do for ourselves is to EXERCISE! Exercise has the greatest power in determining how we will live out the rest of our lives.