Fit for life


POSTED: Monday, July 27, 2009

The weather is calm on this particular Friday morning up by Diamond Head. That's in contrast to the exhaustive workouts personal fitness trainer Madeline Foley is putting Eddie Yamasaki and Mitzi Kurihara through at the Parcourse FitCenter, which fronts Kapiolani Community College.

They are part of a growing number of senior citizens learning that workouts, far from merely sculpting bodies, are also lifesavers.

Last May, Yamasaki, an 85-year-old veteran of the 442nd Infantry, was visiting his daughter in Japan when he was hospitalized with pneumonia, compounded by heart problems and a bout with lung cancer three years ago. Kurihara was diagnosed a year and a half ago as a borderline diabetic.

Now, after Foley helps with leg stretches, Yamasaki works with a large band for arm extensions and strengthening the back. Foley is nearby, holding her hand near his back, just in case, but still allows him to do all of the work, his exertion measured with pronounced exhalations.

Nearby, Kurihara is warming up, bringing her heart rate up as she quickly steps on and off a curb in a five-minute exercise. She's out of breath before her formal regimen starts. And that's the way Foley likes it, just a tiny bit of rest before grinding on.

“;Good stuff, yeah?”; she asks, with encouragement.

“;She'll kill me yet,”; Yamasaki says jokingly. Still, both he and Kurihara train diligently with Foley three times a week. They've seen noticeable improvement in their overall health, so there's no good reason to stop.

After his hospitalization, Yamasaki stayed in Japan for more than a month for rehabilitation. When he came home in December, he had gained weight, and “;told myself I need to take better care of my health, and by January I knew I needed to work with a trainer to do it.”;

Even the person who drives him to and from his outdoor workouts, family friend Nancy Taba, has ended up joining the “;fun.”;

“;Madeline pushes you as far as she can,”; Taba said. “;She helps each of us individually, especially me, because I'm lazy, yeah? And for Ed, I know he's improved a lot.”;

“;Nancy encourages me,”; Yamasaki said. “;I tell her, 'You're trying to brainwash me,' because she keeps telling me that 'you're good, you're strong.' It's like I'm a pet dog, except that she doesn't pat me on my head.”;

Even though Yamasaki has cut his rice and wine intake, in addition to exercise, he has still gained weight, but it's all muscle, thanks to the workouts.

“;I'm now in good shape,”; Yamasaki said.

For those lacking the discipline to stick to a workout routine, personal fitness trainers like Foley fill the role of enforcer.

“;My job in fitness training is to design a program that fits the individual and to motivate and keep them accountable to their commitment to exercise, even after I'm finished training with them,”; Foley said.

While some of her clients — seniors and younger adults — ask for help to lower their blood pressure, control diabetes (like Kurihara) or to offset aches and pains in their joints, Foley said just as many “;want me to help them do something more with their exercise. They say, 'Challenge me, I need a change in my program.' These are usually people who work out five days a week and need something different.”;

A former hotel bartender, the 50-year-old Foley said her work as a fitness trainer has been her personal “;fountain of youth.”;

“;While there is some pain involved in exercise, I like to think of it as a growing pain,”; she said.

Kurihara has gone through growing pains ever since she started training with Foley a year and a half ago. Her family has a history of diabetes, and her mother died due to complications brought on by the metabolic disorder.

“;I was originally just taking medication to control my blood sugar,”; she said, “;but then my doctor told me my liver was rejecting the medication. He then said that the only way I could be healthier was through watching my diet and exercise.”;

Kurihara is on her way to what Foley calls being “;a lifer,”; or longtime client. Kurihara describes herself as “;a work in progress”; — and, so far, the progress is good. Her blood sugar level is stable, bad cholesterol is down and good cholesterol is up, “;and I even dropped 20 pounds, which wasn't even part of my original exercise goals. I've gained a lot of muscle, too.

“;Madeline and I work great together — like after, say, doing 10 reps of an exercise, she'll say, 'Come on, let's do an extra five.'

“;To me, exercise doesn't come naturally. It's painful for me. I'd rather sit home and watch TV. But the expense of having a trainer is better than the possible larger expense of ending up on dialysis and having my family push me around in a wheelchair.”;

Foley even helped Kurihara to participate in the Great Aloha Run.

“;When I first started running, I could only do five minutes straight because I was hurting so much. Now I can do, nonstop, three miles.

“;For the Great Aloha Run, I started training last November for this year's run in February. I finished it in two hours and 20 minutes. To me that's quite a feat, for someone who hates running,”; she said.

“;I remembered how much my body ached afterward, but I'm now at the point where I like exercising. Only bad will come if I don't continue working with Madeline.”;



Personal fitness trainer Madeline Foley is certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Find out more at http://www.nasm.org. Foley herself can be reached at 221-9122.


Get fit

The YMCA and 24-Hour Fitness offer special fitness programs for seniors. The Y has its safe SilverSneakers classes, focusing on cardiovascular health, muscle strength, balance, coordination and conditioning.

At 24-Hour Fitness there are a series of senior exercise classes to choose from: Senior Fitness (customized class to meet individual needs), Silver and Fit (total-body workout for active individuals), Silver Sneakers Cardio (low-impact aerobics incorporating use of a chair) and Senior Sneakers Strength (body sculpting).

Visit either www.ymcahonolulu.org or www.24hourfitness.com for more information on classes for adults of all ages and the branch nearest you.

Tailored programs are available for women of all ages at Curves at www.curves.com.

The Hawaii Medical Service Association and Kaiser Permanente Hawaii also offer senior fitness plans. Kaiser offers through its Senior Advantage Plan the “;Silver & Fit”; program, which includes free membership at nearly 60 local participating fitness clubs. HMSA's “;Engaging in Aging”; comprises three two-hour classes that include exercise opportunities.

To find out more, call 948-5555 or visit http://www.hmsa.com, or 432-5955 and http://www.hsblinks.com/jp