Retired volunteers stay active by leading exercise classEven in retirement, former teacher Donna Beal hasn’t gotten far from the classroom. Retirement hasn’t kept B.J. Shaw, a former manager at McDonald’s, from being a leader, either.
By: Joseph Boushee, Grand Forks Herald
Even in retirement, former teacher Donna Beal hasn’t gotten far from the classroom.
Retirement hasn’t kept B.J. Shaw, a former manager at McDonald’s, from being a leader, either.
But instead of helping elementary school students build their minds, or helping employees build their service skills, Beal and Shaw are helping seniors build their bones.
Beal and Shaw, who volunteer with the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, lead an exercise class at the Grand Forks Senior Center called Bone Builders. It’s a free, RSVPsponsored program for people 55 and older that uses weight training and balance exercises to prevent or reverse osteoporosis, ease the discomfort of arthritis and increase strength and mobility.
“I like to teach and that’s basically what I’m doing here,” Beal says. “Once a teacher, always a teacher.”
“I enjoy it. I really do,” Shaw adds.
Bone Builders, now in its third year, involves repetitions of slow, controlled arm and leg exercises with the use of weights.
Beal covers Bone Builders classes at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Shaw leads the 9 a.m. sessions on Tuesdays and Fridays. Participants usually attend twice a week, with each session running about an hour.
“It’s a positive kind of exercise program,” Beal says. “I like the routine of it. I like the teaching part of it. I like to see people smiling and happy. We laugh a lot.”
Trainers, as Beal and Shaw are called, lead the class by conducting each exercise and
TRAINERS: See Page 5 counting aloud through the repetitions. They guide participants — who count along, as well — through each movement, making sure the exercises are being done properly, and to each participant’s ability and comfort level.
“I think I just try to be positive about it,” Beal says. “We all can’t do everything the same way. The whole emphasis is do what you can, be aware of your pain (tolerance).”
“I try to be enthusiastic,” Shaw adds. “Everybody tries really hard.”
Class members turned trainers
Beal and Shaw both started as class participants, but moved into trainer positions when the classes needed leaders.
Beal had two partial knee replacements in 2006. She tried physical therapy, but ultimately sought a less intense, low-impact workout. She joined Bone Builders in May 2010, the first year the program was offered. She moved into a training role in the fall because she wants to be an advocate for the program and help people realize that they can have fun while exercising.
“Everybody smiles, everybody leaves happy. It’s just a warm, nice group, and people really like it,” Beal says.
After undergoing a scan that revealed below-normal bone density, Shaw sought out an exercise program to help build up her bone strength. She read a notice about Bone Builders in the senior center newsletter and joined the class.
“I thought, ‘This would be a good thing for me to try,”’ Shaw says.
She’ll mark three years as a trainer in July, and she’s still seeing the benefits, including stronger bones.
“My doctor said, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing,’” Shaw says.
Among other benefits, the exercises have enabled participants to get in and out of their cars move easily, move up and down stairs with less strain and get up from a chair without losing their balance.
“People have seen a difference,” Beal says. “It won’t do it in a week. You gotta hang in there.”
The most rewarding part of training?
“To see people try so hard to do what they can to the best of their ability,” Beal says. “It’s a good thing. We’re still here and we’re still trying.”
Classes generally have 15 to 18 members per session, sometimes more. Though it’s open to men, too, the class is all women right now.
Beal and Shaw say they’ve become close with class members, some of whom have been participating since the class began in 2010.
It’s a social group as much as an exercise class, they say, with members commonly exchanging recipes, gardening secrets and filling each other in on their family lives. They send get-well cards if someone is out for a surgery. They call ahead if they won’t be able to make a session. They meet for coffee after class.
“We get along really good,” Shaw says. “We’ve gotten to be good friends.”
Copyright 2013, Grand Forks Herald.