Fitness is a key component in a heart and brain healthy lifestyle.
Just returning from my fitness center I thought that I would explore the kind of fitness center that has worked for me, a stroke survivor, and may well assist you.
I mentioned this in an earlier blog post – before proceeding please check with your physician, to see if they have any recommendations and if they approve your fitness plans. Also, these are my opinions, not medical advice.
HOSPITAL AFFILIATED AND CONVENIENT
First, I suggest a fitness center that is affiliated with a hospital if it’s available in your geography. My observation in various geographies in the US is that they are more handicap friendly and therefore are probably best for a stroke survivor. In Naples where we live, there are two such centers, both affiliated with NCH, the hospital. One is Downtown and the other in North Naples.
In Stamford, CT, where we lived before, we moved south there is a great center affiliated with Stamford Hospital. Traveling I have found similar affiliations. Sometimes they are at the hospital campus, and other times, free standing.
I also suggest that you go to a center that is no more than twenty minutes from your home or office. If it’s convenient you will probably go more often.
THE THINGS I LOOK FOR
When looking at a fitness center for the first time most people casually walk around the center looking at the equipment, and perhaps the ages and people using the facility. Also, the hours and access for off-hours. So, do I.
An important consideration is the locker room – is it well equipped, clean, have a sauna, pool etc. If you are going to shower, is that convenient and clean? Is the locker room comfortable, sized properly to the membership? Sized properly means the locker room is not a mad house at peak times, typically after 5 pm during the week and on Saturday mornings. Do you have to bring your own towels or does the center supply them?
When looking at the facility, I suggest trying, or at least sitting on the equipment, not just looking. Are they comfortable, easy to use, and clean? How many machines, if any, are out of order? Does it seem as though there are enough machines of the kind you prefer in the center for its membership, or does it seem as though you often might have to wait? If there are sign-up boards, that might be a hint that there are waits at peak times like Saturday mornings. Are there cleaning pads or liquids to use on the equipment?
I always ride a recumbent bike for my aerobics. It’s best if those bikes have foot straps that are easily adjustable. Since my right foot is challenged, I like a foot strap so that my foot does not constantly slip off the pedal, thereby disturbing my exercise. In some facilities these straps are either not present, or are hard to adjust, requiring attendant assistance. That’s a pain but I’ve never had that problem in hospital-affiliated centers.
Another machine I think is appropriate for stroke survivors is the Nu Step, which again is very easy to utilize. I often see handicapped folks using them. But frankly, you don’t have to be handicapped to use any of this equipment.
Everyone needs to stretch, but even more so as we age or are disabled. For that reason, I particularly like a padded stretching table in the facility. These are more likely found in a hospital-affiliated center, at least that’s been my experience. That said, in Austin, TX, we found a great fitness center that used massage tables as stretching tables which is fine. Either way, I can do my important stretches without having to go down on the floor and then pull myself up.
About free weights, I like it if the weight gradients are 2½ lbs., rather than 5 lbs. that I often see in hotels and some other fitness centers. This is more in keeping with my one-step process – small steps!
The fitness staff is another important consideration. I always look for a CPR trained and certified staff member to be available. Those folks should also be readily available to assist members without someone having to chase around the center looking for them.
Just as an aside, I’ve found that I go more often when there is some sense of camaraderie or friendliness in the facility, be it the staff or other members or both.
CAREGIVER ROLE AND NEEDS
Remember, your caregiver partner may want to weigh in on the facility decision. Which brings me to another point. Your caregiver partner needs to have their own fitness regimen. Whether classes or machines, or both – the caregiver partner needs to focus on the health while assisting the survivor. There should be no guilt about this! If your caregiver accompanies you, what is their fitness plan? If they need to help the survivor, then leave time and plan to park the survivor on a chair in a facility lounge so that the caregiver can do their thing.
Debbie doesn’t normally accompany me but when we travel, we try to work out. If we don’t use a hotel gym, I always look for a fitness center where there are classes for Debbie while I am on machines.
YOUR DECISION AND COACHING TO HELP
No center is going to be perfect! If there is a trial period at a fitness center, avail yourself of it. If not, ask for one, explaining that you are handicapped and need to see if you can handle it.
You WILL WANT TO THINK through your needs and what is most important to you. Then make your decision.
Part – 2 of 2 of Fitness
Find out more in Part – 1