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Strength for Life stories: Rod’s journey back to racing

"I didn't imagine that doing this program each week would improve my walking as much as it did"

As we age, it’s no surprise that there are several factors that influence our health, fitness and overall well being. 

Our body and its’ functions are vital in being able to do all the things we want to do in life – from the basic movements we do every day to challenging ourselves, having fun and feeling vibrant and active. 

In our Strength for Life classes, held at the Community Centre in Hughes three days a week, we find a lot of our participants tend to come from backgrounds where they are having re-learn and re-train the body in how to do certain activities and movements. Often times, a fall has occurred, or perhaps the participant is in the recovery stage of a surgery or health event. What is most important to instructors during this time is simple: helping participants in going back to basics and creating a tailored exercise program that meets the participant where they are at in their journey. 

If you attend a class when Rod is there, you can feel the positive and friendly energy he emits from across the room. An avid walker who was used to participating in weekly races at his walking club with his wife, he has spent the last year recovering from a muscular tear in his hip. He follows a tailored exercise program at Strength for Life in Hughes twice a week, and had been noticing the improvements in his mobility on a day to day basis – but hadn’t tested it in his ability to race again.

He and his wife decided that walking, as a regular and every day activity, was probably more achievable in the long term due to his injury than racing.

In an attempt not to disappear from the club, though, he decided to give it one last shot to farewell this activity and the club friends he had made along the way. 

“It had been more than a year since our last race, so expectations were very low.” Rod says. “But the competitive urge immediately kicked in, and I went as hard as I could! It was a 4km course. I was extremely surprised at my time, and that my kilometer rate was the best I had achieved in more than 4 years, before my double knee replacement surgery.”

On the way home, Rod and his wife both agreed that they had enjoyed the race, and that they would renew their membership for another year. 

Only after challenging himself to the race did he realise he might be more capable than he thought, even after a few years had passed. Rod says, “I was considerably less sore after a race than usual in my back, legs and arms. How, considering my lack of practice and my unexpectedly good result, was this even possible?”

After some reflection on what he had been doing in the past year, he had the answer. “The only explanation can be the leg strength I have gained through the Strength for Life classes with Diane Percy. The sit to stand exercise and the step ups, the increase in thigh and back strength from the doing the bridge exercise and the arm strength from the weights. When I first signed up to the Strength for Life classes, I was after general strength training in an effort to slow the decline of activity as we age. I didn’t imagine that it would improve my walking, but it must have.”

“So thank you, thank you, thank you for what you have done, and what you are doing.” Says Rod.

Rod’s journey just shows that when we put our minds to starting an activity, however daunting and unknown at first, some unexpectedly positive results can come from it if we are consistent and show up with an open mind.

We are so much more capable than we realise when we put our minds to a goal, commit the time and effort and prioritise our health and wellbeing to continue to lead engaged lives in our community. This is something Rod experienced when he recognised that all that effort compounds over time and could lead to him getting back to racing – reinvigorating his competitive spirit and having a lasting impact on his health.

If you are interested in joining the Strength for Life program or learning more about how you can stay active as you age, contact strengthforlife@cotaact.org.au or call 6282 3777 to inquire about the process of booking a Strength for Life assessment at the Hughes Community Centre or at one of our licensed provider locations in the ACT.