About three years ago, I was in my late 60’s and felt like it. I took long walks, but I wasn’t very steady on my feet. I did resistance exercises on a couple of pieces of equipment, but whenever I tried to build up my strength, I’d throw out my back or wrench a shoulder. And picking up something from the floor was a multi-step process. I should do something about this, I thought.
Around that time, I started to see Derrick Johnson, the operator of SoLi Fitness, at McMichael Park events. He was hard to miss, because whenever we needed to move a big fallen branch, he was the go-to person. Derrick brought some business cards for SoLi Fitness to a meeting of Friends of McMichael Park, and I picked one up. After a couple of weeks, I gave him a call, explained my situation, and asked if he’d work with someone like me.
He responded by meeting with me for a full hour, talking about my goals and asking me to try some simple exercises I hadn’t seen before. (I couldn’t do most of the exercises.) I was impressed by his patience and willingness to discuss and listen to some of my concerns regarding my past and present injuries and ailments list. Near the end of the hour, he explained how he could work with me, and I signed up.
I worked with Derrick for one-hour session each week, and I generally repeated the session on my own twice more during the week. These first sessions were a revelation. Derrick focused on the fundamentals – how to warm up, how to synchronize my breathing with the exercises, and how to stretch after a workout. The workouts themselves focused on strengthening my deep core muscles (not the “six-pack” but some of the other stabilization muscles that we don’t tend to hear about) which led to improving my balance, while gradually limbering up my entire body. The workouts really were work, but for once I didn’t have to back off because of injury.
In the beginning, I thought I’d work with Derrick for a few months, learn some key exercises, and then continue on my own. But as I progressed, so did the the workouts, becoming more varied and more complex. I was getting steadier on my feet, more flexible, and stronger, still with no injuries.
Plus, I was sleeping better, getting more done at work, and dreading yard work much less. Seeing the value of expert guidance led me to resume piano lessons for the first time since I was 14 years old, and this time around I appreciated my teacher’s focus on the fundamentals.
The year 2020 was not only the year of the pandemic, it was my first year of retirement. My goal for the year was to write and publish a book, and the habits I was still learning from Derrick – focusing on the basics, taking things one step at a time – paid off. So did Derrick’s sincere encouragement when I hit the inevitable rough patches. The book came out in December.
After three years of working with SoLi Fitness, my motivation remains high. It’s generally easier to get things done. Every couple of months, I notice that I’m doing something in my everyday life that I couldn’t do before -- I can lug a 50-pound bag of fertilizer more easily, I finally have the strength to muscle open a window that was stuck for years, and so on. And there’s nothing like a hard but safe workout to improve my mental focus.
This year, it’s time to work on running. With Derrick’s help, I’ll set some modest goals, and I’m confident that Derrick will guide me to meet and exceed my expectations.