The Other Side of 50 April 2011

Fitquest keeps participants on a healthy track

By April 15, 2011

Upon leaving Fitquest Monday morning, two gentlemen said that they were going to go get a beer.

Maybe they were joking, but they wished to remain anonymous.

They’ve been coming to Fitquest for several months. They are among the newest, and perhaps, youngest of Fitquest aficionados who exercise Monday and Thursday from 9-10 a.m.

Fitquest is led by Dr. Stan and Joan Geel and is now held at Foothill Taekwondo, 3519 Broadway in Placerville. Until about two years ago, the popular class took place at Federated Church in Placerville.

The students followed the couple with alacrity, even Herb Blossom, 90, their eldest protegé and a long time attendee of the class.

New place

“Foothill Taekwondo has been so gracious in letting us utilize their studio. It’s really well-designed, and a convenient place for classes,” said Joan, 69. A former physical education teacher specializing in gymnastics, it is evident that she loves people and enjoys her Fitquest role.

“Fitquest is a health and fitness program that emphasizes strength, conditioning, flexibility and fall prevention for older adults,” explained Joan.

She and Stan, 77, are enthusiastic and passionate about their quest to help older adults maintain health, balance and independence. Both glowing with radiant health and good will, they are seniors themselves, helping other seniors.

Great teamwork

Generally, the  congenial class begins with warm greetings all around. Then there is about 10 minutes of fun dance moves to music, led by Joan.

Then Stan, who is a physiologist and certified physical therapist, takes over. He leads the class in an array of exercises, some using resistance bands, which they hand out. Pilate moves and yoga poses are utilized along with a variety of techniques.

While Stan leads the class, Joan monitors the attendees, and gently helps anyone having difficulty. Stan does the same when Joan is instructing, professionally eying any problems.

“Yes, we do that because it is important. Doing the moves correctly can avoid injury and also impart maximum benefit,” Stan said.  “And of course, we always consider limitations; if someone has knee problems, for example, we compensate for that.”

After the exercise routine, it’s time for “Stations.” In this segment, everyone utilizes equipment, such as balls, the low, styrofoam-looking balance beam and mini arm weights of their choice and at their own pace. Stan and Joan are on hand to encourage and to demonstrate proper techniques.

It isn’t an invasive sort of attention. Stan and Joan are just compassionate and helpful. There’s no sense of embarrassment about not being perfect, but safety is paramount.

Then it’s back to standing on the thick mat to do some more movements to music, this time utilizing the arm weights. It’s invigorating, and then it’s time for a few minutes of rest and relaxation.

“This is the fun part,” quipped the anonymous man. “You’ll like this.”

Lying prone and relaxing to the sound of Stan’s melodious South African accent, while breathing properly (four counts in with tongue behind upper teeth and six counts on exhaling with pursed lips) and then the class is over, and everyone seems refreshed and happy.

Perfect practice

“This class is so wonderful,” said Marie Villalobos, 75, looking youthfully radiant. “I’ve had an aneuryism — do you know what that is? Yet I feel great and I’m going strong. This class has helped me immensely.”

Villalobos has been married to her retired Marine husband for some 56 years. He doesn’t come to class because he’s “too macho. He lifts weights,” explained Villalobos, who has come to the class for several years.

Conversely, her youngest son, 44, is a vegetarian and a yoga practicioner. At Fitquest, Villalobos enjoys the best of both worlds herself. Between aerobics, yoga poses and fun, Villalobos maintains that she has survived and remained fit, thanks Fitquest and the Geels.

From arthritis, diabetes and the entire cardiovascular system, it has been proven, according to Stan, that physical activity can improve nearly all conditions, or at least prevent further damage. More and more studies have indicated the value of physical activity.

Golden fitness

Another aficionado is former Golden Rose Vivian Carpender, 81. She’s been taking the class for several years, and seems to be a glowing example of the value of regular exercise. Carpender also takes walks and attends line dancing classes; both mentally and physically she seems to be the poster child of contented and graceful aging.

“My husband Tom is wonderful,” Carpender said. “We’ll have our 60th anniversary this year.”

Clearly being in love with one’s lifelong mate is a harbinger for youth and harmony, as well as positive attitude. However, Carpender, looking svelte and young in blue jeans, doesn’t take her health for granted. She is proactive, going to exercise classes and trying to live a healthy and fit lifestyle.

Perfect practice

Joan and Stan maintain that exercise isn’t the only key to health into the Other Side of 50 years. They walk the walk, eating a healthy diet and hiking whenever they can. They also enjoy their companionship and long-term marriage, and have hobbies and interests. For years, Joan was a sought-after judge for gymnastic competitions throughout the United States, but she recently retired from many of her commitments, except for some California tournaments.

Stan, who was born in South Africa, was a Rugby player. From South Africa, he traveled to Australia and New Zealand, where he flourished in Rugby. Asked if he still plays professionally, he said,

“No it’s too rough for me now.”

He also lifts weights and enjoys horseback riding on his beloved horse, and both he and Joan enjoy their Placerville property, where they have lived for some 22 years. They never had children, but their passion for teaching and practicing fitness has touched many, many lives.

Long live exercise

One of Stan and Joan’s favorite students is Blossom, who has attended class for at least five years. To look at him, no one would know that he is turning 90 on April 30, and that he has had open heart surgery (he has a “pig valve” and a hip replacement), but he faithfully attends classes.

“This class is wonderful,” said Blossom. “It’s certainly helped me to keep me healthy and fit.”

His birthday falls on a Saturday, so the class will celebrate with him on the following Monday. Blossom has no intention of ever foregoing the class. The only time the retired geography professor and associate dean misses is when other engagements or vacations intervene.

Not only is Fitquest appropriate for mature adults, its convenient location at Foothill Taekwondo and twice weekly schedule seems accessible. It is also affordable. Monthly membership is $30, or there is a “drop in” fee of $4 per class. The first session is free.

For more information call the Geels at 530-621-3740 or e-mail them at [email protected].

Email: [email protected]


Susana Carey Wey

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