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Focus on Function

Through careful instruction and thoughtful exercise, Valentin helps her client improve physical independence.

Client: George | Personal Trainer: Valentin, owner, Pilates Body by Valentin | Location: Dublin, CA

Weighty issues. George first began working with Valentin in 2006. “He came to me when he was at his maximum weight,” she recalls. “He was waddling around with a pair of bad knees and needed to get the strength to do activities of daily living.”

However, trying to exercise with a 340-pound body was a struggle. Over the next several years, George’s visits with Valentin were inconsistent. He often felt discomfort in his joints during exercise, and his size prevented him from accessing much of the Pilates equipment. Frustrated with weight-related limitations, he enrolled in a medically supervised weight management program through Kaiser health care. “With weekly guidance, meetings, menu planning and personal motivation, my Georgie lost 100 pounds,” says Valentin.

Fall prevention. In September 2011, George and Valentin began working together twice per week to improve his mobility and stability. “I watched him walk, stand, sit, turn and rotate,” she says. “I wanted to know how long he could walk before he became tired, and I wanted to know how he managed to stand up and sit down with and without assistance. These activities of daily living were difficult for him.”

George’s struggle to maneuver around his house had become quite troublesome. Valentin recalls that George “mentioned that several of the local firemen knew him because whenever he fell—which was quite often—they would have to come to the house to pick him up. So, we also worked on arm strength. All of these goals were to make George more independent.”

The walk dance. One of George’s biggest issues involved walking. “For decades, he was used to waddling side-to-side to hold the balance of his weight,” says Valentin. “Walking with one foot in front of the other in a small space while turning was something his joints, vestibular system and center of gravity were not used to.”

One day, Valentin had a lightbulb moment. “I asked George what he was going to do after the session; he said he was going to watch Dancing With the Stars. Now, Georgie and I practice weight shift, balance and turning while doing the basic cha, cha, cha!” Valentin adds that another benefit to introducing choreography into George’s program is that it helps preserve memory. “Simple as [the steps] may be, for a man of Georgie’s age (73), [remembering them] is not easy!”

Another concern involved George’s diet. “I need to be aware of his exhaustion because he is on a limited-calorie diet,” she says. “Repetitions need to be limited. Sometimes his blood pressure is too low and he experiences dizziness. [When] I recognize this in his eyes, we quit whatever we are doing and wait it out.”

A successful session. Each 30-minute session is programmed to include all necessary components. George begins with a walking warm-up, good-morning stretches and some squats with weights. Valentin then transitions him to the reformer for knee, foot and ankle flexibility exercises. These are followed by leg and core endurance work using a chair. “I like to work him vertically after supine [exercises],” Valentin adds. “We move to the trapeze table and focus on core strength to include arms and legs with springs.”

Next, they practice squats and arm work with resistance on the tower. This is followed by hip swings and knee lifts to help with his walking. Each session concludes with stretching.

Independence day. Overall, George has experienced significant progress during his 7 months with Valentin. He counts among his many victories his ability to go from sitting to standing without assistance 15 times before resting. He can also lie down on and get up from the reformer without help.

“I think it is important to challenge elderly people to try to do things they have never done,” George says. “I was cautious about some things Valentin had me doing, but I found I could do most things well. Valentin often says I’m the most agile old man in her studio.”

calling all

Do you have a client who has overcome the odds to achieve new heights in health and fitness? Send your story to [email protected] and you and your client may be featured in an upcoming issue of IDEA Fitness Journal.


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Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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