Health: Personal trainer helps motivate senior at home

Wayne Babcock didn’t celebrate when his wife gave him a three-month personal training package for his 70th birthday in 2013.

“I had mixed feelings,” Babcock said.

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But more than a year later, Babcock is hooked on working out with certified personal trainer Yvette Ravai twice a week.

“In the beginning it was kind of a struggle and I probably, to be honest, didn’t look forward to it,” Babcock said. “And then I started to see some benefits from it. Now, I really miss it if I miss a session.”

Ravai trains Babcock in his Fairview condominium building’s gym, so he doesn’t have to brave torrential downpours, commute or cough up a gym membership.

“It’s more convenient,” he said.

Ravai brings dumbbells, exercise bands and medicine, Swiss and BOSU balls.

“When it was very hot over the summer, we just went out into the courtyard,” Babcock said.

Ravai reports she requested a doctor’s note from Babcock, as she does for all of her clients who are older than 60, before they got physical.

“Even though she or he appears to be a healthy person, you just don’t know,” she said.

Ravai conducts a free health consultation with prospective clients to learn about any health problems and what motivates and demotivates them.  

Babcock went for a full physical four or five months after he started personal training. A cardiac stress test revealed his blood pressure recovered faster than it previously had following intense exercise.

“I feel stronger. I am stronger,” Babcock said. “Certainly, I feel much better after a session, tired physically but buoyed up mentally.”

Ravai charges $65 an hour and says personal training fees in Vancouver range from $50 to $100 an hour.

“It’s not cheap, but for me it’s worthwhile,” said Babcock, who ran a public oil and gas company before he retired. “It’s a quality of life issue… The way I’m doing it is gold-plated, probably, but it doesn’t have to be that way.”

Ravai, a certified personal trainer for two-and-a-half years, began her career at a women’s gym and then opted to work privately, winning new clients through word-of-mouth.

She’s trained clients aged 16 to 80 and draws those who have little recent experience working out. Ravai has trained people with type 1 and 2 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, knee, back and neck problems.

Babcock, a walker and golfer who had also tried yoga, favours Ravai’s approach.

“We all have the idea that you’re going to get some gung-ho master sergeant who’s going to drill you up and down,” he said. “It probably is a fear that a lot of people have when they think about doing it. Yvette’s not like that. She’s very gentle.”

Ravai says most of her clients crave the privacy that personal training affords. They’d feel self-conscious at a gym.

“A lot of my clients are quite busy, so time is a huge factor,” she added.

But the main advantage of personal training, according to Ravai, is accountability.

“A lot of people procrastinate,” she said.

There was a pregnant pause when the Courier asked Babcock how often he heads to the gym to do strengthening exercises when Ravai’s not around.

He’s more apt to take a long walk or to hit the treadmill.

But Dr. Larry Dian, an expert on aging, told the Courier in a previous interview that resistance training to minimize muscle loss should be the focus between age 50 and 75.

Babcock said Ravai changes his program every three to four weeks.

Ravai offers circuit, strength, endurance and flexibility training and nutritional counselling. She helps her clients set realistic goals and designed a routine Babcock could do on a cruise last spring.

So did he work out while on board?

“I might have,” Babcock said with a laugh.

Ravai also helped him train for a 120-mile walk Babcock completed with his wife Patricia along the River Thames in England.

“We had two 17-mile days, several 14-mile days,” he said. “I could really tell that my fitness level was good.”

Ravai suggests those with tight budgets to work with a trainer at least once a month to make sure they’re performing moves correctly and to alter their routine so they see results.

Ravai recommends finding trainers through gyms, on LinkedIn or, preferably, through word-of-mouth. She also recommends confirming a trainer is certified and considering their area of specialty.

“If I’m Suzy, and I’m in my 40s and I’m new to exercise, do I want to be training with a personal trainer who just deals with elite athletes?” she said.

Ravai noted trainers who work at gyms might be required to “pump sales.”

“Say it’s $60 an hour, the trainer is getting very little of that money,” she said. “It’s going to the gym, so that trainer is not giving the best service sometimes.”

Ravai earned her certification through the American Council on Exercise, or ACE, which certifies her internationally. Other trainers seek certification through the B.C. Recreation and Parks Association, or BCRPA.

Ravai said trainers study anatomy, physiology, nutrition and the psychology of motivation. She is trained in first aid and in using a defibrillator and is required to continue her education. Certification must be validated every two years.

Babcock has seen his wife grow stronger from the personal training sessions she does at her gym and that’s also inspired him to continue working out.

“I’m just much more flexible. I’m much stronger and I can feel it in everyday life,” Babcock said.

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