In the weeks after the coronavirus forced UK gyms to close, many enterprising trainers shifted their classes online. That’s easy enough if your clientele consists of digital natives with MacBook Pros, but a little harder when they’re retirees.
Inspired by the gains made by his PT clients (among whom is a swole septuagenarian), Ty Paul decided to launch a fitness class for over-60s last year. It had occurred to him that most gym timetables catered almost exclusively to the young and limber. Even modest amounts of strength building can have a major impact on older people’s quality of life, yet seniors remained a neglected group.
His first class, held in a local church hall, attracted 65 people. “Its popularity blew me away,” he says. Paul scaled workouts to ensure that they were as accessible for a 90-year-old with mobility issues as for a squat-jumping 60-year-old. A representative from Age UK invited Paul to trial his classes in care homes.
Then the country went into lockdown. Community centres closed; care homes stopped admitting visitors. With most of his trainees considered high risk and faced with long-term isolation, Paul worried about the effect on their mental and physical health. “They needed my help more than ever,” he says.
First, he spent two days calling everyone who had attended one of his classes. Next, he drove to their homes, delivering disinfected resistance bands and a step-by-step guide to using Zoom. It worked. Not only were the lockdown sessions popular, they became a social hub. “People who’d never met before are now friends because of these Zoom classes,” he says.
Helping people chase short-term aesthetic goals isn’t something that excites Paul. He is part of a GP referral scheme, which offers free workouts to people with high BMIs; his ambition is to move into NHS aftercare, working with patients who are recovering from surgery or other issues. “It’s never been my thing to help people get in shape for Marbella,” he says. “Helping people to transform their lifestyles and rebuild their self-confidence is so much more rewarding.
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