Chair fitness: a cure for stress

feline chair fitness

This week, I quit going to a counselor to talk about the anxiety I experience every time I read or hear the name of our President in the media or in conversation with friends. Talking to her was calming and I found some of her relaxation techniques — all of which I knew about, but never actually tried — helpful.

I decided not to see her again for three reasons.  First, she’s hearing the same symptoms from many of her clients, has experienced them herself, and is running out of suggestions for solutions that don’t involve moving abroad.  Second, I’m spending too many hours of my life at appointments, from physical therapy to chiropractic to pedicures. (And no, I’m not giving up the pedicures.) Third, I think I’ve found something better, namely putting my body through exercise hell, which forces me to focus exclusively on the pain and ignore politics.

I have enrolled in many fitness classes over the years. In my head I am still able to jump high, run fast, lift fifty pound weights, hike to the top of Mt. Si, and cross-country ski for miles and miles.  These days, I am always shocked to find out that I can’t do any of these things.

This should explain my reaction when a trainer at my local Y suggested I try their “Chair Fitness” class.  Chair fitness?  Really? This woman and I took an impossibly difficult exercise class together years ago. Admittedly, she was much younger and stronger — and a bit of a show off — but I forgave her for besting me in every exercise drill because of her youth.

She handed me the class schedule and I took it from her with more enthusiasm than I felt, then crumpled it up when I got home. A few weeks later I thought about her recommendation again.  Currently, all I do for exercise is walk.  And I find I am having trouble carrying the hundred pound bag of groceries that the teenage box girl hands to me with a smirk and says, “Have a nice day,” which really means, “I dare you to get this one all the way to your car.”

Two weeks ago, I walked into Chair Fitness and glanced smugly at my new classmates, all of whom seemed downright elderly. One of them advised me to pick up my weights, ball and resistance band before we got started and to put some distance between myself and the person next to me so we wouldn’t be hitting each other. This sounded wilder than I expected.

Since then I’ve attended four Chair Fitness classes and two Chair Yoga sessions. These have disabused me of any thoughts that they are for wusses.  We spend a lot of time out of our chairs and even when we’re sitting, we’re still moving all our body parts. And all mine are sore.

Anyone who’s practiced yoga is familiar with the tree pose.  We do this standing behind our chairs, which are there to grab on to if we need them.  The instructor says this pose is known to reduce anxiety since it calls for our complete attention. If our minds wander we fall. There is no way to do the pose successfully and think about national politics or anything else going on in our lives.

If I cannot sleep tonight I hope it will be from muscle pain instead of anxiety, though the email I just got from a friend about our president did raise the anxiety level. Maybe I also need to stop reading emails.



About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness. Also, I'm on the third draft of my second novel since retirement.
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11 Responses to Chair fitness: a cure for stress

  1. Barb de Michele says:

    Gosh, I hope that email that caused you anxiety wasn’t from me! PBS has (or at least used to have) a delight series of chair yoga that I’ve been using for a long time. And I agree, it’s not for wusses.

  2. ann oxrieder says:

    Yes. It was your email.

  3. Charla Garth says:

    I’m going to go do the tree pose right now and imagine my foot standing on donnie’s mouth and neck…hard. I’m no lightweight. Thanks for the suggestion.

  4. Shirley Atkins says:

    Hi Ann,

    I have enjoyed your posts for some time but haven’t taken the time to let you know how much. Your timing on some of them is amazing, especially this one. I had not considered that counseling might be available for my extremely strong negative reaction every time I even see a picture of the current POTUS. I know it can be helpful when one learns they are not alone in their feelings. I am also aware that it helps to have someone to talk to about those feelings. I usually don’t like to get started talking about that man because I get so agitated. I’m feeling my blood starting to boil even as I’m writing this. Maybe it’s time for some professional help.

    You mention pedicures. That is something that I, too, do not want to give up; but, I seem to be on an ongoing quest to find just the right person to do mine. I have given up on several nail salons for various reasons. I was given a gift certificate by a good friend to a spa nearby. There I met a fifty something woman named Kathy who spoke my kind of English, was a joy to talk with, and gave me wonderful pedicures. She retired for health reasons. I then started seeing Shannon, another woman in the same spa who was great for all the same reasons as Kathy. She retired last summer to take care of her young grandchildren. Since then, I have been going to one of the many nail salons in and around Issaquah and am about to give up on that one (long story why) and continue my search. Do you have a good recommendation?

    And then you brought up exercise. Have you been reading my mind? I remember when you had us doing exercises in the old ESC. I’ve participated in different types of exercise programs over the years and even used to walk over two miles early in the morning before going to work. Lately, I have been asking myself why I’m not getting the exercise I know I need and used to like. For the first time that I can remember, I have all the time in the world. There’s nothing stopping me but me. Thanks for the wakeup call. I needed that.

    I’m looking forward to your next post and can’t wait to see what’s on your mind.

    Shirley Atkins


  5. ann oxrieder says:

    It’s great to hear from you, Shirley. Yes, exercise helps with the stress of the current political situation as does having someone to talk to about it, someone trained to help, that is. I don’t have anyone to recommend for pedicures, no one with whom to have a good conversation anyway. Coffee sometime? I go to Issaquah often if that’s where you are.

  6. Darlene says:

    Love this one, Ann. Perhaps I’ll look into a “chair” class near me! Cute photo of your kitty as well—

  7. dkzody says:

    This past year has caused so much anxiety and sadness. I’ve developed high blood pressure and I think it’s because of our crazy national situation. I spend lots of time exercising and meditating and praying. I really don’t want to have to take medication for the blood pressure problem, but since I’m doing what I can already, I wonder…

  8. Karen Klein says:

    Ann, Thank you for writing about the stress caused by the current political environment, as well as suggesting good alternatives to sitting there hoping the world will right itself before my eyes so I can get up off the couch and move on with my life. (Hey, that chair exercise sounds interesting.)

  9. Yoga looks easy, but trust me, it’s not! Until you develop some strength, you need to work very hard at just doing the basics. So worth it, though, once you master a few poses!

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