Running Away From Injury and Being ‘Old’

Sep 30, 2015
Ashley Ann Lawrie


When we spoke with David Cluff, he was back training in the gym a day after taking part in the 2015 Canada Army Run.

That’s pretty good for a 68-year-old man once dogged by recurring injuries. Throughout his working life, David had attempted to offset long hours at a desk job by running and cycling. But poor balance often left him injured, most often with a turned ankle.

As he neared his mid-60s, David felt the pressing need to engage in what he calls “preventative maintenance.” While his mother had lived in good health to 98, his father had passed away at a much younger age. And he saw how the health of his wife’s parents was deteriorating through their 80s.

“Most elderly people start declining once they have a fall,” he said. “I realized I needed to do something to improve my health and reduce my risks.”

Poor balance and stability are signs of muscle imbalance and weakness in the core and legs. It takes the right program of weight training to condition these muscle groups and get the most out of favourite physical activities.

It was David’s wife who brought him to Free Form Fitness three years ago. Three sessions a week working with the FFF team has made a profound difference in his strength, speed and posture. In addition to the gym, David will often jog the 1.5 kilometres back and forth from home, and run five km a couple of times a week.

senior exercise

“Training at FFF has made me much more stable,” he said. “I haven’t had an accident or fall since I came here. It’s slow and steady progress.”

The other difference has come in the kitchen, where he and his wife have learned to cut back on their favourite carbs – breads and desserts – and generally eat healthier. He said goodbye to nicotine gum this year as the last step to quit smoking. His body responded by wanting to gain weight. Sticking with a routine of healthy eating has been critical for David to keep his body fat where he wants it.

“The plan here is just common sense,” he said. “Watch the volume you eat and the types of food you eat.”

After three years, David still relies on the counsel and motivation of his trainer, Vania Hau.

“Vania makes sure I do the exercise in the correct form, to get the maximum benefit without injuring myself,” he said. “In a way it’s like playing the piano—when I was younger, I had taught myself, but I started taking lessons and found out I hadn’t taught myself correctly.

“Theoretically, I could do all this by myself now, but it wouldn’t be the same.” he added. “It’s the discipline and the variety, it’s never boring and always challenging. You’re competing against yourself, which is part of the motivation.”

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