Shirl Mendonca: Gym allows for different way to get in shape at Lake Wildwood | TheUnion.com
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Shirl Mendonca: Gym allows for different way to get in shape at Lake Wildwood

The Union photo/John Hart
John R. Hart | The Union

Finally, I feel like I have hit pay-dirt — a gym program where no one wears spandex, music is selected based on the age of the “older” participants in each class, progress is fast, and there is a lot of laughter and camaraderie in a relaxed atmosphere.

Many in Lake Wildwood have already discovered Hannah Acosta and her amazing Senior Functional Fitness programs. A former caregiver for nine years and now a Cross Fit certified trainer, Hannah really understands what happens as people age and what it takes to recover from falls, hip replacement, vertigo, shuffling movements, bad knees etc.

Now in her third year at Cross Fit Pick Axe on Whispering Pines Lane in Grass Valley, Hannah combines her caregiver knowledge with her fitness knowledge to create classes that cater to active retirees who want to improve mobility and quality of life as they age.



Based loosely on the Cross Fit training model, Hannah modifies the exercises for seniors using foot coordination drills, squats, the rowing machine and light weights — all geared toward the challenges seniors face at home such as getting up off the floor, reaching for objects overhead and on the floor, and walking on uneven pavement.

Phase One of the program works on confidence, stability and balance. Phase Two focuses on endurance, mobility, light weights and overall cardio health. Phase Three is all about strength, balance and agility, with more complex movements.

Don’t get me wrong, she still has her younger “lean and mean” spandex crowd, and she also has a kid zone so active moms and dads can work out knowing their kids are safe. But their workout routines, class times and background music are totally different, so there is no need for seniors to feel intimidated.




Each Senior Functional Fitness class of six or seven participants meets twice a week. Once she learns the abilities and limitations of each individual in a given class, she sets monthly class goals making sure that each person’s needs are addressed and that each person gets individualized attention.

Phase One of the program works on confidence, stability and balance. Phase Two focuses on endurance, mobility, light weights and overall cardio health. Phase Three is all about strength, balance and agility, with more complex movements.

Everyone joins the class for a different reason. I sought out Hannah after a major asthma attack and a need to rebuild lung capacity. My lungs are fine now but I am enjoying the class so much that I keep going because I love how my agility and strength have improved in just a few months and how much easier it is to work in the garden and to go up and down stairs all day long.

Donna and Alan, both retired, joined after Alan had a hard fall at home which took months to heal. Now they both come twice a week and find that the camaraderie and progress that each participant makes is encouragement to the others and, by the end of a session, everyone feels better for the effort.

“Grandpa,” age 85, has been coming for over a year and joined to keep himself out of a nursing home. Now, with improved balance and coordination, he no longer “shuffles” when he walks and he catches himself if he stumbles preventing a fall. He became my role model when I watched him do about 15 pull-ups with ease, all as a result of these classes.

Barbara, age 93, wanted more agility and balance. She loves that Hannah really understands how we age as seniors and finds the class invigorating. In less than three months, Barbara can do a mile on the rowing machine — as long as Hannah plays her favorite Beach Boys songs so she can sing along. Karen has knee mobility issues and says that she has made more progress with Hannah in two months than her year of physical therapy.

And then there is Carl, age 82, who started out with lots of shoulder and hip issues and has found that both his agility and his coordination have improved in just a few short months.

For more information, you can contact Hannah Acosta at 530-205-5638.

Got a tip about someone or something in Lake Wildwood or Penn Valley? Contact Shirl Mendonca at shirlmendonca@gv.net


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