Staying young – Fitness classes at CrossFit aimed at seniors

Laramie Boomerang (WY) – Thursday, January 29, 2015


New fitness classes intended for seniors are designed to help participants improve strength, flexibility, mobility and aerobic fitness. 

Rachel Carr, owner of CrossFit Laramie, is organizing the classes, scheduled to start Tuesday at the gym, 1404 Skyline Road. The classes are intended for seniors 60 and older.

The Move Well, Be Well series is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Fridays. It’s set to run in three-week blocks of progressive skill-building. The cost is $10 per class.

The earlier class is set to focus on mobility, flexibility and functional movement in everyday life for those who aren’t very active, Carr said. The second class will focus on aerobic fitness and strength for seniors who are already active.

The classes aren’t designed for different age groups but rather for different activity and ability levels, Carr said.

“One group would be the people that are more active and mobile, that are already the skiers, bikers, swimmers and whatever else, and have them do focus on strength, flexibility and aerobic fitness,” she said.

The class focusing on mobility is intended to help seniors maintain or regain fitness that will aid their day-today activities. For example, the class might help a person who struggles to get up from the ground after a fall.

“Maybe they’re the ones who need a little bit more help to be more self-sufficient,” Carr said.

Participants are welcome to decide which class they think would suit them best, she said.

The classes are set to be taught by Michael “Joe” O’Leary, a trainer at CrossFit Laramie who specializes in improving mobility.

Linda Pickel, a registered nurse who works for the Eppson Center for Seniors, said she’s been working out with Carr for several weeks after realizing her overall strength was not good.

“I went to a physical therapist and she had me do a sit-up and I couldn’t even do a sit-up,” said Pickel, who is in her mid-60s. “It was an eye-opener for me.”

After several weeks of fitness classes, she’s noticed a difference.

“I feel like my joints are just unlocked,” she said. “I’m loosening up.”

Pickel encouraged other seniors to prioritize basic fitness as a way to maintain their lifestyles, regardless of whether they like to be active.

“We need to have some strength so we can continue to do the things we want to do,” she said.

Pickel said she has plenty of room for improvement with her own fitness, but she also plans to stay active for decades to come.

“I would highly recommend that whatever a person decides to do, that they do something just to keep themselves going,” she said.

“The 60s and 70s are still very young.”


Setting health and fitness goals

Laramie Boomerang (WY) – Thursday, January 22, 2015


The start of the New Year is a great time to develop or rework a plan for your physical fitness. The most important part is figuring out why you want to become more fit.

It sounds simple but it’s actually a critical piece of your success. If weight loss is your goal you could have a slightly different plan than someone whose goal is to build strength or endurance. Once you know what you want it becomes much easier to determine what you need to do to achieve it. If re-working last year’s goal(s) is in order, now is the time to look back on what worked, what didn’t and what you can do in 2015 to achieve better results.


Be specific. Write out exactly what you want. If weight loss is your goal; how much? If getting stronger is your goal, how are you going to do it? If you want to improve on a specific skill such as biking, skiing, swimming, running, etc.; what precisely are you going to do to achieve the desired outcome? Knowing what you want in the long term will help you set up a program to achieve your goals and provide the motivation to get there.


If your long term goal is to lose 20 pounds, set short term goals as smaller steps to get there. These smaller steps should specify what, how much, when and how often you will do the things that will get you closer to your long-term goal.

For example, a smaller step might be to attend an exercise class three times a week after work for a minimum of four weeks. Each time you attend, you’ve taken one step closer to your goal. If your goal is to increase how much weight you can lift, your steps will revolve around progressively increasing your weight lifted until you build up to your desired amount.


The best way to remain committed to your plan is to record what you’re doing. Track your accomplishments, failures, trials and tribulations. They’re all important for seeing the bigger picture. Write down specifics of what, when, where and for how long you worked out. Record comments about how you felt before and after. Was eating lunch before the workout a good idea? Did the late night out make it challenging or impossible to get out of bed the next morning? Keep notes about your progress and use the information as motivation to stay the course or change tactics.


Long-term goals can be easy to lose track of. Setting shorter term, working goals and using the steps to get there will help keep your goals in sight. By writing down exactly what you want, setting well planned smaller steps, you’ll find what once seemed impossible is the inevitable successful result of a series of hard earned achievements — ones you planned for and executed.

Rachel Carr is an M. Ed in health promotion/wellness management, and the owner and head coach at CrossFit

Laramie and Wyoming Weightlifting. She can be reached at

Memo: Exercise is good for everybody

Exercise isn’t just for athletes. It’s for you. It’s for everyone.

It help people boost energy, get fit, lose weight and even sleep better. A few minutes a day is all it takes. Combine both strength and aerobic focused work for efficiency. Follow the “FIT” formula to set a plan and keep focused:

“F” for Frequency: Or how many times a week you exercise. Build strength and endurance working out 3-5 times per week.

“I” for Intensity: Or how hard you work during your exercise session. A workout should challenge you, raise heart rate and increase body temperature.

“T” for Time: Workout times might vary by intensity level. Mix in longer and shorter duration workouts with both strength and aerobic components to get the most out of your time and effort.


New Year — New You

Laramie Boomerang (WY) – Thursday, January 1, 2015


Many of us start the New Year with great resolve to be the healthiest and best versions of ourselves. We are determined to add exercise to our daily routine to be that strong, healthy person we know we can be.

So why do 50 percent of us who start drop out before realizing and achieving our goals? Here are four keys to getting the results you want and staying true to your New Year’s exercise resolutions.

1: Have fun — Select an activity that you actually like. Pick an activity that allows you to achieve a level of competence and gives you a feeling of success when completed. This could be walking with friends, taking a class, joining an exercise group, etc. You’ll be more likely to stick with your program if you like what you’re doing and feel satisfied for having done it. Choose activities that you “want” to do, instead of those you think you “should” do.

2: Find a friend — It’s okay to tackle your goals by yourself, but support is important. Having a friend, spouse or coworker involved keeps your progress consistent and you accountable. We all have days when getting our exercise in is challenging. Your support person(s) will encourage you to show up and continue when you don’t feel like it.

3: Write it down — Knowing exactly what you’re doing, when, and how often you’re doing it is a great motivator. It also makes it more difficult to avoid reality. Without a record, it’s easy to overestimate what you’re doing and allow outside distractions to get in your way. Keeping track of your exercise is a fantastic way to gauge and see progress over time.

4: Make it important — Integrate exercise into your life and make it a priority. Avoid making it an added chore. Having a regular workout time will help you stick with your routine after the newness has worn off. A flexible schedule often backfires as it allows you to miss sessions. And we all know once you’ve missed one; it’s easier to miss others.

Rachel Carr is an M. Ed in health promotion/wellness management, and the owner and head coach at

CrossFit Laramie and Wyoming Weightlifting. She can be reached at



Laramie Boomerang 08/02/2015, Page B01


Keep on moving
Senior commits to workout routine


At CrossFit Laramie one morning last week, Keith Birks, 91, worked through a series of exercises under the eye of trainer Rachel Carr.

After doing squats from a sitting position on a box, he moved on to situps, then the rowing machine.

Carr gave him a pile of sandbags to heft over a bar situated at shoulderheight. One by one, Keith stooped, lifted and pushed the bags. They landed back on the floor with a thunk.

“There’s nothing I can give him that he’s afraid to do,” said Carr, owner and head coach at CrossFit Laramie.

Keith, a World War II veteran and retired teacher, started a new exercise routine in spring after seeing a flyer at Eppson Center for Seniors. After a few months of twice-weekly workouts, he’s reporting improved balance, flexibility, strength and confidence.

“You have to have some type of activity to keep those muscles and nerve endings activated,” he said.

“Sitting around watching television, you can get old in a hurry.”

Keith, who graduated from high school in 1942, joined the U.S. Navy flight program Dec. 7 of that year, on the anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor. After four years of active duty, he spent 12 years in the reserve and another 16 flying helicopters with the South Dakota National Guard.

He also taught school for 40 years and later joined the teacher education program at the University of Wyoming. Keith and his wife, Dorothy, enjoyed traveling around the world after their retirement and put 150,000 miles on a motorhome that took them across the U.S.

He played a variety of sports in his younger days, including football, basketball, baseball, track and field and boxing.

“I was about to flunk out of school because all I did was sports,” he said.

These days, Keith plays drums with the jazz section at the senior center, and he and his wife travel the country visiting children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“We love traveling,” he said.

Keith no longer drives and said sitting in the passenger seat of a vehicle for long hours is tough on his body. He also started struggling to stand up from a chair, sometimes enlisting the outstretched arm of a friend to regain his feet.

He walks with the help of a cane that alerts him to obstacles he can’t see, but falls sometimes happen when he trips over something on the ground.

“When you get older, your body starts deteriorating,” he said.

Carr, who started the Move Well, Be Well fitness classes for seniors this winter, said the goal for Keith’s workout routine is to gain fitness that aids day-to-day activities. That means working on balance, flexibility and strength.

She said she’s been impressed by his commitment and has seen a tangible increase in his overall fitness.

“He’s a lot stronger and more stable,” she said.

Keith said he’s noticed little things.

His back doesn’t hurt as much when he gets out of bed in the morning. His hands haven’t been numb for a few weeks. He feels as if his balance has improved, and he can stand up from a chair without needing extra support.

“I’m not perfect, but I’m a lot better than what it was,” he said.

Dorothy said she’s noticed a change in her husband. Whenever they’re in town, working out is part of his weekly routine.

“He’s so devoted to exercise,” she said.

Keith said he’d recommend exercise classes to other seniors hoping to keep the aging process at bay as long as possible.

“It has done a lot,” he said.



Laramie Boomerang (WY) – Sunday, April 6, 2014


When considering joining a gym it’s important to do your research before spending your precious time and money.

Finding the perfect fit isn’t difficult if you know what to look for and what questions to ask. Since it’s a personal and financial decision, it’s wise to research your options to get the most out of your investment.

Other than a free workout and facility tour, which every gym should offer, there are a few key criteria to consider. First and foremost, the right gym should fit your personality and make you feel comfortable.

As you begin your search, keep these points in mind: Location – Is the gym close enough to work or home that you’ll be able and willing to consistently get there? Proximity is important for consistency.

HourS – Does the gym offer hours or class times that fit your schedule? If you’re paying for a membership, the hours need to fit your schedule and availability.

cLaSSeS – Do you want to take classes or just use equipment? Is there a schedule of classes and are they available during the times you want to take them? What are the class policies? Make sure the classes/ sessions you want to attend are available when you are.

Staff – Are the instructors qualified? Do they have certifications and are they current? Are they courteous and welcoming? Is the staff available to help you when you need it? Ask to see certifications and or degrees. Ascertain if the job is a hobby or a vocation.

memBerS – Is the gym co-ed or same-sex only? Are the members of a particular age group? Is the gym often busy and crowded? Are the classes you’re interested in available and open to new members? You should feel comfortable with the people you’re spending time with.

tHe “ViBe” – What is the atmosphere of the gym? Are members and staff friendly or standoffish? Do you feel comfortable in the facility? Does the “vibe” make you want to be or get out of there? Trust your intuition.

Safety – Is personal/group safety mentioned during your tour or during classes? Will you receive instruction before joining or are you on your own? Is there a cost for that instruction? Ask about injuries and how or if they are prevented. All activities come with risk, however prudent supervision and education can reduce this. Ask how that is addressed.

cLeanLineSS – Does the facility seem well taken care of? Are towels or gym wipes available? If the facility has a locker room or showers, take a look to see if they are properly maintained. A well maintained facility can be indicative of people who care enough to monitor the small stuff.

equiPment – Is there enough equipment for what you want to do? Will you have to wait or limit your time based on usage? Are any pieces of equipment broken or out of order? If you like running on a treadmill for an hour and there is a 30-minute limit, that gym might not be for you.

coSt – What are the terms of membership? Is there a sign up fee? Is this fee in addition to membership? Do you have to sign a contract? When and how is payment accepted? Do you have to pay for things a la cart or is it allinclusive? Can you cancel or put your membership on hold without penalty? Sometimes, you get what you pay for. If membership cost is low, there might be a reason why. On the other hand, if the membership cost is high, you might get more for what you pay.

Be prepared to ask questions and keep asking until you get your answers. Ask friends and family where they attend and if they are satisfied. And if they are not, find out why. Shop around until you find a place that meets or exceeds your expectations. Being an educated consumer will assist you in your decision and ensure you get what you pay for. Your body, and bank account, will thank you.




Fitness column

Laramie Boomerang (WY) – Sunday, March 9, 2014


Everyone is busy. We have work obligations, family responsibilities, chores, errands, etc.

Fortunately, we also have 168 hours in a week. I hope you’re sleeping for about 60 of those hours. Work or school? Add another 45 hours per week. Running errands, doing homework, taking the children to after-school practices? Add another 20 hours. That leaves you with roughly 43 hours. The most frequently cited reason why people said they don’t take care of themselves is because they don’t think they have enough time. So how do some people find time to exercise while others don’t?

The simple answer is some people make it a priority and set aside the time. You can too.

Chances are, if you’re reading this column, you’ve thought about somehow improving your health and fitness.

And you’ve probably considered whether you have the time, resources or confidence to act on that thought. What’s next? How do you get from here to there? What kind of exercise or fitness program to choose? That first step is intimidating.

Of course it’s definitely easier to think about what we want than to actually do the leg work necessary to achieve it. But when it comes down to actually “doing” something, it’s a matter of making the decision and actually committing to making it happen. Eventually – not in just one week or even two – exercise will become part of your life.

So where to start? It’s important to find the right exercise for you. For example, if you don’t enjoy group activities, going to an aerobics class is probably not the best choice. Or if you know you need some accountability, one-on-one or semiprivate training might be the best bet.

And sometimes, you honestly just don’t know, so trying new things is absolutely the way to go. You can ride a stationary bike, run/walk on a treadmill, join a fitness group, go outside to ski or hike, try a gym.

Are you ready? Ask yourself that question and pick the answer that most closely expresses how you feel: “I can’t wait to get going.” “I’d like to put together a plan and try to carry it out.”

“I’m interested, but I need more information.” “I don’t think I want to change right now.” “I have no interest in change now or ever.” If you selected the last answer, there is no point in reading any further. No one can force you if you’re not interested.

If the time isn’t right, this can be an opportunity to think about when that time might be. If you feel ready, even if you’re not certain you can do it, putting together a plan will maximize your chance of success.

Enthusiasm is important but you must have a clear idea of where you’re going, what you want, and anticipate roadblocks and plan how to get around them.

Take the time to think about what you want and make it happen.