You Can Do More Than You Think You Can: A Client Success Story

You can do more than you think you can.

This is a phrase you’ve quite likely heard before. Perhaps it came from your parents, a friend, a teacher, or your favourite influencer on TV, social media or podcast. Either way, the phrase is short, simple and very much true; especially when it comes to physical fitness.

Whether you’re 19 or 91 years of age, you can likely lift more weight, do more repetitions, run faster, walk further and move better than you think you can.

The person that inspired me to write this article is a long standing client of mine. Her name is Maura.

Not Your Typical Personal Training Client

What’s unique about Maura’s case compared to other personal training clients is that she lives in a long term care home. For the past 4 years or so, I visited her twice a week; and each time I coached her through a somewhat rigorous routine of exercises and stretches in an attempt to keep her strong, mobile and independent for as long as possible.

As you can imagine, the workouts constructed for Maura were not the same workouts I would prescribe to a 45 year old, let alone a 65 year old! Instead of burpees, squats, lunges and planks, Maura and I spent time doing sit to stands out of her recliner, banded chest exercises, leg kicks and supervised walking.

Even though age may come with limitations, there is always a way to build appropriate & challenging workouts nonetheless!

No Longer A Spring Chicken…

It is generally accepted that as you get older, your muscles stiffen, and are not as strong or mobile as they used to be. After middle age, adults lose 3% of their muscle strength every year, on average [1]. This progression is accelerated especially for those who suffer from Dementia, Alzheimers, Parkinson’s or other age-related illness or injury.

This was no different in Maura’s case. As the years went by, you could see that she would take longer to get out of her chair, walk slower and appear generally more fatigued. Each time I would go in to see her, she would decline exercise on a more regular basis. On most days, it was like pulling teeth just to get her out of the recliner.

Eventually, Maura’s reluctance to continue exercising coupled with her “apparent” decline in strength and mobility led to the in-house Physiotherapist ordering that she be permanently assigned to a sit to stand machine. This machine is extremely uncomfortable and needed to be used anywhere from 15-20 times a day.

As you can imagine, this news was devastating not just for Maura, but for her loved ones as well who couldn’t bear the thought of seeing their Mom in any more discomfort that she already is. Most individuals would throw in the towel when given news such as that.

Down, But Not Out

Three days after the recommendation was made, I went in to see Maura again. When I walked into her room, I could sense that something was different. Maura had an undeniable fire in her eyes. She looked at me and said, “I don’t want that machine. I want to fight this, and I need your help.”

Surprised and deeply moved by her determination, we decided to ramp up our routine with new exercises, mindful of her condition but challenging enough to help her regain some strength and mobility. Instead of focusing on the limitations of her age or the decline she had experienced, our focus shifted towards the possibilities of what she could still achieve.

With every session, she made progress. Those tiny moments of improvement, such as standing up from her recliner a second quicker, or taking a few more steps than last time, were monumental for Maura. Her spirit, despite the odds stacked against her, was awe-inspiring.

It’s essential to note that the process wasn’t easy. There were days of frustration, tears, and setbacks. But there was also laughter, progress, and an unfaltering belief in the power of the human spirit.

A Beacon of Hope

Several months later, not only had Maura defied the odds by significantly reducing her dependence on the sit to stand machine, but she had become an inspiration to others in the care home. Residents who had been previously reluctant to participate in physical therapy or exercises began to show interest, inspired by Maura’s dedication and progress.

Her story serves as a powerful testament to the fact that it’s never too late to make a change, to challenge oneself, and to redefine what’s possible. Age, while it brings about undeniable challenges, also comes with a reservoir of resilience and wisdom that can propel us forward if only we tap into it.

To all reading this, remember that age is not a limit but a milestone. Like Maura, may you continue to surprise yourself and those around you with all that you’re capable of achieving!


[1] Wilson, D., Jackson, T., Sapey, E., & Lord, J. M. (2017). Frailty and sarcopenia: the potential role of an aged immune system. Ageing research reviews36, 1-10.