May 23 2013 Latest news:
Sara Odeen-Isbister , Senior Reporter
Friday, July 20, 2012
Ken Naylor, 76, has been a fitness instructor for around 20 years. He leads two over 50s classes called Eldeberries in Barking and Dagenham.
I had been working for many years in the advertising and design business when I was made redundant in my 50s. I was seen as too old for the industry.
I thought, I can either just put my feet up and do nothing or get involved in something.
I saw an ad in a paper about helping kids with sports on the Isle of Dogs. I’d always enjoyed taking part in sport and looking after myself so thought it could be fun.
When I went for my interview I saw that everyone was much younger than me, but the man who interviewed me said there was an over 50s fitness club starting and suggested I lead it.
I had no qualifications but bags of enthusiasm, so took it on. It was set up by the late actor Bill Owen, who played Compo in Last of the Summer Wine.
After a while I thought it was time to get some qualifications. I went to the Central London YMCA, one of the best teaching places for fitness instructors.
Everyone else on my course was in their 20s, but I kept up with them so it was fine.
About 19 years ago someone who worked at Abbey Sports Centre knew I had some qualifications and asked if I wanted to lead a post-50s group there, and then Goresbrook Leisure Centre suggested I run one there too and Elderberries was born.
The groups, which have members aged up to their mid 80s, have grown over the years and we sometimes get 70 to 80 people turning up for one class.
It’s amazing to see the change in people after they’ve come to a few sessions. Some, when they start, struggle to put one foot in front of the other, but before long they’re dancing and can run around the hall. A few have gone on to run half marathons.
Our aim is to keep them away from the clutches of the NHS for as long as possible and I think we’ve been doing a good job.
But the classes don’t just improve you physically, they’re also great for the mind. You can see people become happier - they get a buzz from the exercise and from meeting other people.
As well as the Elderberries clubs I also run a circuit training session once a week for people of all ages. I might be in my 70s but can still make people work hard.
Some youngsters have come to my sessions to train for the army – they know I will push them, I’ve got a reputation for it.
I don’t know how long I’ll keep doing this – I guess for as long as my body allows me. At the moment I feel fine so have no plans to stop.
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