She may have smashed four vertebrae, worn away two discs and have dodgy knees, hips and shoulders, but octogenarian Connie Smith relished being put through her paces by Hartpury students at GL1 this week.
Around 19 second year students on the BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Sports and Exercise Science had the opportunity to lead and participate in a ‘Forever Fit’ session for the Over-55s to support their module: Exercise for Specific Groups.
And Connie, 82, who has been going to the class for three years, was pleased to get the chance to support the 16 to 18-year-olds with their studies. She said: “My specialist said to me that if I didn’t do some exercise, I’d end up in a wheelchair and I’m far too cantankerous to be pushed around!
“This class has really helped with my mobility. I’m in a bit of pain doing it but I’d be much worse if I didn’t do it. I enjoyed today’s session and we definitely made the students work as hard as us!
“They get a great grounding at Hartpury. My grandson went there to study coaching and play rugby and ended up coaching in Spain. It’s a fantastic place and they have all these amazing facilities and teaching that we never had.
“I think it’s really important for them to experience working with older people. They got involved and they had fun.”
The students led the class participants in a circuit around the Xpress gym, rotating from group to group, each of which was led by a student, while another student acted as the lead instructor, supporting regular instructor Tracie Simpson.
They supported the older people to complete exercises with ViPRs and dumbbells, as well as using a step and bodyweight exercises, including star jumps, lunges and supermans.
Hartpury lecturer Steve Adams, who is leading the module and is also an instructor for GL1, said: “It was really good experience for the students as they had to adapt a lot of the exercises they had originally come up with and they had to work with such a wide range of ages and abilities.
“It was far less intimidating for the people taking part having the students exercise alongside them rather than observing and the students were a little nervous beforehand but I think everyone had a lot of fun.”
Lizelle Seeliger, who took part in the class but also provides 1:1 support for disabled Sport and Exercise Science student Scott Jones, helped guide the students in selecting appropriate exercises.
She said: “I’m 50 myself so I was able to help the students before the class to make sure they pitched it right. The students were brilliant in every group. They helped to correct people to get their technique right, they adapted exercises when they needed to for certain people and they gave lots of encouragement.
“This experience could certainly help them when they go into the world of work, where they could well end up working with and teaching older clients.”
Louise Baker, 19, who was one of the students helping to support the session, said: “I really enjoyed today and the people who took part really opened my eyes to how much this age group can do. They were so much fitter than what I’d anticipated. I’m not sure I could plank for a minute like some of them were!
“We actually had to adapt what we’d planned to be more challenging in a lot of cases and we had to really think about how we used the space with a lot of people in the room.
“It’s great to have this experience as you never know where or who you will end up working with in the future.”