I love my parents, and I bet you do too. Being a father myself, I now understand more about their sacrifices, the effort, and the amount of love they have given to me. The more I think about what they have done for me, the more I realized that I hadn’t been giving my full appreciation to them as I was growing up. I guess this is just part of growing up and being more mature, right?
When I was young, I prayed so that my parents can live forever. It doesn’t take very long to understand that it’s not possible. Even more now, I know what I do, being a strength coach, can’t really alter/prolong people’s lifespan. BUT I know that the stronger they are, the more comfortable their old-age will be. That’s my goal: to increase their quality of life by being physically independent and enjoying whatever they want to do for the rest of their life, however long their life will be.
What is the challenge?
It was convincing them that strength training is the necessary 3 hours/week investment to better enjoy the remaining 165 hours.
My parents are typical Asian parents, no matter how smart you are, no matter what professional credentials you have, you are still their kid. No amount of “professional advice” I had given about health had successfully resonated with them.
However, working at Hygieia Strength and Conditioning, we have many older lifters in our gym. Some of them bring their parents to us. So I’ll try to share some of the tips that I learnt along the way, and I’ll also share my story of how I convinced my mom to train.
Tip #1 – Sharing the benefits of strength training
Strength training has been shown to improve some metabolic syndromes, sarcopenia and osteopenia, frailty, and dependence on medications. There’s a whole book written for that; it’s called the Barbell Prescription by Dr. Jonathon M. Sullivan.
Unfortunately, strength training has the impression of being only suitable for the young men with big and muscular bodies, lifting heavy-ass weights listening to metal music, all in which can be a possible cause of pushback.
It’s probably easier for parents to train if they can see other older lifters are doing it. Having a community helps. Or at least having a good role model/inspiration for them to train.
At Hygieia, we are fortunate to have Patricia, Steve, and Martin, who are in their 50s and 60s. They come to our gym to find a solution for their back pain, osteoporosis, and other issues that they share in these videos. Check them out. I hope these videos can be excellent tools to show our parents the benefit of barbell training and how the experience has been for them.
Tip #2 – Bring them to your trusted coach
Our client, Huan Kiat, said something that I remembered very clearly till this day. “My parents hate to waste money. So I told them I have paid for all their session so they will surely come”
Another client, Alif, did the same thing for his parents during the first few sessions.
This measure might not be sustainable in the long run if they are not enjoying the training. However, it’s enough to get them to start. If our parents feel safe doing the training and they can enjoy the training session, and if your coach is convincing enough in answering their questions, perhaps they will continue.
On a side note, receiving these clients are one of the highest honours of being a strength coach. So to those of you who have trusted your parents with us, we thank you!
Tip #3 – Helping them discover their own motivation to train
There’s nothing more effective than when they voluntarily decide, “yes, I want to train.” Let me share how my mom decided that she wants to start training.
We have a home gym in Jakarta. We have one rack with a platform, 1 Olympic bar, one very light bar purchased for both of my parents if they start training, and a set of weights, including the fractional plates, enough to run a proper strength training program. But I was not there to coach them. So for months and months, nobody is using it. Recently my brother started to train, but both of my parents don’t seem to be interested, until…
Two weeks before my daughter was born, my mom flew from Jakarta to help take care of the newborn. We sat on the living room couch catching up, and there I saw a few signs of frailty, most notably on her thigh. It’s very skinny legs in the midsection of the femur.
I expressed how concerned I was with what I saw. I told mom that she shouldn’t let this continue without intervention. She is 58 this year. And I told her it would worsen when she got to her 60s and her 70s.
Only after that, mom finally told me that she hasn’t been feeling as “fit” as she was for the past few years.
I nod then continued by telling her how much I want my daughter to play with her and my dad as she’s growing up. The baby will continue to grow, and she will start to run around. I want her to be able to play and enjoy her time with her grandparents.
I think this is when it hit the spot. She has been longing for a grandchild, especially if it’s a baby girl because she raised two boys and probably had enough of us. Perhaps she already had her plan on how to be a cool grandma. Being able to spend quality time with my daughter is the key to get her to train.
She started the next day! And although the baby came soon after and we need to postpone her training for a few months, she has started training again with my brother. Our garage gym has two members now!
She has been remarkably consistent. Started from goblet squat and rack pull, she can almost squat an empty 20kg bar now and do deadlift from the floor. She’s now an “athlete of strength.”
In the end, what I want to say is there are no foolproof tips to get your loved ones to train. If they are, I should have been able to convince my dad to train as well. This process will take time and patience, so I hope this article can spark ideas on how to get your parents to train – if you want them to have a pleasant old age.