The Hypersensitive Secret: Hang Out with the Geriatrics

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

June 21st, 2013 • Living with Chronic PainPrint Print

Today I started a trial membership at a health club that caters to seniors. It is AMAZING and left me thinking, duh! Hang out in senior spaces! Most health clubs are packed with meat heads who grunt and talk loud and always, always allow the weights to slam down after using them – leaving me unable to use the weight room, like, ever. In addition, the women come careening around the corner of the locker room, never thinking that, gosh, maybe someone is entering at the same time that they am coming out, so maybe, like, they should slow down. And the men go barreling past when going somewhere, anywhere, at any time, because apparently each and every guy movement must, by definition, be aggressive and invasive.

I quit. Literally. I just stopped going to gyms and settled into an outdoor cycling groove. But, honestly, there is only so much cycling a gal can do, especially considering the whole crotch-irritation phenomenon (I know, TMI). I really have missed swimming, but I have been apprehensive about floating around in a pool full of chemicals, given the extremes to which I’ve been going to be super clean about what I put into my body, use on my body, and use around my house.

Then a client-friend of mine told me about saltwater pools, which, she asserted, are all the rage now. So I looked up saltwater pools in my area, and lo and behold, found one at a health club that is a 30 min drive away. Unfortunately, it turned out that this saline pool is, perhaps like others, still chlorinated, but it’s apparently a lot softer and gentler, leading to less irritation. The reason this health club has the water is because seniors apparently have chlorine sensitivity issues.

The conversation about the pool, however, led to a conversation about the facility catering to the senior set, which in turn led to a conversation about their personal training programs specifically targeting the elderly and those with disability and injury. I told the manager about my experience getting strong enough to start personal training, and being rilly rilly careful about whom I selected as personal trainers, as well as painstakingly educating them about my hypersensitive little body, all for naught. In both situations, I advised the manager, I ended up being pushed into situations where I retriggered old injuries and was unable to walk for anywhere between one and three months. “We hear these stories all the time,” she told me. “Then they come here and do great.”

I decided to give the club a whirl. I loved it! For starters, the weight room is quiet and sparsely populated, and nobody came barreling down at me, not even once. (Though a few people did hobble on by.) Second, the pool had no lanes and was heated, which I thought would be a problem. But then I discovered that the heat enabled me to swim four times as far as I have been able to in my most recent attempts, without any pain (though there was quite a bit of snap-crackle-pop going on in the back stroke.) In addition, I got to fling my arms out far and wide for the butterfly stroke, without banging into the floaties, which was totally cool.

Then there was the fact that all the people I encountered were super friendly, and there was a community feel to it. Plus I discovered the club is not all the senior demographic. There was a woman there who seemed younger with me – someone with joint issues. “Everyone here,” she advised me, “has something going on with their bodies, so people are very aware and careful.”

I think it just might be worth the 30 minute drive out there, in the hopes that I finally, FINALLY, have found a safe haven where I can sprint forward in my fitness – reclaiming or, better yet, surpassing the athletic prowess I had in my 20s.

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