A Napier fitness gym's free deal for over-65s is giving a new lease on life not only to the class but also its once-paralysed instructor.
Nicola Murdoch, now running the Seniors class at Snap Fitness Napier, was just 21 when she was paralysed down one side in a mountain-bike accident in National Park in 2007, when she was doing a health and physical education degree at Massey University.
"Knocked out cold," she recalled as she told Hawke's Bay Today of what could have been the end of the world but which was actually the start of the re-education of her brain. This became so successful that 15 years later she's pretty much found what, if she'd really thought about, once would have seemed like her dream job.
In April she latched onto the chance to run the class as a contractor at Snap Fitness, which has been in Napier almost a decade, and when a shy-of-training journalist of the midlife crisis time turned up this week the evidence was clear.
The classes are run 11am-midday, Wednesdays and Fridays, and 11 of the converted were soon in action with the medicine balls, bars and other utilities with a certain degree of euphoria. They have free use of the facilities and access to trainers during the time of the classes.
Manager Fiona Hurley said the centre offered the classes the chance to give something back to its community. Murdoch thinks back just a couple of months and says: "I thought, that's me. I love it."
The biggest thrill of all is the response, she says: "Most of them have been through some sort of injury. They notice the improvement, and they tell me."
Class member "Arlene", in breaths between working the medicine balls, watches as the instructor does her stuff around the rest of the group. She says: "She's amazing, she's brilliant, she's easy-going, she's got personality-plus. She's awesome for this group."
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"Dave", one of just two men in the group on the day, is a more recent arrival, active in sport for many years but realising some of the working parts are not as flexible as they once were.
But the eyes are in good nick, as he spots the desk-hugger from downtown and suggests dropping the pen and notepad and joining in.
"Sore hip," I say, which as it turns out is not uncommon, either as an affliction or a sidestep. I test it on some sort of step exercise, and pronounce my donning of sports shoes, shorts and bit of lycra might be so far around the corner. "That's it," she says. "Push the pain."
Hurley says the exercise programme is designed to maintain independence through fall prevention exercises, providing strength and agility training, cognitive challenges for memory, decreasing pain through motion and flexibility activities, and improved mental health.
"The mental health benefits of exercise are nearly endless," she says. "Exercise produces endorphins (the "feelgood" hormone) which act as a stress reliever and leaves you feeling happy and satisfied. In addition, exercise has been linked to improving sleep, which is especially important for older adults who often suffer from insomnia and disrupted sleep patterns."
"Naomi", 75, has been going just four weeks and agrees, when talking a couple of days later. "Isn't it funny? That's correct, I am a light sleeper but I find this is great…I wake up in the morning, the pain has gone … and Nicola is just lovely.