At 91 years young, this former wine marketer and Network Member of over 25 years is still delivering more than a dozen classes a week and has no plans to retire. Cheers to that!
What fitness qualifications do you hold?
I am an Aqua Aerobics Instructor, but hold also qualifications for Gym, Older Clients and Group Exercise (Freestyle).
Where do you live and work?
I live in Melbourne in the leafy suburb of Balwyn.
What is your main role in the fitness industry?
For the last 15 years, I have specialised in aqua, from gentle warm water classes to very active high intensity workouts.
How did you get into this industry and how did you arrive at where you are today in your career?
I started rather late in life after a 40-year career in the Australian wine industry. Before I retired in 1996, I enrolled in aerobics and gym courses at Box Hill TAFE – initially to become more skillful in my own fitness regime. It led to conducting a few classes in my free retirement time and blossomed from there. At my peak I had 20-25 classes per week, since scaled down to 12-15.
Describe your typical day
I get up around 6am and without fail do a 10-15 minute Fitball and stretching routine. Once a week I participate in BODYPUMP and BODYBALANCE classes to keep fit (I was also a Les Mills Instructor). I used to go for a daily 5km run, but at present have a knee problem. After over 50 years of running, including 4 marathons, this is something that I have had to reluctantly accept.
What skills are needed in your role?
Apart from obvious teaching skills, I firmly believe that ‘people skills’ are an important part of the role of an instructor. I try to at least make eye contact with everybody in my classes, and if possible have a chat before and after class. A bit of praise, and acknowledgement of a birthday or event, are always welcomed. Everyone likes to be appreciated as a person, not just as a paying client.
What are the best and worst aspects of your job?
A wonderful aspect is seeing people smile and be happy with their workout, and the absolute best is when somebody comes up to you and tells you their result from participating in your classes – whether that be an improvement in health, mobility or just feeling better. I used to feel embarrassed when clients gave me a present at the end of the year, but now I appreciate that it is an expression of genuine, heartfelt gratitude for the experience they’ve had. I also particularly enjoy working with disabled people – it is a privilege and a very rewarding experience.
On the flipside of this, the worst aspect is when I can see and feel that somebody is not happy in a class, in spite of my best efforts.
What has been your greatest career challenge to date?
Staying on top of the profession. I never stop learning new skills and keeping abreast of health and fitness developments.
And your greatest highlight?
Being accepted as an instructor at the ripe old age of 91 by clients and peers! It is an honour to be referred to as a role model for the benefits of physical exercise.
Who has inspired you in your fitness industry career, and why?
Sue Stanley, the great Australian Aerobics champion who became my mentor in her Maidstone Gym when I started my career in aerobics. Later on, in aqua, there was and still is, JSP (Jenny Schembri-Portelli) – a constant source of inspiration, and two men who are true leaders in aqua: Dominic Gili of AquaFitnessOnline here in Australia, and Mark Grevelding from Fitmotivation in the US. And there is one more remarkable, inspiring woman in our industry, Marietta Mehanni, who just has unbelievable energy.
What motto or words of wisdom sum up your fitness/life philosophy?
When I decided to get into the fitness industry in 1996, I registered the business name ‘Staying Alive – Fit Forever’. I still believe in it.
What’s your main focus now and what are your goals for the future?
Living life to the full. Enjoying a balance of work and leisure activities. Travelling overseas once a year to explore different cultures, art and wine.
And finally, who would be on your ultimate dinner party guest list, and why?
I would invite the aforementioned Sue, Marietta, Jenny, Dom and Mark for their inspiration; The Sun King, Louis XIV, for his vision and extravagant splendor; my wine industry mentor David Wynn of Coonawarra Estate fame, Bailey Carrodus of Yarra Yering, and another Frenchman, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, for their pursuit of excellence in the art of wine. King Louis XIV would love a bottle of Mouton Rothschild Vintage 1945 – he’d raise from his grave for this!
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