PJ, 68: Creating a Physical Fitness Action Plan

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Welcome back to this special series featuring the stories of the Senior Planet Sponsored Athletes as they pursue their fitness goals in 2022. You can find all of our Sponsored Athletes’ stories here

Professor Paul “PJ” Gammarano, Sr., 68, is an ice hockey player, cancer survivor, and advocate for older adult athletes. Get to know PJ here, and read on for his helpful tips on creating (and sticking to) your own fitness plan. Then, join us here on Wednesday, July 20 at 3pm EDT for a live session with PJ via Zoom!

If you are serious about improving your physical fitness — under a doctor’s advice or through your own initiative — formulating an action plan is the first step.

Here are nine “pointers” from my own experience as an older adult athlete on how to do that:

1. Select an activity you enjoy

My own favorite sport is ice hockey, but there are so many to choose from! Each of this year’s Senior Planet Sponsored Athletes participate in a wide variety of physical activities, from weightlifting, to hiking, to hula-hooping, and even surfing.

Some of these activities may be viewed as sports for youth, but age limitations aren’t as much of a factor nowadays. Many older adults are now shaping their favorite sport into a lifelong activity.

2. Set positive examples for younger athletes

This includes family members, neighbors, or total strangers. They might be thinking: “If they can do it, I can also!” The intent is not to show off, but to demonstrate that it is possible to extend your participation well past what others would consider “quitting time.” If you love the sport, then continue it — with adequate rest and recovery time for your body.

3. Be consistent

Formulate a plan or schedule of activities, then stick to it. Have a “plan B” activity for times when your favored activity is unavailable (like adverse weather, or an overbooked rink or sport court). My go-to backup is indoor floor exercises; there are many Senior Planet fitness classes and AARP workout video clips to choose from.

4. Stay focused and adapt

Outside forces — like job obligations, raising children or grandchildren, or other family commitments — can work against your focus on your physical fitness goals.

Wherever family members share the same interests in an activity, invite them along! These days at hockey rinks, the “stix & pux” skating times allow parents and grandparents to join their kids of any gender and pass the puck across the ice.

5. Make friends with common interests

Some people prefer the solo approach to fitness. Others want companionship and support for times when morale is low. Motivation and encouragement can really make a positive difference. Workout partners can also share training tips and insights.

6. Make it fun!

Vary your routines when possible. If you’re working through a series of different movements, change the order of each movement or the number of “reps” or repetitions.

After a while, you can create your own “playlist” of favorite movements. Variation games make for fun personal challenges you can try injury-free.

7. Set targets, and don’t forget to rest

Be realistic within the bounds of the activities you’re involved with. Don’t worry or self-impose shame if you don’t meet your target fitness goal. Ensure that your efforts are being met with consistency and enjoyment.

Allow adequate resting periods — measured in days, not mere hours. Your psyche may want to do much more, but the muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments affected by your sport may not!

8. Make it worth it

If you’ve paid for membership at a gym or sports club, there is a double loss by letting it go unused or under-utilized. Others with a successful fitness plan modify their personal or work schedule around their plan.

Years ago, when my children reached 18 months, I strapped them to my back in a carrier for hikes and even bicycle rides. That was how I “fit in the fitness” when free time (and money) was limited, and without sacrificing quality time with my kids — who each thought those rides were a lot of fun!

9. Re-read the part about having fun!

Movement is necessary to stay healthy, and it doesn’t have to be a “sweatfest” to reap the benefits. If an activity becomes boring, try mixing up your routine. As a last resort, try something completely new!

Getting started…

I hope you’ll join me this coming Wednesday, July 20 at 3:00pm EDT for a fun session on the benefits of exercise, along with some interactive routines you can try from home. (Learn more and join here!) Remember that a positive side-effect of being physically fit is the added probability of attaining and maintaining better mental health. Let’s make an action plan for fitness, stick to it, and have fun along the way!

In need of a little motivation to get moving? Join our daily health and wellness programs, stay tuned to the latest news and articles from by signing up for The Orbit weekly newsletter, and follow us on social media (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram) to get to know these awe-inspiring athletes. You might just find a new love for fitness along the way!

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