Think you are too old to exercise? Popular Mt. Airy fitness trainer Yvonne Ferguson-Hardin is out to convince you otherwise with Mt. Airy Learning Tree's “Stretch 4 Life for Seniors.”
Think you are too old to exercise? Popular Mt. Airy fitness trainer Yvonne Ferguson-Hardin is out to convince you otherwise with Mt. Airy Learning Tree's “Stretch 4 Life for Seniors” classes starting Sept. 20 at Grace Epiphany Church, 224 E. Gowen Ave. (She also teaches Fergie's Bootcamp starting Sept. 18 at Northwestern Stables, 120 W. Northwestern Ave. It is an extreme workout with push-ups, running, climbing, jumping, burpees, etc.)
Ferguson-Hardin, mid-50ish, has been teaching these classes for the senior citizen community through MALT (and other centers) for more than six years. The West Mt. Airy resident, who owns and operates Fergie's Instructional Training (FIT) at 47 High St. in Germantown, usually draws 10 to 20 participants per class in smaller locations and up to 50 in larger locations.
“Stretch 4 Life” is provided in two levels. Level 1 is in a chair for exercises and standing for the balance segment only if the participants are comfortable. Yvonne explained last week, “This class was designed to enable anyone, regardless of age, disability, size or gender, to be able to participate. The goal is to educate with regards to easy, safe and practical ways to get the benefits of exercise while in a chair. Knowing how to do the exercises reduces excuses and enables movement possible to fit into any schedule daily. Level 2 is conducted also on a mat on the floor with more supported and unsupported balance exercises.
“Stretch for Life” is conducted to slow, soulful gospel music. Many of the positions transition slowly and methodically like a blend of modern dance and yoga, focusing on the breath, inner peace and reciting empowerment phrases to fuel ability. Focus is also given to the smaller joints (ankles, wrists, fingers) and self-massage to enhance circulation. Through the history of the “Stretch” classes for seniors, the mean age of participants has been 70-95.
Before the pandemic Yvonne's Mt. Airy fitness training business had contracts with several area nursing homes and senior citizen centers in addition to numerous at-home personal training clients. “I had to take a long, hard look at my business model and figure out how to re-invent it and make it work during a time when I no longer had customers willing to attend large indoor or outdoor exercise groups,” she told us in an earlier interview.
As a British-born (Jamaican heritage) young woman, Hardin moved to the U.S. in 1987 and immediately found that consuming increased portion sizes and the variety of super-rich foods caused her to gain unwanted weight. Desperate to lose the extra pounds, she joined Bally’s Holiday Fitness Center, and after being introduced to aerobic classes, she became an aerobics instructor.
Hardin taught many classes in various areas such as Montgomery County and Philadelphia in clubs such as The Bodyshop in Horsham, The Sporting Club in Center City and Riverside Aquatic Club on the Main Line. She decided to return to Temple University, where she gained degrees in Therapeutic Recreation and Physical Education/Health Sciences. Hardin also married and had three daughters. After being a full-time supervisor in various wellness facilities and long-term care homes for a few years, she returned to fitness 100 percent in 2009, creating her business, Fergie’s Instructional Training.
According to Ruth Joray, of West Mt. Airy, who has taken exercise classes with Yvonne, “She is a positive, affirmative inspiration who has made a difference in my life … She is determined, generous and truly works in support of her clients’ health and well-being. She brings out physical ability and endurance I had thought was long gone!”
The benefits of “Stretch 4 Life,” according to Yvonne, include the reduction of stress and the relief of depression and anxiety, better flexibility, improved range of motion, better coordination, posture and control while walking, possibly even improved digestion and circulation and lower blood pressure (due to more oxygen to the brain and vital organs).
Yvonne also posts invitations to free classes on Facebook, and she has free classes on YouTube.
“Stretching is a gentle form of exercise but conducted incorrectly like bouncing or jerking or overstretching when the body is cold can cause discomfort,” said Yvonne. “To prevent injuries and muscle damage, remembering to warm up is key.”