Wellness by Ken Puddicombe

The current life expectancy [in Canada] is 82.2 years. By 2030 it’s estimated to rise another four years to 86.2. A recent news item suggested that future generations, with new medical technology and drugs combined, including lifestyle changes, would avoid a lot of the chronic conditions that currently carry us off, raising their life expectancy to 150!


From my observations at the Wellness Centre, Millenials, are trying their best to extend their own life span. Most of us are retirees trying to push ourselves beyond our limitations. The approach of the average member: It’s never too late.

There are always new faces in the membership, people coming on board to join the multitude already working out. Then, there are the regulars, people who are dedicated and consistent. You can tell who they are. They’re always on schedule regardless of inclement weather, rain or sleet or a snow storm.

I’ve seen some very committed people over the years and it leaves me amazed and awed at this push to improve health and lengthen the lifespan.

The people you encounter in the clientele: The man with the prosthetic foot who works out on every machine; his prosthetic is so well adapted to the rest of his foot that the first time I discovered his condition was in the men’s change room when he took off his prosthetic. The man with a disability who walks the track with a crutch. Several people in wheelchairs, one of them lifting weights. Another turning the wheel-machine. Super Mario. He’s well into his eighties, and while he’s slow, taking half-steps in-between machines, he is consistent and fervent. The senior in the change room who forgets where he stored his clothes and has to go around and check every locker. The woman who changes into a new outfit before the workout is over. The very formal man who wears a suit jacket and white shirt with tie. My favourite though, is the man walking around with his small oxygen tank on wheels, a tube stuck up his nose. He’s fully decked out in a gym outfit from head to toes: running shoes, sweat pants and jacket, and sports gloves.

The Cardio Group visits every Monday morning. People recovering from heart surgery, working on a fitness program to prevent further damage. They do the circuit around the track, the technician from the cardio unit timing them with a stop watch, or checking their pressure with the portable machine. The people in this group are of all shapes and sizes, some walking carefully along the track, others at a frenetic pace, as if they have lost-time to make up. The technician will stop the occasional patient, check his pulse, then send him on his way after a few words of caution or encouragement.

It’s something of a social outing for some people. They meet at the machines, stop rather than pause to chat, and they tie up the equipment for minutes on end, blissfully unaware that there are people who want to carry on with their program. People who are on the same schedule do miss you when you skip a session, for whatever reason, and they don’t hesitate to tell you that you were missed.

There are rules, as in every civilized organization, but for some people, rules are made to be broken. One of the rules: cell phones are banned in the change room. The sign is prominently displayed in a list of prohibitions and restrictions. The ban is obviously designed to prevent unapproved transmission of images captured on a phone. And yet some people flagrantly ignore the rules and carry on as if they don’t exist. I’ve witnessed some heated arguments over this, violators coming under censure by, perhaps, an over-zealous enforcer who does not think kindly of the transgression.

Another rule imposes a time limitation on four popular machines. There’s actually a sign restricting the use to thirty minutes, “in consideration of other members.” I’ve seen people use up the allotted time, then reset the machine to zero and start all over again. So much for consideration!

Most of the members are a friendly lot. They greet you and say hello. Some of them I know by name and have a short chat in the change room before heading out to the gym floor. The shower and sauna present their own oddities. A tenor who sings in the shower. A Rasta with his shower cap. A butt-naked man coming out of the shower, leaving a trail of water on the tiled flooring.

You can tell the ones who are aloof, they never make eye contact, much less give you the time of day. Not even a nod. It’s a pity because a simple nod can say:  I see you. I acknowledge your existence. I know you’re a human being and I respect you. 

The center has its peak periods, and periods known for certain clientele who you run into if you happen to vary your routine, for whatever reason. There is the early morning pre-work crowd trying to start the day off with a bang. Then come the seniors at mid-morning, the ones who work out at a more leisurely pace. Afternoon shift workers come during the lull. Late afternoon sees the after-work-heading-home crowd eager to work off the day’s stress. They have to compete for machines.

They’re all at The Wellness Center.

It’s a never-ending cycle and goes to show, where there’s a will, people will find the way. The human spirit is indomitable. For many. I can’t believe many of us will make one hundred and twenty, but only time will tell how far into it we can and will go.


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