Senior Planet Sponsored Athlete

Hollis Wagenstein-Hurturk, 69: Do What You Can Do

Meet Hollis Wagenstein-Hurturk. She’s one of the 2021 Senior Planet Sponsored Athletes, and she’ll be sharing updates on her health and wellness journey through the rest of this year. Hollis, age 69, is a senior athlete and a strong advocate for adaptive functional fitness training, having used it to square off against the challenges of aging and disability. By sharing a variety of accessible fitness routines and resources, Hollis hopes that everyone, no matter their level of ability, can discover new ways to increase their healthspan and lifespan.

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” -Winston Churchill (and others)

“On a day like any other, I checked in to my Exercise for Daily Living class at the Central Queens Y, selected my hand weights, and looked for my customary spot near the ballet bar in the back. A newcomer had beaten me to it, so I moved to another area — one without the supportive grab-bar…

“Midway through cardio, for no discernible reason, I took a serious fall. Conked my head on the hardwood floor and saw stars. Thirty heads turned. Thirty mouths gasped. The instructor froze in place, not sure whether to rush to my aid or call for backup. I took ten seconds to self-assess, got up, apologized to my classmates for the interruption, and finished the class. Then I went to lunch with a friend.

“This doesn’t make me a hero. It proves the efficacy of functional fitness training in preventing falls and mitigating the damage from falls when they do occur. There are people who slip on a piece of paper towel on their kitchen floor and wind up in the ICU. What accounts for the difference in outcomes? Probably a bunch of factors, and fitness training is surely one of them.

“The Mayo Clinic defines functional fitness as exercises that ‘train your muscles to work together and prepare them for daily tasks by simulating common movements you might do at home, at work or in sports. While using various muscles in the upper and lower body at the same time, functional fitness exercises also emphasize core stability.’ Hits the spot, right?

A Little About Me

“Hi, I’m Hollis. I’m a disabled senior athlete. I will celebrate my 70th birthday on Halloween. My sport is Functional Fitness Training, with a focus on strength and weight training. My disability has nothing to do with aging (which, as we all know, is NOT a disability by itself.) That said, I suffer from the same slings and arrows of outrageous (mis)fortune that affect so many seniors — height loss due to osteoporosis, bone loss, mild scoliosis, mild asthma, hay fever, insomnia… and the list goes on! Despite this growing catalog of ailments, exercise is even more important to me than it ever was. I’m a healthful person who isn’t completely healthy. Perhaps some of you can relate to this.

My Exercise Routine and Functional Training

“I never met an exercise class I didn’t like. (Plenty that didn’t like me.) In my heyday, I could finesse two step aerobics classes before work and end the day at a disco. More than 40 years later, I stick to lower-impact, more forgiving modalities. Luckily, there are plenty to choose from.

“Routine, ‘schmoutine.’ I’m like a glutton at a buffet! I rotate between circuit, weights, Pilates, yoga, and combo classes. If I hit a tough spot in one class, I’ll skip that exercise and redeem myself by catching another class later on. I use portable balance beams to keep balance issues out of the equation, so I can focus on form in standing exercises, or choose the seated option. My target is to average at least one hour of structured exercise every day.

“I’m not aiming for a cure, but I still hope for healing.”

“My exercise goals are to improve balance, posture, and gait while toning and strengthening my muscles. Like so many, I spend too much time hunched in front of a computer screen. Using a cane and a Rollator have caused me to stoop when I walk, and I want to use exercise to counteract this. To be clear, I’m not aiming for a cure, but I still hope for healing.

Resources To Accomplish Our Goals

“There are tons of resources to help me (and you) accomplish our goals. First up, Senior Planet offers a menu of free classes and, from my own experience, they are excellent. If your insurance covers it (and most Medicare/Medigap plans do), Silver Sneakers offers a daily menu of live classes and an extensive library of recorded ones. My local Y offered many low-cost Zoom classes throughout the pandemic, and is gradually resuming on-site classes.

“The common denominator in classes for seniors is that the instructors offer options to accommodate all fitness levels.”

“There are hundreds of private studios that offer both online and live classes, and I’ll be reviewing some of them in a later post. My absolute favorite is ‘Exercise with Light Weights’ offered on Zoom by Robin Stuelpner Friedman. And then there’s the bottomless bounty on YouTube. The common denominator in classes for seniors is that the instructors offer options to accommodate all fitness levels, with workarounds for sore spots, weak knees, aching backs, stiff elbows, etc. The adaptations are baked into the basic formula!

My Goals as a Sponsored Athlete

“According to The New York Times, one in four Americans suffers from some sort of disability, and there are about one billion disabled people worldwide. It’s a privilege for me to have this small platform to advocate for adaptive exercise and encourage people with disabilities to embrace it. In my humble opinion, exercise enhances every aspect of life. It can increase your lifespan and your healthspan. It makes it easier to live independently, to travel, to participate in hobbies and family events, and to avoid life-shattering falls and accidents.

“During my stint in this program, I hope to share some of the best resources available for those who choose functional fitness and adaptive exercise. I’ve broken it down to three categories: Tools (products), Techniques (programs), and Trainers (people and influencers). I plan to dedicate a post to each topic. Although every person is unique, my situation is not unique, so I hope that among the resources I share, everyone will find at least one thing that enhances their own exercise journey.

One Final Thought: The Power of the Neutral Mind

“It’s about doing whatever you can do when you can’t do everything you want to do.”

“It’s fashionable to flaunt a positive attitude. Mine is not, and I like it that way. Of course, attitude shifts with mood, time, and circumstance. I try to keep my ‘moodostat’ (moodometer?) set to ‘low.’ I’ve found that the best attitude is to have no attitude at all. Power through it, or power off for the day. Hold your head high, or don’t. Smile or snarl, pump or slump. IMHO, attitude doesn’t mean squat. Squats matter. Like the neutral spine in Pilates, the neutral mind may be the best one for exercise.

“It’s about doing whatever you can do when you can’t do everything you want to do. It’s about being ‘okay’ with not being ‘okay’, and about being ‘okay’ when you’re not ‘okay’. It’s about accepting a reality that is simply not acceptable. It’s about not judging yourself for being impaired and not resenting others who can do better. If you can do THAT, you can do just about anything.

Bonus Round — Some Websites You Might Enjoy!

Aging Without Injury
Functional Fitness
Mayo Clinic on Functional Fitness
Exercise for Movement and Fitness
Weight Training and Metabolic Health

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!


12 responses to “Hollis Wagenstein-Hurturk, 69: Do What You Can Do

  1. Hi Hollis,
    What a great article with great perspective. I’ve had rheumatoid arthritis since I was three years old (and just turned 50). You’ve put into words things I’ve felt for years! I especially liked your thoughts on the neutral attitude. It’s really tough to be positive when you battle through your day, but staying neutral is incredibly attainable and makes perfect sense. It’s also discouraging sometimes to not be able to di everything you want to do, but taking care of what you CAN do is so very important. Thank you for writing this!!!

  2. Hi Hollis,
    Thank you your inspiring words. We all need encouragement to get up and do what we think we can’t do!
    I read you mentioned being hunch over do to the cane and a rollator, I use a cane and was thought to make sure the cane was at hip level , since this prevents bend forward. And the rollator should be able to adjust a little higher so you don’t have to bend your back. Hope this helps you!
    God bless!

  3. Dear Hollis, Thank you so much for your inspirational words. I, too, am working to improve my balance, posture and gait . I’ve been doing a good deal of exercising, but at times, I get discouraged and just want to go back to bed. I will keep your picture in my mind’s eye and that will encourage me to “get back in the game”. And I do have a question – what are “portable balance beams”. Thanks Hollis

    1. Oops! Busted! Due to an error that somehow made it through the edits, we SHOULD have said Balance Bar. I got mine on sale at Titan Fitness. Lebert Fitness sells them, and so does Amazon. They go by various product names. Watch for a couple of direct links in my next post.

      1. You write well, Hollis. That alone, on any topic, would have made it a pleasure to read your article! Thank you for the details about structure and your goals and about what you enjoy.

  4. Thank you Gail, I really appreciated your comments. I was so afraid nobody would notice or care, but your thoughtful words brightened my day. I send back smiles, hugs and… a friendly nudge! (Maybe we should start a Senior Nudge Club to deliver a daily message (Tweet?) to “just do it!”?

  5. Thank you, dear Hollis. You are the reminder tap on my shoulder and the gentle goat butting that I needed, especially today. Your article is so thoughtful and wise and useful and balancing. It helped to remind me to get up (it’s one of those think about, but don’t- do – much days) and move it; just do it. More often than not, I end up laughing at or with myself at all of the commotion it takes just to function on some days. It is funny to me on some days. It actually is fun to keep trying and so surprising to see how capable we really are… matter what, eh? I nudge you back, Hollis. Smile.

    1. Thank you Gail, I really appreciated your comments. I was so afraid nobody would notice or care, but your thoughtful words brightened my day. I send back smiles, hugs and… a friendly nudge! (Maybe we should start a Senior Nudge Club to deliver a daily message (Tweet?) to “just do it!”?

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