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Ninety-nine-year-old Kameichi Yawata sits on a block at Crossfit AllStar in Waimea and finishes up his leg lifts.
“I’m upside down 99 … I’m really 66,” Yawata said, of his age. “This is a wonderful place for training, it would be good if everybody did this.”
Yawata is part of the Kupuna CrossFit Program, created for seniors aged 80 and older. He and at least four other members of Ho’onani Place, an adult day care center, participate in a weekly fitness program. KC Stallsmith, owner and coach of CrossFit AllStar gym said the kupuna are taught each step of the way, and she scales the program for the abilities of the participants.
“If I start slow and be really careful, then I really feel a difference,” Yawata said. “I feel better now than I did 10 years ago. Maybe I should’ve started exercising earlier.”
The Kupuna CrossFit Program is a collaboration between CrossFit AllStar and Ho’onani Place. Karyn Clay, owner and operator of Ho’onani, said she and Stallsmith met at a Business Net International gathering. After discussions, they both felt that a program of this type would complement both businesses.
“This exercise program is for any age, and the results really show,” Clay said.
Clay had searched online for exercise programs for seniors 80 and older, but couldn’t find anything. After Stallsmith created the workout program, Clay said the kupuna were thrilled about being in a gym.
“One of our guys was intimidated, but after trying, he had on this huge smile,” said Clay. “He said, ‘I didn’t know I could do this, and I’m so glad!’”
When Clay opened Ho’onani Place in 2002, she put into place her concept of preventative care. She sought to provide a safe place where people could feel fulfilled through mind, body and spirit in order to enhance their well-being.
“I knew that to accomplish this, I’d either find a way or make one,” said Clay. “I believe that this is what KC and I are doing with the kupuna program.”
A big misconception that many have is that CrossFit is only for the young or the fit. Stallsmith said she works with anyone at any level, and that everyone is an athlete. Primarily a fitness regimen, CrossFit has grown to more than 4,500 gyms (called a Box) worldwide. An important factor is the coach, who teaches functional movements and scales each workout to what the athlete can handle.
“The training for older folks is very broad and functional,” Clay said. “Being in a gym is part of a social environment for them, and CrossFit accommodates all types of people. It’s no different with this age group, and they are taking responsibility for their wellness.”
For the kupuna, the exercise builds strength and improves confidence in themselves. Stallsmith said it also helps the elderly with balance, coordination and walking.
“Just the confidence they gain alone, helps them with daily activities,” Clay said. “Like getting dressed, putting an arm into a T-shirt or even using the bathroom. Our clients are stronger and more agile. It also helps improve their ability to recover faster, like after a fall.”
Ninety-year-old Chiyoko Pai is very excited about being in the Kupuna CrossFit program. After one of the exercise sets, she actually clapped her hands and laughed.
“I’d like to go there all the time,” said Pai. “It has helped with my aches and pains and it is terrific!”
Pai was born in Kalopa and met her husband in the military. She lived 50 years of her life in Chicago, and 30 years here. Saying she had never been in a gym before, Pai said she found the equipment fascinating and that she’d like to try out all the exercises.
Another client of Ho’onani, Betsy Kansaku, 84, said she is thankful she can still go to the gym.
“I’m the kitchen type, I like to bake and cook,” Kansaku said. “But now I know why people go to the gym. I’m still learning new things and I enjoy it.”
Yawata, who said he will “turn 100 years old one month after Christmas,” takes it easy in the beginning when at CrossFit.
“Once I get adjusted, it all seems to be OK,” Yawata said. “I hope to inspire other people.”
Stallsmith calls it magical that a Box can be collaborating with an adult day care center. She adds that this is probably the first time it’s been done before, with adults who are 80 years and older.
“People love this story of Kameichi,” said Stallsmith. “Everyone is so curious, and it just proves that in our older ages, we can train too.”
Clay said the kupuna program is creating a cultural shift at Ho’onani. The energy shift can be felt from the kupuna while they are sitting in their recliners, and as Stallsmith said, “They are actually really into it!”
“Generally the people who come to CrossFit want to take care of their health,” said Stallsmith. “It’s no different in this age group. And here, it’s all age groups working together. CrossFit has changed the way we look at fitness.”
The CrossFit workout regimen uses the same routines, but scales the load and intensity depending on the person. Grandparents, or even great grandparents for that matter, may do a fitness program that is fit for professional athletes, but is tailored to their physical needs.
“KC is a pioneer,” Clay said. “Her facility and setting make exercise available for our kupuna, and KC engages them. That’s what you want in a coach.”
For more information on the Crossfit AllStars visit crossfitallstar.com or call 357-7851. Ho’onani Place may be found at hoonaniplace.com or 887-6440.