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Senior citizens build muscle strength at H-F Racquet Club fitness class

If you’re tired after a workout, that’s a good thing, says Jeffrey Lippert who teaches a Silver Sneakers Seniors Fitness class at the H-F Racquet & Fitness Club. “The only way to build muscular strength and muscular endurance is to fatigue.” 

His Tuesday afternoon Silver Sneakers class draws up to 40 people in the club’s studio room with others attending by Zoom video conference.  

Dee Jackson of Flossmoor uses weights during the exercise
routine for the Seniors Fitness class Tuesdays at the H-F
Racquet & Fitness Club. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

After the 60-minute workout, Lippert knows class participants are fatigued. Despite the tiredness, he said they recognize the value of the exercises that are meant to strengthen muscles and help with mobility. His routine includes everything from marching in place to stretching and doing squats with weights in hands.

“The group of people here at H-F, they have to have something really important going on not to come to that class. They keep bringing friends,” he said.

Dee Jackson of Flossmoor has been coming to the class since January, although she’s been doing yoga for some time. 

“I enjoy the movement he does, and I enjoy the interactions,” she said.

Debbie McClain of Hazel Crest joined the class in June 2022. She said she’s burning off calories and notices her waistline has changed, and “strengthened my body, especially my arms which are the weakest part of my body. He keeps me coming back,” McClain said. “Jeffrey, he’s really good.”

Lippert, a former businessman, has been into exercising and health for a while. He was hiking the Appalachian Trail and realized he was getting tired out by the constant hiking.

“I started losing my range of motion after 10 hours a day,” he recalled. He returned home to Flossmoor and took a yoga class that “helped me become more flexible and stronger and then my yoga teacher quit.”

While vacationing with his wife, Gloria, Lippert told fellow diners he was going to do yoga in the morning. They asked to join him, and he found himself directing them as his yoga teacher had.

Their encouragement led to Lippert getting certified “and my first job after I got certified was at H-F” 20 years ago teaching yoga. He’s also taught Aquacise and cycling classes. He biked more than 2,000 miles last year.

Stretches are part of the hour-long Silver Sneakers program on Tuesday afternoons for seniors. Between 30 and 40 people attend the classes designed to improve mobility and strengthen muscles. (Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

Lippert also teaches various exercise classes at other facilities in the South Suburbs.

Before his Silver Sneakers class starts, participants find a chair and collect a ball, a pair of weights and a resistance band from a supply closet. The room is walled with mirrors and the music is upbeat. Lippert is at the front giving instructions on the various steps they will do and calls out which apparatus they’ll be using. 

“I give a lot of cues, one after another,” he said.

“The main thing is to maintain mobility, so they’ll hear me say in every class avoid sitting back against the chair” because slumping in a chair can lead to muscle weakness, he said.

Jeffrey Lippert, with weight in hand, teaches a Silver Sneakers
Seniors Fitness class at the H-F Racquet & Fitness Club.
(Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle)

“My talk to them is when you’re home avoid sitting back on the chair, sit forward on the chair so you can support yourself with those muscles when you’re not in class,” Lippert explains. “If you’re sitting at the kitchen table, don’t rest your forearms on the table. That does the same thing. Eventually, you won’t even think twice about using your chair.”

“Mobility is really important, and I’ll also do squats. A lot of people have knee issues, a lot of people have hip issues, a lot of people have shoulder issues, all from aging. The only way to keep all of those chronic issues from becoming more chronic is to use them,” Lippert said.

“When you have arthritis it hurts to move them, but as you start to move them they limber up and your joints have these little fluid sacks and they’re released into the joints and make you feel better. But the initial pain is there, and they say, ‘Oh I don’t want to move,’” he said. 

“A lot of people have shoulder issues. The shoulder is a big deal, and if we can’t move our arm that greatly reduces our daily activities, opening a door, reach to flush the toilet, getting dressed,” he said. “I spend a lot of time on strengthening the shoulder muscles. We need to do it right, otherwise they can damage those shoulder muscles.”

“And then, there’s the issue of falling,” so Lippert has participants learn how to flex the knees and stand with “feet wider away from each other for better stability.”

Seniors who are on Medicare Advantage or supplemental Medicare insurance plans may be eligible for Silver Sneakers free of charge. Using the Silver Sneakers plan also allows participants to be part of the H-F Racquet Club without an additional charge.

While Lippert’s got a steady group in the Tuesday class and a Silver Sneakers chair yoga class on Thursdays, he said newcomers shouldn’t be intimidated to join. They can work at their own speed.

“There’s always the basics and they do (other exercises) if they can, and if they can’t that’s why the chair is there,” he said.

For additional information, contact the H-F Racquet & Fitness Club at 708-799-1323. 

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