Alice Furuya joined 24 Hour Fitness after her first knee replacement surgery in 2012—for the pool.

“I’m a really good swimmer,” says Furuya, who has been swimming since age 4. When she joined the gym, Furuya didn’t feel comfortable using the machines or free weights.

Her first year at the gym was mainly spent swimming laps. Furuya was preparing for her second knee replacement surgery and was trying to lose weight. At the time, she had to use a walker to get around the gym.

But then Furuya discovered 24 Hour Fitness’ Aqua classes.

“The first couple of months after I joined, I needed that little chair to get in the pool because I couldn’t go down the stairs,” she says. “But then I got stronger and I started swimming more and discovered all these other classes.”

Pretty soon, Furuya was driving all over San Bernardino County, California, visiting 24 Hour Fitness clubs and becoming a regular at Aqua, Aqua Zumba, SilverSneakers and SilverSneakers Yoga classes in the area—sans walker.

Find a trainer you trust

A few years ago, Furuya decided it was time to take her training to the next level. She had seen clients working with trainers around the gym, but she knew she wanted to work with someone with similar life experiences to her own.

One of her Aqua instructors, Sue Mayer, had been in the fitness industry for more than 30 years, but she had come from the East Coast and had finally received her personal training certification in California.

“She was someone I felt like I could relate to. She deals with a lot of seniors—most of us have hip problems, knee problems, back problems,” Furuya says. “That made me feel really comfortable. I think if you’re going to do personal training—because it’s kind of expensive—you’ve got to feel close to your personal trainer. You’ve got to feel like you can trust them and that they understand you.”

Mayer says that the majority of her clients are in their 60s and older—a population that she believes is often not associated with personal training—and are looking to be healthy into their 70s, 80s and 90s.

“Every place I have moved, my mindset has been to teach general fitness, but somehow I’m always drawn to the over-50 population. They say you attract your tribe. This is my tribe,” Mayer says. “They aren’t looking to run races. They’re concerned about general health and wellness. You don’t have to be in your 20s to train; you can be any age and still get results.”

Furuya, who has been working with Mayer for a few years, says she trusts her trainer completely and has seen the results of her training.

“I think this woman saved my life—or at least she’s helping me to save my life, so I trust her with anything,” Furuya says.

Mayer has nothing but positive and inspiring things to say about her client, as well.

“I’m so proud of her—her entire journey has been amazing. I’m like a proud mom,” Mayer says.

Use it or lose it

Last summer, Furuya underwent her fifth knee replacement surgery. Between joining the gym after her first surgery and her most recent surgery, Furuya has lost 75 pounds. She attributes the last 60 pounds to the classes she joined and fell in love with, classes like Aqua Zumba.

“You don’t even feel like you’re exercising. We just have fun in the pool,” she says.

Other classes, like SilverSneakers Yoga—a “land class” as Furuya calls it—have also helped her work on balance and flexibility.

“We practice balance a lot. We also do things like getting up out of a chair,” she explains. “You wouldn’t think it would be that hard, but try doing it on one foot with no hands. [The instructor] makes us practice that kind of stuff. She says if we don’t practice, then we’re going to lose it.”

The value of health

Today, Furuya is motivated to get to the gym daily, not only because it is fun and she has the time (Furuya is retired), but because she’s been doing it for so long, it also feels like something is wrong if she’s not working out.

“I don’t feel guilty sitting around the house resting and watching television, but if I go a couple of days without going to the gym, then I know every day, every hour that you miss, it takes you twice that to get back to where you were,” she says.

For Furuya, while a gym membership and personal training are a significant financial commitment, she decided years ago that she would prioritize the cost of her health.

“If you think about it, yes, the training sessions are really expensive, but what are you going to spend your money on? You’re going to spend it on your family and yourself. So that’s what I’m doing now,” Furuya says.

She’s also gotten her husband to start going to the gym and training—something she never thought would happen.

“He was having problems walking, so he’s now training and learning how to walk again,” she says. “I never thought I’d say this, but we were just at the gym together. He’s seen the changes that I’ve made, and I think that’s inspired him to do something about his own health.”

Fitness is fun—if you make it fun

Between her trainer and her weekly schedule of GX classes, Furuya has no shortage of motivation to get to the gym—and if she is lacking motivation, she “picks the class that’s the most fun and goes to that one.”

Her classmates and friends she’s made at the gym over the years also motivate her to go.

“I was a loner before, but since I’ve retired, I decided I don’t like being alone as much. It’s more fun being around other people. I miss the people if I don’t go,” she says.

For Furuya, working out isn’t a chore—and she wishes more people knew how much fun fitness can be.

“I think more people would do it if they understood that it was really a lot of fun. It’s not work,” she says.

As for her advice for those struggling to motivate themselves to get to the gym, Furuya’s answer is simple but powerful: “Try new stuff. One day, I went to a BootyBarre class. I thought I was going to die; they were standing on their toes for so long.”

And while Furuya knows you won’t love every class you try, chances are—with all the class offerings—there’s bound to be at least one you’ll fall in love with.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Alice Furuya