Rick Mercadante, CSCS, CHC had a wakeup call when he was 48 years old. Overweight, suffering from hypertension, he had become one of the millions of Americans deteriorating from lifestyle related disease. Fearing for his life, Mercadante began a journey of self-discovery, which led to a renewal of his health and defined a new career path.
“At that time, everything was trial and error; I had no one to help me. Now that I have achieved a healthy lifestyle, I enjoy sharing the lessons I have learned with my clients,” says Mercadante.
A Certified Health Coach and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Mercadante, now 55, works one-on-one with his clients to help them achieve their health and fitness goals. His approach to working with older clients, such as retirees, has its own set of challenges, he says.
“As a health coach, exercise is the last thing I look at—diet and nutrition is first, and then the mind-body-stress balance is very important. I do not believe in a cookie cutter approach to health. I feel it is important to look at the whole individual, to learn about their lifestyle, and then come up with a plan.”
Mercandante explains that most of the health issues in his older clients relate to life style. “They carry more baggage,” he says. “Take food, for example, which is often used to self-medicate to relieve pain or stress. Over time, the very thing that offers comfort can create difficult heath issues with lifestyle related diseases such as obesity, hypertension, and diabetes.”
Helping his clients identify the engrained patterns of behavior that have led to the erosion of their health is the key, he says. “Many personal trainers do not focus on the behavior modification part to help find a healthier way of life. They focus on exercise, especially the younger trainers. This can lead to serious injury for the older client. Older clients are not just older, younger people!”
Older clients need a special approach. He sees the management of recovery time as critical in protecting these clients from injury. “I am 55 and I have worked with younger trainers. What many of them do not grasp is that a 65-year-old does not recover from a workout at the same rate as a 25-year-old. The exercise must be in balance with the recovery, which is the rest component. Younger clients can just push through; older clients need more time to recover. They also need to be accessed for old injuries that may be impacting their health,” says Mercadante.
Using an assessment process called Functional Movement Screening (FMS), Mercandante studies the overall range of movement of his new clients. He ex plains, “This is where the mind, body and exercise come together. Sometimes we think we are moving correctly, but actually, we are compensating for old injures. Overtime, these incorrect movement patterns create stress and chronic injury in one or more of our joints. I try to help my clients correct these movement patterns.”
Mercandante sees “getting healthy” as a mind-body experience that should be differentiated from “getting fit” which covers only the physical body. He recommends compassion for the self, when confronted with the challenges of exercise.
“Do not get caught up in having to exercise— all movement is good for you. The last thing you want to do is to start reaching for food because you are mad at yourself for not exercising,” he says. “Eat food as close to its natural source as possible and take time to unwind! People do not truly acknowledge the negative effect stress has on the body.”
- Sherri Wisoff