Body Recall Helping People Grow Old Gracefully
Her voice precedes her as she comes down the long hall at the Wellness and Athletic Center at Hendrix College.
“Let’s get started,” she says to the rows of men and women of a certain age who are poised in stocking feet behind metal folding chairs.
“Up on your toes … this is for balance,” she says, in a voice trained for coaching sports, refereeing volleyball, and teaching future coaches and fitness instructors.
Earlene Hannah has been getting folks out of their recliners and up on their toes for more than 25 years. In addition to her other duties in the Kinesiology Department at Hendrix, she’s a certified instructor in Body Recall, the method that has helped two generations of folks grow old gracefully.
The official brochure describes the experience: “A safe, tested program of gentle exercise and movement developed for the living longer population.”
Living longer is certainly a goal of Earlene and her students who meet three mornings a week at 8 a.m., braving the rain or cold and lately carefully circumnavigating the traffic around the WAC as the latest roundabouts are built on Harkrider at Siebenmorgen and Fleming Streets.
A few Hendrix students are in the class, but they are sometimes not as flexible as their older classmates - some in their 90s, several in their 80s. Some have been taking the class as long as Earlene has been teaching.
Earlene will be retiring from Hendrix next year, but she’ll be keeping her Body Recall classes.
“Helping these folks live longer with gracefulness will be my legacy,” Earlene says.
Leon Stout arrives for class wearing his maroon blazer over sweatpants, signifying he’ll leave class and head to Conway Regional Medical Center where he’s been a faithful volunteer for years. The class helped him celebrate his 94th birthday in September.
Cheers go up when a class member returns, absent for weeks because of a hospitalization.
Several couples are enthusiastic participants - Thea and Chris Spatz, Sharon and George Thompson, Roberta and Cy Raymer, Eloise and Albert Raymond, Nancy and Dave Bryant, Pam and Butch Rawls and others - encouraging each other to stretch, reach, and lift according to Earlene’s instructions.
“After retirement,” said Thea Spatz, “I started attending Body Recall and traveled to Berea with Earlene for instructor training. I taught for about a year at First United Methodist Church. With Earlene’s enthusiasm, encouragement and positive attitude, how could I not love it and do it? It’s kept me moving.”
Earlene talks as she goes through the familiar routine, handled smoothly by the veterans.
“Why do we do this exercise?” she asks, not waiting for an answer. “If you have hip or knee surgery, you need to have good upper body strength so you can walk on crutches.”
And “This exercise teaches you how to get up off the floor if you fall down. It also helps you get in and out of the bathtub.
“Stretching and clenching your hands like this gets the blood flowing … . Get that foot up on your lap. Massage your feet. If you can do that, you won’t have to pay someone to give you a pedicure … .
“Walk your hips out to the edge of your chair. You’d be surprised how many people in the hospital can’t scoot themselves over in the bed … .
“Bend over in your chair, lift your hips … no, wait … .” There is laughter as the class realizes if they followed that instruction they would unintentionally “go to the floor.”
“Aren’t these getting easier?” Earlene encourages those who may not be feeling that the leg lifts or the lunges or the triceps presses are indeed getting easier, yet.
On Mondays, she gets the blood flowing by leading a line dance, usually steps to a country-western tune.
Sheila Rupert, a senior kinesiology major at Hendrix, also certified to teach Body Recall, sometimes leads the class in “The Chicken Dance.” The 30 classmates giggle and grin as they circle around, flapping their arms, flexing their fingers, and wiggling toward the floor, a spectacle that indeed “increases circulation to all parts of the body without threatening the heart,” according to the brochure.
“Some of the men don’t like to line dance, but they will take part in the Chicken Dance,” Sheila said. “I like to get everybody moving.”
Wednesday mornings are for a bit of study from the book, Body Recall: Program of Physical Fitness for the Adult by Dorothy Chrisman, an athlete and professor at Berea (Ky.) College who in 1978 established Body Recall, Inc. The organization now has more than 300 certified instructors in 31 states.
Fridays are more demanding, but after the added repetitions the session ends with the lights dimmed, eyes closed, and neck rolls, sure to relax the overworked muscles.
Each session ends with Earlene’s pronouncement: “I deem you exercised!”
“January is a good time for folks to begin a new exercise regimen,” Earlene said. Fee is $2 per class; a punch card can be bought for $20. The class is free for WAC members. Plans are underway for adding an afternoon class. Earlene encourages others to call the WAC at 505-2966 for more information.
Becky Harris is growing older gracefully as a Body Recall student of Earlene Hannah and Sheila Rupert.