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Energetic ‘retiree’ motivates other seniors to adopt a full and active lifestyle

Energetic ‘retiree’ motivates other seniors to adopt a full and active lifestyle


While most people tend to slow down in their retired years, John Pulkrabek has been keeping himself busier than ever. At 72 years young, Pulkrabek works as a part-time Fitness Leader for the residents at Touchmark at Wedgewood, all while balancing his own roster of extracurricular activities and hobbies. 

“I tried to be retired for about two weeks. I sat on the deck and had some beer and then thought, ‘okay, now what?’” 

A former paramedic of 20 years, being in a fast-paced and rigorous industry taught Pulkrabek the importance of health, fitness, and taking care of one’s body. It was later in his career when he became an instructor for NAIT’s Paramedic Program that he started working closely with the staff and students of the Personal Fitness Training Program — and a new budding interest emerged. 

“We would use each other in our respective training as clients or as ride-along examples, and a good relationship developed from there. I’d have lunch hour fitness sessions with the Personal Fitness Trainers and think this would be an interesting course to take.” 

Now retired and a certified Personal Fitness Leader, Pulkrabek, who joined Touchmark three years ago, leads fun-filled exercise programs every Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday morning.  

“I run three different levels of classes with different agilities. There are usually about 10 or more people in each class, the youngest being 84 and the oldest being 97!” 

Pulkrabek’s three fitness classes run from: 

9 a.m. to 9:20 a.m. - A shorter, low-impact class for residents in assisted living 

9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. – A higher impact class for residents living independently in suites or bungalows. 

10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. – A seated class for all levels  

All of the exercise classes have the same fundamentals but are adjusted to the different residents and their varying needs. 

“We do resistance training with light weights and bands. We work a lot on range of motion and balance, which is particularly important at this age. We do things like figure eight movements of everything from shoulders, hips, toes, and ankles, then go onto moves like calf raises, squats, leg lifts, stretching, and more. They feel it! That’s why they keep coming back.”  

When he’s not at Touchmark with, as he says, “the amazing team I work with,” Pulkrabek plays hockey on Mondays and Wednesdays.  

“I found I didn’t have as much time for sports when I was working, but suddenly when you’re retired, it gets too easy to do nothing. So, I love playing hockey now in my free time, and I also play ball in a 70+ division league in the summer. It’s all about keeping fulfilled and keeping moving.”  

That is the attitude Pulkrabek brings into his classes at Touchmark. While the residents look forward to their weekly interactions with him, Pulkrabek also feels he is reaping the rewards and benefits. 

“We all have a bit in common, and I think they feel comfortable with me being someone close in age. I get something out of seeing them feel good about themselves and am constantly impressed by them. If I can do what they do when I’m 90, I’ll be happy!” 

At this time of year when the enthusiasm for keeping up with New Year’s fitness resolutions begins to wane, Pulkrabek has the following tips for staying motivated and healthy in one’s fitness journey. 

“For your heart and health, diet is important as well as incorporating a bit of cardio into every class. Even the little things help, like having good music on to get your toes tapping! As for staying motivated? Fitness is fun, especially in a group. There’s the kibitzing, the joking and the meeting of new people to help cheer you on. Just get started! One percent is better than zero percent, and I find that once people get started, they end up doing far more than they expected, and they bring that confidence in with them the next time.”