Interview With Robyn Strauss
Robyn Strauss is a fitness and health enthusiast who teaches fun, inclusive exercise classes for all levels. Now teaching exclusively in Wynmoor Village, a 55+ community, Robyn took time out of her busy day to speak with me about fitness as we age and the importance of finding a fitness routine that you love.
(Robyn is also quite an adventurer, has a great sense of humor … and a chocolate lab! What’s not to love?!?)
Diane: Welcome to WomanPause, Robyn! I recently moved to Wynmoor, a 55+ community in Coconut Creek, Florida. It’s wonderful. One of the great things about it is all the amenities they offer, including exercise classes. I met you through your water aerobics class, and I wanted to learn more about you, how you got into exercise, and your thoughts about exercise as we age.
Robyn: Well, I grew up in New Hampshire and was a downhill ski racer. I went to University of Massachusetts and skied for them. After my last race, I popped off my skis, threw them in the woods, and said, “I’m done with this. Done with the cold and snow. I’m moving to Florida.”
Diane: Wow! How old were you then?
Robyn: I had just graduated college with a sport management degree. I decided, I’d been going to Florida for spring break every year, why can’t I just live there?
Diane: So you’re an adventurer!
Robyn: I don’t know about that, but I like the ocean and the sun. After years and years and years of skiing, especially at the collegiate level where you’re forced out there, whether it’s raining, sleeting, or snowing. I wanted out, so I moved to Florida. I worked at Williams Island spa for a while, down in North Miami. And then I got married, had kids. One day, when I was visiting my parents who moved to Wynmoor, one of the instructors looked at me and said, “you look like you’re in shape. Do you teach?” I said, “Well, actually I do. I’m a group fitness instructor and an ACE certified personal trainer.” She told me they were hiring, and I’ve been at Wynmoor going on 20 years.
“It Gives Me a Sense of Pride and Joy When I See Someone Whose Life Has Been Changed Dramatically”
I teach a variety of exercise classes. Water aerobics. A bootcamp class several times a week, aerobics several times a week. I teach a balance class with some joint strengthening a couple times a week. I’m there every day, every morning and work with a variety of people. Some can do all the stuff in the hardest class. And then there are others who struggle to do the easiest stuff in the easy class. I work with a wide range of ages too, 55 up to a hundred.
Robyn: With a wide range of abilities and limitations.
Diane: So there was a time when you were teaching more of a general population?
Robyn: Yeah, and I did a lot of personal training. I kept doing personal training at Wynmoor, but gradually got more class hours. As I aged, I moved into teaching older adults.
Diane: Tell me about the differences. There are generally more physical limitations as people grow older, but what are some of the other differences between teaching a group of 30 or 40-somethings and teaching 55+?
Robyn: It’s very rare that the 30, 40-somethings get their exercise classes for free. They have to pay to join somewhere, which may add a level of commitment. At Wynmoor, there are a variety of reasons people exercise. Sometimes, they’ve gone to the doctor and got bad news. The doctor told them they needed to start moving or would not to be able to move soon. Sometimes, especially for the pool class, people join for the social aspect. There are a few who really enjoy working out and have worked out all their lives. But the majority of people that I’ve come in contact with are late bloomer exercisers.
Diane: What about late bloomers coming to exercise? I imagine you meet some who are like, wow, this is really changing my quality of life.
Robyn: Yeah. It gives me a sense of pride and joy when I see someone whose life has been changed dramatically. There’s one woman who she started coming to the easiest class and had to sit in a chair to do it. She kept coming and has progressed to harder classes. I like to see people progress from being sedentary to becoming active. It’s changed her life and to me, that’s pretty cool.
Diane: That’s very cool.
You don’t know this about me, but I am certified as a yoga instructor and used to teach in various country clubs in New York. I’m thinking of two very different clubs right now. One was extremely serious. No one smiled. I could not make the classes hard enough for them. They really wanted to work. The other one was like, “Ugh, do we have to do that hard posture now?” The clubs attracted people with a totally different head and vibe. I guess you see people from both ends.
“I Walk a Line. The Classes Are Good for Them, But They Should Be Enjoyable As Well”
Robyn: It’s such a wide range. I’ve got the overachievers who are trying to go faster than I am. And then I’ve got the other ones who can’t keep up or follow. There are some people I can’t watch because if I watch them, it messes me up. They’re going left instead of right.
Diane: I laugh because I’ve always had trouble with my left and right.
What I love about your class is that you’re so in inclusive and you don’t push. You are very encouraging, but you’re not from the no pain/no gain school. You’re just like, people are there to get what they can or want, and that’s seems fine with you.
Robyn: You know me from the pool. If you look up the definition of water aerobics, it starts off with “a social activity.” I’ve encountered a handful of people over the years who have asked me to tell people to stop talking. I’ve told them the pool’s a very big place. If they don’t like the fact that the person next to them is talking, they can move all the way to the other side.
In the pool, especially the first couple of weeks after the pandemic, everybody was talking. I had to bend the rules a little bit. I feel like sometimes I walk a line. The classes are good for them, but they should be enjoyable as well.
Diane: You’ve been doing this at Wynmoor for about 20 years. Have you noticed a difference in either the physical health or attitude–or anything else–from the people living there when you started to the people living there now?
Robyn: I’ve seen a younger crowd moving in—and the younger crowd is more demanding. The older crowd would’ve said to me, “what kind of music is that?” Whereas the younger crowd says, “why don’t you get this kind of music or why don’t you get…” They like to suggest things more.
Which isn’t a bad thing. I mean, especially at pool, I aim to please. I told one lady, “you make me a playlist and I will get it for you.” Still waiting on that.
Diane: That’s funny. What about people’s health? Have you seen a change people’s health over the years?
Robyn: I don’t think I can answer that because I don’t know if this one in my class has cancer. I don’t know if this one has coronary heart disease. There’s a lot that I don’t know. Have I seen people lose weight? Yes. But I will be the first to say they haven’t lost weight just because of my class. They’ve lost weight because they’ve made a conscious effort with their eating and with other ways to be active. There are so many other factors that involved.
“However They Find Their Balance, People Are Much More Health Conscious Now”
Diane: What about a change in people’s attitudes towards health? Are people taking their health more seriously today than they were 20 years ago?
Robyn: Yeah, absolutely. I think a lot of that has to do with the internet and having more information available. People know more about their health than they did before. And the majority are acting on it. Even if this one has her three glasses of wine every night, she’ll have Greek yogurt for breakfast. That kind of thing.
Diane: That’s quite a balance!
Robyn: However they find their balance, people are much more health conscious now.
Diane: What do you do to stay in such wonderful shape?
Robyn: I teach 14 classes a week at Wynmoor and have a four-year-old chocolate lab.
Diane: Oh. Say no more. I used to have a lab.
Robyn: During the pandemic, we used to run every day. And then I started teaching again, more than just the two hours a week on Zoom, and I couldn’t do that two-mile morning run anymore. We walk about three quarters of a mile in the morning. On days I don’t teach, I take a two or three-mile run. During the pandemic, we bought a whole weight set that is now in my living room. My husband has gone back to the gym. I’m just not comfortable going back yet, but I do work out with weights three or four times a week. I’m very active in the mornings, but from noon on, not so much.
Diane: Afternoon, it’s chill time?
Robyn: More or less.
Diane: That’s wonderful. You must get an early start.
Robyn: I do. I’m usually up by 4:30 a.m. Not necessarily by choice. It’s just the way my inner clock works.
“I’m Not Sure If I Really Missed the Skiing Or My Dad Who Passed Away Six Years Ago”
Diane: Has that changed as you’ve gotten older?
Robyn: Yeah. I think I’ve never been a great sleeper, but as I’ve gotten older, sleep does not come easy. No matter how active and how much fresh air I get, sleep is an issue.
Diane: I think for a lot of us, it gets harder.
Do you miss skiing?
Robyn: I watched the Olympics and I felt like maybe I was missing it, but I’m not sure if I really missed the skiing or my dad who passed away six years ago. He was very involved in my skiing career. He was my biggest supporter. I was really just more missing him than the skiing. I had enough of the cold.
Diane: You mentioned your husband goes to the gym. So I guess fitness is important for him as well.
Robyn: He goes to the gym religiously now. He had a heart attack about five years ago. He’s fine now, but that made him become a faithful gym rat. If you look at his body, you’d say, “oh, he must be like 30.”
Diane: Well lucky you!
And did you raise your kids to exercise? I would imagine they are also into physical fitness.
Robyn: My son plays division one baseball at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina. My daughter plays division one soccer at Western Kentucky University.
Diane: Wow. I guess the answer is yes.
Robyn: Yeah. They’re both very much into their sports, but they’re also very much into fitness in general. They were raised in a very health-conscious sports-minded environment.
Diane: Do you play pickle ball?
Robyn: I have never played pickle ball.
Diane: You know it’s quite the rage. I think it’s wonderful because it’s so many people are taking to it and it’s getting them back into shape.
What advice do you have for, for people over 50 regarding fitness?
“Go and Do What You Need to Do in Order to Be Healthy and Prolong Your Life”
Robyn: Find something you like. There’s no doubt that it’s important to move. There’s something to be said about the phrase, move it or lose it. I think it’s important to find something that you can stick with doing three to four times a week. Something that you don’t look for excuses to not do it. Just get moving. It doesn’t matter if you take my class. It doesn’t matter if you walk by yourself, if you walk with friends, if you do pickleball, tennis, do a video online. Just do something before you can’t.
Diane: Great. And do you have anything else you want to say or offer to people or…
Robyn: I guess, as far as coming to classes, don’t be scared. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to go and look stupid or to feel like you can’t do everything. The person next to you is there for themselves, for their own workout. They’re not looking at you. They’re not judging you. Go and do what you need to do in order to be healthy and prolong your life.
Diane: That’s wonderful. We talk a lot on the blog about feeling the fear but doing it anyway. It’s a wonderful motto to live by.
I think that’s wonderful advice for exercise and for everything else. Go and do it, right?
Robyn: You know you have to. It’s everywhere you look, whether it be on a magazine shelf, on the internet, in the newspaper, TV. Everywhere you look, all you hear about how important it is to move.
Diane: Thank you so much, Robyn, for sharing your insights with us. See you at the pool!
As always, I’d love to hear from you! Write a comment or send me an email with your thoughts!
See you next month!
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Inspiring in every way. I especially love this line about movement and exercise: “Just do something before you can’t.”
Thanks, Jessica! And yes to “just do something before you can’t.”
I love this interview and how it showcases our ability to reinvent ourselves. I echo the need for a reminder that HOW we move, matters!
Thank you, Jeanne! And you are so right. HOW we move does matter!
Thanks for this interview about keeping our bodies moving. I need to hear it frequently.
Thanks, Nicky! I’m not sure why that it, but I need to be reminded too!