It was the name that got Cory Kiczenskis' attention: "SilverSneakers."
The national fitness program for seniors 65 and older was offered for free through she and her husband Ron's medical insurance, and the name conjured up a "lighthearted and fun feeling" that intrigued her.
The Oakhurst couple -- ages 70 and 73 -- started attending SilverSneakers classes regularly last year at The Fitness Zone in Oakhurst. Last month, they received one of five national awards from SilverSneakers -- which has 9,000 facilities across the country -- to honor the remarkable progress they have made through the fitness program for their overall well-being.
The Kiczenskis are the only couple who received a SilverSneakers award this year.
While Cory counted herself in good physical condition before she started attending SilverSneakers, Ron did not.
Over the past year and a half, he's confronted big obstacles keeping him from living the life he's wanted.
"When I showed up for my first class of SilverSneakers, I was extremely overweight at 255 pounds," Ron said. "I had a right hip that needed to be replaced and I have two arteries to my heart that are 100% blocked from a triple bypass operation I had in 1999. I also had a frozen left shoulder -- I couldn't raise my arm above my shoulder, and I have a lower back problem with vertebrae's three and four that have herniated discs.
"I couldn't walk more than 50 to 100 feet without experiencing angina in my chest and getting short of breath. My quality of life was rapidly deteriorating and I was not feeling good about my physical condition."
Ron has made amazing progress in turning things around since he and Cory joined SilverSneakers in the fall of 2011, including being recently cleared by his cardiologist for a hip replacement, which was dependent largely on his health improving enough to survive such a major procedure.
"I have lost about 25 pounds of weight -- 30 more pounds to lose -- and I can do the exercises without having any angina or shortness of breath," Ron said of his physical condition today. "My balance, flexibility and muscle tone are greatly improved. I can walk a mile or two with walking sticks and not feel any ill effects. I can lift my left arm over my head now, even with light weights.
"Overall, I am more physically fit and my personal attitude is positive ... We have made some dear friends that attend the classes, along with our instructors Kathy Jackson and Malcolm Mungin, who encourage us."
"They have always stood out because of their fun-loving personalities," Jackson said of Ron and Cory. "They are friendly with everyone and know everyone's names and always greet people and talk to them ... Frequently, Ron and Cory will also go into the weight room and do the exercise program Malcolm has for them in addition to what they do with SilverSneakers. They are just really committed."
"I knew from the very first class that this would not only be a total workout for my body, but also for my mind and spirit," Cory said. "It is an activity that my husband and I enjoy doing together and I especially appreciate the support and encouragement we give each other. We have fun and look forward to coming each day ... Being involved in this excellent fitness program brings another dimension to my over all well-being. The classes provide a way to meet and get to know interesting people from my community and develop new friendships."
To honor Ron and Cory for winning the national SilverSneakers Richard L. Swanson Award, The Fitness Zone is offering free gym memberships for non-members from Monday, Dec. 3 through Monday, Dec. 10.
For those interested in checking out SilverSneakers at The Fitness Zone, there will be dress-up days during classes from Dec. 3 through Dec. 7 -- including cowboy, zoo, Hawaiian and super hero attire -- along with raffle prizes, appetizers and decorations.
Every week, Monday through Friday, about 50 people participate in four of the five SilverSneakers classes offered at the Fitness Zone -- muscular strength and range of movement, yoga stretch, cardio circuit, and cardio fit, the most advanced SilverSneakers workout.
Instructor Jackson has a Master's degree in physical education and education and instructor Mungin is a certified personal trainer at The Fitness Zone. Both attend SilverSneakers training courses yearly to stay up-to-date.
"The saying, 'Good, better, best. Never let it rest until the good is better, and the better, best,' resonates with me," Cory said. "When I joined SilverSneakers, my health was good and I was in good physical shape. However, my personal goal is to be in my best physical shape and overall health every day of my life so that I will be able to enjoy quality of life and continue to serve God as I grow older. So in a nut shell, the SilverSneakers Fitness Program, along with my great instructors, have brought me from good health to better health and I am now in the process of achieving my best health."
Jackson encourages the community to take advantage of SilverSneakers, which is covered by some insurance plans and Medicare supplements. Research has also showed that SilverSneakers participants have lower insurance program costs because they are healthier, she said.
"Today my body is much more toned, more flexible, and my balance has greatly improved," Cory said. "I enjoy clearer thinking, less stress, an enhanced mood, improved circulation, better posture and eye/hand coordination. I have gained strength and endurance while losing inches and some weight. At age 70, I am able to do everything and in some areas more than I did years younger."
Details: The Fitness Zone, (559) 641-7255.