The trick to staying fit beyond 50, dancing |

The trick to staying fit beyond 50, dancing

by Ron Walker

“How ya’ doin’?,” Phil asks.

We’re standing on the steps outside the Smith Valley Post Office (circa 1872).

Slurring slightly I say, “I had a bunch of dental work done in Algodones, Mexico, last week. Everything I’m eating now comes out of a blender. How’s your back coming along?”

Catching up on everyone’s health is an inevitability here in Smith Valley. Phil says his back still isn’t quite right. He had a procedure similar to Orllyene’s fusion of L-3, 4, and 5 disks.

“You should come to my Stretch-a-size class. It would do you good. It’s great for circulation, and we have a great time. You’d fit right in,” I announce.

“I’m taking Tai Chi,” he says.

I’m stunned. Phil could easily be taken for a mountain man. He has a bushy beard, wears a scruffy cowboy hat, and resembles a prospector more than a Tai Chi type. The next thing you know, the Hunewill Ranch will be using acupuncture on their cows. I was recently in Marina del Rey, and saw a sign that read, “Veterinary Dermatology.” Life is definitely changing.

One person I did convince to start dancing, is Linda. Linda is the Assistant Postmaster here.

“Ron, I have to do something. I have to get up off the couch and start moving. I just don’t feel right. When are your classes?” she asks.

She had a look of desperation in her eyes. The next thing I know, she signs up for classes and has been coming regularly. Linda now says that she feels much better. Her body is coming alive and the combinations are sharpening her mind. Trying something new isn’t easy, especially when that something is as radical as dancing. It makes me happy to see people discover dancing. People can’t help but respond when I play music by Ray Anthony, Gloria Estefan, Sinatra, Manilow, Tom Jones or Huey Luis and the News. We all have different levels of physical fitness. Marilyn is 86 and Pandora is 12, so obviously they move differently, but both hear and respond in their own unique way. At the bar we stretch, bend, do leg swings, open the hip joints, and gradually limber up. Then we come to the center and do basic dance movements. We reach for the ceiling, bend to the floor, travel around the room, and for the computer gurus, we work on the wrists, spread our fingers wide, then wider, and finally shake them loose. All of this happens while compelling music is playing. Finally we do a dance combination, which keeps our minds sharp. That’s where inspiration comes in. We learn the steps in counts of eight, put them together, and we have a routine. Everyone’s personality enriches the routine, adding their unique style and spice. Debbie is a bubbly sprite, Stephanie’s Afro-Haitian exotic moves are astounding, and Suzy spins a web of cheerfulness, while Mary Anne dances like she’s training for the Olympics. Orllyene’s role is different. She reigns me in if I get too goofy.

By using dance movements, set to inspiring music, exercise is fun. Most importantly, we are giving the body the attention it needs. Worries vanish and for one carefree hour, it’s recess time. Think about it. What can you do, or where can you go without your body?

Ron Walker lives (and dances) in Smith Valley. He can be reached at