Meet Your SilverSneakers Instructor: Andi Kwapien

By Michele Stanten |

For Andi, having the right mindset is essential to healthy aging. Plus, get her top tips for weight loss.

Andi Kwapien During times of stress and uncertainty, some people try to summon motivation from within. Others take a few deep breaths—or pause, close their eyes, and meditate. SilverSneakers Master Trainer Andi Kwapien looks at her computer.

No, not at the screen. Instead, she looks at the handwritten message she’s taped right above it: “Don’t give up.” When she feels overwhelmed, frustrated, or challenged, she says, reading those words or saying them out loud helps her focus.

Here, Andi offers advice and inspiration on losing weight, embracing your age, and sticking with exercise so that you never have to give up your strength and independence.

How Long Have You Been a SilverSneakers Instructor?

Twenty-one years.

Why Did You Join SilverSneakers?

The first workshop I took was amazing. Right from the start, I knew it was a special program. The classes are designed to be progressive and to let you meet individuals where they’re at on any particular day. They’re so much fun! I loved it right from the beginning.

What Do You Love Most About Being a SilverSneakers Instructor?

I love the people. As we get older, we tend to mellow out. We laugh at ourselves more, and we embrace our mistakes. We want to stay strong and take care of ourselves in the process.

A gentleman who takes classes with me once said that he loves the exercise progressions for the shoulders, knees, and hips because he wants to “challenge, not abuse, these old friends of mine. They’ve been with me all my life.”

That’s just so true. As we get older, we still want to keep doing all of the things that we’ve always done, so we have to take care of ourselves—but in a different way, in a better way.

Weight Loss Is a Common Goal for People. What Advice Do You Have for Older Adults Trying to Lose Weight?

Everybody is different, and what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. But there are things that are helpful and do work for most people.

Keep a small notebook, and track what you eat. It can be an eye-opener. Sometimes we eat more than we think we do. Or we’re heavily eating one particular macronutrient, like breads or cereals, and not getting enough fruits and vegetables to balance it out.

Planning meals is really important. If you just wait until you’re hungry or when it’s mealtime, that’s when we don’t make the best choices. If you think ahead of time about what you’re going to have for dinner and make sure that you have the ingredients, you can make a dinner for yourself, even if it’s simple.

Carry a water bottle with you all day. Or a keep a glass of water on the counter to remind yourself to sip water throughout the day.

What’s the Biggest Mistake People Make When Trying to Lose Weight?

They focus on what they can’t have instead of what they can have. People always look at deprivation. You need to reframe your focus to look at everything you get to have. It really should be about making better choices. You can still have things that you enjoy, but maybe not every day. Or maybe you need to reduce the size.

How Do You Motivate Yourself When You Don’t Feel Like Working Out?

There are some days when I’m like, “Oh man, do I have to do my strength training today?” When I don’t feel like exercising, if I just make myself do it—just get started—it sets me on a positive path for the rest of day. I feel happier. I feel more energetic. It doesn’t have to be a big, huge workout every day, but you should do something you love every day. Go for a walk or dance—just do something.

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What’s Your Top Tip for Looking and Feeling Younger?

It’s very important that we enjoy every stage of life, because getting older is a gift. We need to embrace where we are at today. I’m looking forward to being 60, and I’m looking forward to being 70 and 80 and 90, and I hope I get to be 100.

My grandfather is 91. My grandmother will be 90. They live in their own home. My Grampy is an amazingly strong man who can lift heavy weights and load and unload tractors onto a trailer. They are the positive picture of aging well. They are the example that I want to be every day.

How Do You Reward Yourself?

I love going for a walk in the woods. It puts me into a positive mental space. I love exploring new trails. I’ll look something up on the map and see where I haven’t been before. For example, my son is in a new school this year, and it’s near a state forest. I look forward to taking him to school, and then I just explore. It’s something I look forward to.

Tell Us Something That SilverSneakers Members Might Be Surprised to Learn About You

My husband and I have been learning American Sign Language for the past 14 years. People often think I must be very good at it because I am quite expressive and talk with my hands, but sign language is about more than the hands. It also includes the eyes, mouth, and face. It’s been a challenging language for me to learn, but well worth the effort.

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