Meet Your SilverSneakers Instructor: Jenny O’Callaghan

By Michele Stanten |

You might know Jenny from SilverSneakers LIVE classes. Now, get her best fitness and motivation tips.

jenny o'callaghanNeed energy or motivation to exercise? Then you need Jenny O’Callaghan, a longtime SilverSneakers Master Trainer.

Each week on SilverSneakers LIVE, she teaches something for everyone, from yoga to total-body conditioning. Her upbeat personality, expert cueing, and smart modifications ensure that you get a safe and effective workout—and come back for more.

After all, when it comes to staying strong, fit, and independent for life, consistency is everything. If you need to kick up your routine, Jenny has some terrific suggestions.

How Long Have You Been a SilverSneakers Instructor?

Twenty-two years.

What Do You Love Most About SilverSneakers?

The participants. I started in fitness in 1986, back in the days of teaching kill-your-body, high-impact aerobics classes. Once I started teaching SilverSneakers classes, my focus quickly went from looking good in your best pair of jeans or a bathing suit to helping people live long, healthy lives.

I realized that I could help them improve the quality of their lives. Many of them had not exercised before. And to see them make the connection that the hard work they’re putting in really does make a difference with the aging process—it’s been a pretty rewarding career.

What’s Your Favorite Part of SilverSneakers LIVE?

It’s the idea of how many lives we’re actually impacting. When I taught SilverSneakers classes here locally, I would get anywhere from 30 to 60 people in my classes. But now, I had more than 900 people in my first class today. The circle of influence has grown that much larger.

Why Should Members Give It a Try?

It’s something they can do in the convenience of their own homes—with no fear of being judged. I think back to one of the times I went to this triple-step class, and I was tripping over my own feet. It’s embarrassing. Nobody wants to stand out as someone who can’t do this.

With SilverSneakers LIVE, you’re in your living room, and you can do as little or as much as you want. No one is watching. That freedom can build confidence. So, when locations open up again, you may have the confidence to join a class at a gym.

Once People Get Started, How Can They Stay Motivated?

Get out of your comfort zone. When you’re stuck in a comfort zone, you get burned out. You might walk every day or do the same class, and that’s great, but maybe you’ll get a little tired of the same thing over and over again.

And if you do the same activity day in and day out, you stop seeing the exercise gains and benefits. Be open-minded about trying, say, a Zumba or yoga class. Challenging yourself to try something new is a good way to stay motivated.

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How Do You Motivate Yourself to Exercise When You Don’t Feel Like It?

I’m definitely a morning person, so exercise is part of my morning routine. I set my stuff out the night before. It’s ready for me. I also have a workout partner, which keeps me accountable. I know that someone else is relying on me.

When you’re doing online classes, you can do the same thing. Start a text conversation with someone from class, or call them and say, “Hey, don’t forget to go for a walk tomorrow.” Or “I’ll see you at class at this time.” You have that accountability factor. In the SilverSneakers LIVE classes, there’s a chat box so you can say hi to each other.

What’s the Most Common Excuse That You Hear About Why People Aren’t Exercising?

A common one is preconceived ideas about physical limitations. That they just can’t do it because it will hurt their knees or back. Maybe you can’t do an exercise because of your knees—but you can try a different one instead. They can adapt the workout to meet their needs. They can do moves seated instead of standing.

I had someone with paraplegia in a class, and when I did ankle circles, she did wrist circles. There are limitless possibilities about how to do many of the exercises. Something like a squat could be a glute squeeze instead. As they build their strength, they can progress. When people see a class that has all of those different adaptations, they realize that maybe they can do this.

If Someone Only Has Time for 1 Exercise Today, What Should It Be?

Walk. Just get up and move. Even if it’s just walking around your home, that’s great. It gets the heart rate up a little bit if you increase the speed. It maintains mobility and agility. The benefits are pretty large.

A squat is so good too. A squat is such a multifunctional exercise. It’s such a practical exercise because that’s what you’re doing every time you sit down and stand up.

We’d Love to Hear More About You Outside of SilverSneakers. What’s Your Biggest Vice?

I’m a big sweets eater, especially homemade chocolate chip cookies. I’ve also been binge-watching series since the pandemic started. I never used to do that before. I just watched The Undoing with Nicole Kidman.

What Strategies Do You Use to Limit Yourself with Sweets or Binge-Watching?

I remind myself about moderation. I have to talk myself through it, though, at times. If it’s cookies, I’ll keep them in the freezer, which is like portion control. I take out only a couple at a time, so I’m not tempted.

What’s Your Philosophy or Motto for Life?

Be good to other people—thinking of others and putting others before yourself even when it’s not so easy. It’s something that I really try to practice. Just be kind to others.

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