Meet Your SilverSneakers Instructor: Samantha Protokowicz

By Michele Stanten |

This Minnesotan shares her best winter workout tips, so that you can enjoy the season too.

Samantha Protokowicz

You don’t know Samantha Protokowicz. Sure, you might recognize her from the many online classes she teaches through SilverSneakers LIVE, but the classroom is not her natural habitat.

Samantha, a SilverSneakers Master Trainer and an avid runner, is most at home outside. A regular dose of sunshine, fresh air, and nature helps nourish not only her body, but also her mind and spirit, she says.

We can all use some of that—and these days, it’s even more important! Here are Samantha’s suggestions for staying comfy, safe, and active in wintertime.

How Long Have You Been a SilverSneakers Instructor?

Ten years.

Why Did You Join SilverSneakers?

I was a fitness center manager at a partnering location for the SilverSneakers program. The classes brought so much joy and happiness to our members. It was an opportunity for them to not only exercise but also be social. They’d come 15 minutes early to have coffee and chat. They’d socialize in class, and then they’d talk about where they were going to go after. I loved the concept and camaraderie.

Since Many Gyms Are Closed or Limited Right Now, SilverSneakers Started Offering Live Classes Online. Why Should SilverSneakers Members Give Them a Try?

One of best parts of SilverSneakers LIVE classes is that there is something for everyone—all skill levels and abilities, from seated to standing exercise options. We even offer a boot camp class and Zumba now too. If members give it a try, they’ll find something that they enjoy.

Why Is It So Important to Find Something That You Enjoy?

When people find an exercise format or a class that they enjoy, they’re more likely to stick with it. I never tell one of my clients who hates running to go for a run.

What Do You Personally Enjoy Doing?

I’m a marathon runner, so I do love to run. I run year-round, outside, even though I live in Minnesota. I also like cross-country skiing, but we haven’t had any snow yet this season.

What Are Some Good Outdoor Winter Activities for Older Adults?

One of the easiest is walking. You don’t need any equipment. And the fresh air is so good for the mind, body, and spirit. But there is a little planning and preparation that has to go with any exercise that’s done outside in the winter.

How Should People Prepare?

Pay attention to the weather and be aware of the wind chill factor. It can cause your body temperature to drop quickly, and hypothermia and frostbite can become an issue. Make sure you can move fast enough to keep your body temperature up. Don’t go alone. Bring a phone.

Water is also important. Sometimes people think that just because it’s cold, you shouldn’t be drinking water. Water helps control core body temperature. Also, make sure that streets and sidewalks are clear of ice and snow, so that there’s not a risk of slipping and falling.

(Note: If you have a chronic condition, an injury, or balance issues, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely. For example, if you’re exercising with heart disease, you may want to warm up indoors as well as reduce the duration and intensity of your workout.)

Can You Suggest Any Places That Might Be Safe for Winter Walking?

High school tracks, if cleared. Big parking lots, such as those at schools, are often cleared. Local parks. Outdoor shopping areas are always clear, but sometimes they’re busy, so go during off-hours.

What Kind of Clothing Do You Recommend?

People can’t believe that I run outside in the winter, but if you’re dressed properly, it’s no problem. Layers are important—being able to take off a layer when you warm up and put back on a layer when you cool down.

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Another key is wind- and water-resistant clothing to hold in your body heat. And always protect your head, hands, feet, and ears, because that’s where heat is going to leave your body.

What’s Your Must-Have Piece of Winter Workout Gear?

Windproof everything! The wind here is chilly, and it can cause your body temperature to drop fast. I used to run in regular gloves, but then I bought these windproof covers that go over my gloves. It was like night and day. It made a difference in how long I could stay outside.

Are There Indoor Exercises That Could Help People Prepare for Outdoor Workouts?

Classes like our stability and fall prevention ones can help improve balance. Circuit and cardio classes will increase endurance. And being strong is going to help as you step over ice or mounds of snow, and up and down curbs.

We Know That Rewards Can Help When You’re Trying to Stick with an Exercise Routine. How Do You Reward Yourself?

New workout clothing. It makes me feel good. You look good, you feel good.

What’s Your Life Philosophy or Motto?

You’ve only got three choices in life: Give up, give in, or give it all you’ve got! I like to give it all I’ve got.

Take Your Favorite SilverSneakers Classes Online!

SilverSneakers members can access live fitness classes and wellness workshops through SilverSneakers LIVE. See the latest schedule and RSVP for classes here.

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