Focus: Health & Well-Being in Retirement - Top Tips from Personal Trainer Gemma Cuskelly

By Megan Giles, Retirement Transition Consultant

‘what if I lose my health and can’t enjoy my retirement’

Planning for retirement. It is important that women considering the non-financial aspects, such as staying healthy and active

Prior to launching my business, I interviewed a number of women approaching the age of retirement to find out what is important to them along with the challenges and fears they face in preparing for retirement. Not having good health to do the things they dream of was one of the main themes that arose.

In response to this, I have created a Focus Series on Health and Well-Being. For three consecutive weeks, this blog will focus on key elements of staying healthy and active.

I am teaming up with three inspiring women to provide expert advice and insights as guests of the blog. I am interviewing personal trainer Gemma Cuskelly, yoga instructor Marita Nicholson, and GP Dr Ruth Nash, and each interview has a specific focus on the health considerations of women approaching the retirement age along with tips and advice for increasing well-being.

To kick off the Health & Wellbeing Focus Series, I have the pleasure of introducing Gemma Cuskelly, Owner and Director at F1rst Class Fitness, Brisbane’s premier personal training focused gym. Her clientele spans all ages and for many (particularly women) F1rst Class Fitness was the first gym they ever set foot in.

I was introduced to Gemma when she led a 12 week group training challenge. I was among a great bunch of women (both young and old) who were pushed out of our comfort zone, encouraged by Gemma’s energy, humour and genuine interest in each of her clients.

I caught up with Gemma and I’m excited to share her insights and advice for women planning for retirement and wanting to improve their fitness level but might be hesitant about joining a gym (aren't they all full of body-building gorillas?!?!).

Kate’s* plan is to retire in a couple of years at 65 years. She first approached F1rst Class Fitness because she was overweight, experiencing heart problems along with nerve pain and feared that this would be exacerbated if she stopped working. Outwardly she looked as though she was in her 70s and knew that she needed to make a change now because the retirement she was facing was a limiting and possibly isolating one.
Kate had never been to a gym and on her first visit was nervous to talk fitness options, let alone start working out! By understanding her goals, Gemma was able to develop a tailored program that got Kate excited about working out. Over a four month period Kate lost approximately 10kg and her health conditions have improved significantly. But more importantly, exercise has become a way of life. She radiates confidence through her posture and energy and has commented that she feels like she’s still in her 40s. Whilst she hasn’t retired yet, it is now something that she looks forward to, knowing that the has the health and fitness to tackle whatever she wishes and thus create a lifestyle that is fulfilling and meaningful to her.

*Name changed

In terms of women who may be preparing for retirement what do you find is their main motivator for training with a PT?

There is a mixture of reasons as to why older women choose to join the gym. For some it’s an opportunity to better look after themselves, and for others it’s prescribed by a health professional, e.g. their GP. You might ask why train with a personal trainer (PT) when you can simply step outside for a walk or a run? For many it’s the fact that they’ve paid money and have someone holding them to account that makes them actually turn up. It makes it a lot harder to hit the snooze button! For others, it’s the expertise and tailored programs that qualified PTs can offer than help ensure the best health outcomes for their body.

What do women in this age bracket typically need to be mindful of when commencing a new exercise routine?

  • The most problematic areas for older women tend to be the lower back and knees.
  • Recognise that you may not be as mobile as when you were younger - listen to your body and choose exercises that are kind to your joints.

What key advice would you offer women considering starting with a PT?

Maintaining health and wellbeing is important in retirement and finding the right trainer is critical.
  • Do your research and find a PT who will make exercise fun for you - maybe it's group sessions where there's the social component also. The goal is to make fitness a part of your everyday life - something you look forward to and not a chore.
  • The same goes for gyms - most people are not interested in becoming a body-builder. If you choose the right gym, you will see that it's full of people from all walks of life - plenty of them just like you!
  • Seek a tailored program- an experienced PT will recognise your starting point and build a program specifically for you.
  • If you don’t ‘gel’ with your trainer, don’t feel obligated to stay with them. Exercise should be something you enjoy and so find a trainer who is a good fit for you.

What is one great resource or tip you can share with women?

Remember that it’s okay to take care of you. Women often tend to put the needs of others before their own, but by looking after yourself, you are in a much better position to give your best to others.


About Gemma

Gemma Cuskelly, Personal Trainer & Director at First Class Fitness shares advice for women planning for retirement.

Since the moment she transformed her life and did away with thirty-three kilos, the career path for Gemma Cuskelly was unmistakably set. She wanted to create a training space where people didn’t feel intimidated or afraid to exercise while maintaining a high level of professionalism.

Combining her love of fitness with a strong business orientated mind-set, Gemma successfully founded and built-up the brand and entity that is F1rst Class Fitness. It is more than just your everyday gym though. It is a series of premium fitness clubs that extend beyond the average tedious training routine and focuses all attention on ‘looking after number one’ - the clients.

To find out more visit and follow their Facebook page which regularly shares great tips, ideas and inspirational client results.

Would you like to explore more regarding Health & Well-Being? Next week I will be interviewing Marita Nicholson, Tullamore yoga instructor and member of the Irish Yoga Association Management Team. Marita will share not only her insights into the benefits of practicing yoga, but her experience going from complete novice to qualified yoga instructor later in life.

If you approaching retirement or starting to think about it, and worried about the "what's next', wondering:

  • How to prevent slowing down too soon and getting old before your time
  • How you’ll stay relevant and connected to people
  • What to do with the amazing skills, energy and ideas you have

you may be interested in a one-on-one of workshop planning session. I would love the opportunity to work with you and to find out more or to book a session please visit the For Individuals page. 

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