We had the good fortune of connecting with Sandra Feaster and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sandra, how do you think about risk?
I have always been willing to stretch myself when it comes to life and career. One could also say that I am always taking risks. My motto is, always do what you are afraid to do. My working career has encompassed many changes and taking risks. From a newly minted registered nurse, I chose adult critical care because of the challenge. I then transitioned into pediatric critical care at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) one of the top hospitals in the country, because of the challenge of learning about and caring for critically ill children. Children and their diseases are very different from those of adults.
I met my husband while I was at CHOP and we got married after knowing each other for only six months. The day after our wedding we moving across the country to California to start a new life and we are still going strong 40 years later.
I jumped right into graduate school for nursing soon after arriving in California. After graduating, I had the opportunity to work with a start up medical device company. I experienced the thrill of working in an extremely successful start up environment, and took on increasingly challenging roles in marketing and product management.
Hard work was fun and I knew I needed to learn more if I was going to succeed in the business world. So off I went to get an MBA. My math skills initially were not strong, and my second semester was statistics and finance. It was hard, but I kept going and finished the program. I now am a whiz at spreadsheets, market analytics, etc. My math teachers never would have believed that!
My entire working career has been about risk and change. It invigorates me and makes we want to work harder. The career pivots have only enriched each position I held. In 2016 I retired from Stanford University School of Medicine as Assistant Dean for Immersive and Simulation-based Learning. After retiring from Stanford at 62 yrs old, I realized that I, and others like me had a good 30 years of living to look forward to. I had started running several years earlier, competing in many half-marathons, but expanding my exercise to include strength training, along with balance and flexibility. It seemed the best approach to improving function fitness as I aged. I was never an avid exerciser, but with my nursing background and having previously worked with people who had chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart failure, it was apparent that those who lived well were those who were fit and ate a good diet. That is the recipe for good health.
Going to a gym and working out with a trainer 30 year younger than myself was not particularly appealing as a 60-something woman. I decided (or rather my husband decided and signed me up) to get certified as a personal trainer to train myself and ultimately reach out to other 60+ individuals to help them obtain their health and fitness potential.
I felt I had to model fitness to help others. Not being a strong swimmer, nor comfortable riding more than a beach cruiser, I began to compete in short triathlons. This became another risk that paid off, proving I could overcome my fears of swimming in open water and riding quickly on a road bike.
My husband and I recently left our beach house and are now living on a ranch in the country. We’re enjoying developing our property, planting a vineyard to grow and sell grapes, tending our gardens, and even built a gym in a large space previously used as an RV garage. I’m looking forward to opening the doors for fitness training for people 60 and beyond (well, maybe also some young-ins 50 or so) once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. This will augment my current online zoom fitness classes, where I have clients living in multiple states and even abroad.
The beauty of an online fitness class is that you have a wider reach, but the challenge is that you don’t have that personal touch factor to provide a nuanced workout utilizing equipment normally found in a big box gym. At the beginning of the pandemic, people rushed out to buy weights, stationary bikes and treadmills, so it was hard to train with “traditional equipment”. It forced me to be creative with items people have in their homes. We have used water bottles, bath towels, ladders, buckets and may other strange household items during our classes. Thankfully, weights and other fitness equipment is more readily available.
I have found that people are really embracing working out in their home. They like going from their kitchen to their workout space without much fuss.
I am thrilled to be in this encore career phase, feeling good and hoping to inspire others that may think they are too old to pursue a more fit life. Those last 30+ years should be the time of your life and you have to be in good enough shape to enjoy them. Experiencing them from a recliner is certainly not the way my husband and I want to spend them.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
My business, T60Plus is fitness training for active 60 and older pro-aging adults. I began fitness training after I retired from Stanford University, because I realized I had 30- 40 years of living post retirement and selfishly wanted to be healthy and have a good healthspan so I could continue doing meaningful work.
I believe that exercise is important to keep us mentally and physically agile. As a active ager myself, I strive to be a role model to those who say “I’m too old or I can’t”, because as we age you can and you are never too old to push yourself just a bit more.
The people I train, currently online, experience a workout that is designed to have context to everyday activities. I design exercises to mirror opening a stuck window, taking a golf swing and even carrying water buckets to water trees and plants. Every movement we make can be an exercise, even stepping over a curb or sorting laundry.
The business of fitness is challenging, particularly with so many options people have. How a person chooses if and who they train with depends on that individual’s mindset as well as feeling like it is a good fit. I have learned that not everyone shares the same enthusiasm for being fit as I do. That’s OK and their choice. Sometimes even little changes will spark that person’s interest in their own health and wellness and I try to find that spark. The progress may be small but with a continued effort it can be transformative. My clients know that I am there for them and will always try my best.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
It would be such fun, particularly after the year we have all had to open the doors and welcome a dear friend. Because my husband and I love wine, we would have lots of appointments at wineries in Temecula. Our favorites would include Wiens, Ponte and Renzoni. The ambience and casualness of those wineries give a flavor of Southern California living and good wines. Very different from Napa Valley.
It would be wonderful to see a play at one of the venues in Los Angeles. The plays, pre or post Broadway productions are always top notch. We have enjoyed many of them over the years.
A trip or several trips to the ocean is a must. There is nothing like putting your toes in the warm Southern California sand. There are so many wonderful beaches along the coast, it’s hard to pick one. I’d love to take my visitor to Hermosa Beach, where I have done a few triathlons. The homes along the beaches are incredible to look at as you stroll down the boardwalk with a cup of coffee in your hand. The people you see are also very active rather they are walking, running or playing volleyball on the beach. There is always great energy.
I would go south along Pacific Coast Highway to just take in the sights and then head inland to see what California was really like way back when there were lots of oak trees and rolling hills.
I would probably take my friend to Disneyland, San Diego Zoo and the Wild Animal Park. These are iconic venues of Southern California. We would also visit the Long Beach Aquarium, and stroll the beaches that overlook the Queen Mary. I could talk at length or bore my friend about my Long Beach 1/2 marathons as we stopped for a little lunch outside at Claire’s restaurant at the Long Beach Museum of Art.
Heading back into Los Angeles, we would definitely make a stop at the Natural History Museum of LA. Of course, what is a trip to California and LA without a Doger’s baseball game. We could even play a quick round of golf at the beautiful nine-hole Par 3 course at Terranea Resort. Beautiful views and not too difficult or time consuming.
Each venue would give us plenty to see, do and experience. Meeting people along the way is always fun and different. There would be lots of walking to walk off those calories we consumed at all those wonderful restaurants that we visited on our journey.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would like to first recognize my husband for his unwavering support for my crazy career pivots. He has watched me reinvent myself time after time and has always been my rock.
I would also like to thank my clients across the country and across the pond, who took a leap during COVID to start or continue their fitness journey. They inspire me each and every day to give my best so they can be their best.
My fellow fitness colleagues deserve a special shout out. It has been a tough journey trying to be creative, keep people safe and injury free and provide quality training on their fitness journey. I have learned so much from them as everyone has been gracious to share ideas and suggestions.
Peter Bowes, host of the Live Long and Master Aging (LLAMA) podcast for having me as a guest on his podcast early into my fitness and blogging career.