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Thursday, March 31, 2022

Author interview Amanda Sterczyk/ Book review - Chair Exercises for Fall Prevention

 


Author interview: 

I’m delighted to introduce my third author to Tweetables, Amanda Sterczyk, who has written a wonderful book designed to help people gain strength and confidence so that they are less likely to fall over.  She writes non-fiction in the specialist fields of fitness & self-help, and I started by asking Amanda to introduce herself. She says,

‘I am an author, ACSM certified personal trainer, certified Essentrics® instructor, and creator of The Move More Institute™, an initiative to promote healthy active living by adding more movement/activity/motion to individuals' daily lives. I spent more than 10 years running my own business, Amanda Sterczyk Fitness, working as a mobile personal trainer and group fitness instructor. I have worked with men, women and children of all ages, as well as elite athletes. My background is in social psychology and health promotion research.

My slogan is: Move more, feel better. The goal of my fitness business was to make fitness and physical activity more accessible to people. Not everyone wants to workout in a gym, nor do they have the means to do so. This desire extended to my books, especially my exercises guides.

In early 2020, I shut down my mobile fitness business to return to an office job (I now work full-time as a Research and Policy Manager with Diabetes Canada). But I continue to write and publish books, and advocate for the importance of daily physical activity to maintain optimal health.’

I have to admit, if I’m reading a non-fiction book, I like knowing about the author’s competency in the subject, such as whether they have academic qualifications in the field, or whether they’ve gained the skills through experience. Amanda has both, which is always satisfying! She also cites a lot of statistics in the early part of the book, such as ‘Falls are the cause of 85 percent of seniors’ injury-related hospitalizations‘  and I wondered how she undertakes this research. She says,

‘My background is in social psychology and health promotion research, so I had it drilled into my head at a young age the importance of good research techniques. Even if I see research reported or summarized in the mainstream media or a pop culture publication, I go to the original source: the peer-reviewed article. I also conduct my searches on established research platforms like PubMed and Google Scholar.’

She has published 10 books since 2018 (9 non-fiction & 1 novel), including 2 fitness self-help guides and 6 exercise guides. My book review below is for her latest exercise guide, Chair Exercises for Fall Prevention, which was released earlier this year (January 2022). I asked what inspired her to write and she says,  

‘I wrote my first balance exercise guide in 2019. I saw there was a gap in gentle workout guides that offered practical modifications for seniors. Many books include equipment that a lot of seniors wouldn’t (can’t or won’t) buy, let alone be comfortable using. I have worked with many seniors who are not comfortable getting down on the floor for exercises and/or they physically can’t do it independently. I’ve always shown them alternative exercises that still provide benefit, while respecting their wishes and abilities.

Each of my exercise guides includes step-by-step instructions, basic illustrations, and recommendations to make each exercise easier or harder.

With my latest book (Chair Exercises for Fall Prevention), I discovered there were very few workout books for seniors and adults who wanted to exercise but needed a break from standing exercises.

I lead my elderly parents in weekly chair exercise workouts, and I have seen firsthand the tremendous benefit to their health and well-being. I decided to take our weekly workout and turn it into a book so others could benefit from it.’

Having elderly friends and relatives myself, I appreciate this (and I did test-drive the book with them, but more of that in my review below!), but I was interested in knowing what Amanda enjoyed the most about writing. She says,

‘I love taking scientific research on health and fitness and applying it to the real world. Exercise does not need to be complicated or even costly, and my goal with my books is to make fitness and physical activity more accessible to people who can’t or won’t go to the gym.’

I think many of us think we should exercise more, but having the added complication of being scared of falling, for whatever reason, adds another dimension as to why we should help our seniors. 

So we’ve found out what motivates her to write, but what does she find challenging? She admits, ‘Advertising and promotion! I decided with my first book that I would self-publish, and it can sometimes feel daunting to promote your books to potential readers.’

This is appearing as a common theme in the blog already, but luckily you’re reading this post so you’re already helping! So what would she say to us, her potential readers?

‘Daily physical activity is the greatest gift you can give yourself. Every minute of movement counts and the daily health benefits are cumulative. If you love your body, move your body. Fitness doesn’t have to be costly, complicated, or even sweaty.’ What great advice!

I then went onto the thorny issue of reviews and whether she reads those left on her own books and she says,

‘Yes, I read both good and bad reviews. One-star reviews can definitely feel like a gut punch, and I know I lost sleep the first few times I received them. For a while, I stopped reading the reviews because they made me feel like a failure.

Then one day, I decided to absorb the bad reviews from the reviewer's perspective. After all, they had spent money on my book, taken the time to read it and to leave a review. I don't want to sell my books to people who aren't going to benefit from them, and I saw that other people found these reviews helpful (hence, they're not going to waste their time and money on a book they wouldn't enjoy).

Some of the comments got me thinking about new book ideas. I took the negative reviews and turned them into a positive: early last year, I published an exercise guide that was geared to these less-than-positive comments. It's been my best-seller.’

Wow! I find this so uplifting, as people often forget to leave reviews, and are even less likely to leave a (constructive) negative one, but look how we can help – it’s food for thought! If you’re not feeling too sure where to start, why not take a look at my featured post here to read more about this?

I love how Amanda has turned the negative into a positive, so I asked whether she’s ever left a negative review for others? She replies,

‘Although I try to embrace and learn from the negative reviews on my books, I have never felt comfortable leaving a negative review for a fellow author. If it’s a work of fiction, me not liking it can be chalked up to personal preference. And why would that matter to the author? For non-fiction, my biggest dislike is how long the books are—often unnecessarily so, in my opinion. But that could just be the publisher wanting a longer book so they can charge a higher price. Again, not the fault of the author. 

If someone has specifically been asked to review a book, I think it’s important to be honest, even if you didn’t like the book. But that doesn’t mean you have to be mean about it—you can take the opportunity to highlight what you didn’t like and why, so the author has an opportunity to learn from the feedback and modify if required.

When I wrote my first novel, I thought I needed beta readers (even though I had already hired an editor). The feedback I received from my beta readers was mostly negative, but they were expecting a traditional plot line/rom com-type novel (even though I had clearly indicated that I was using different literary devices). I appreciated their input, but didn’t change anything based on it. I supposed if I wasn’t self-published, I may have less control over this type of feedback!’

Fascinating! And as we’re now talking novels, I ask for her favourite and she says,

‘That’s a tough one! It really varies depending on my age and stage. I’m a big fan of the Nordic Noir genre, but lately I’ve been reading many novels by fellow Canadian authors. My favourite book of 2021 was The Spoon Stealer by Canadian author Lesley Crewe.’

I then asked if she could go back in time, what would she say to her younger writing self and she replies, ‘Keep going, you’re on the right track.’

As we were finishing up, I asked whether there was anything else she’d like to add, and she says,

‘Yes, thanks. My paperback books are purposely designed to be small enough to carry anywhere—one reader told me she keeps it in her purse to take out and follow one or two exercises whenever she has a bit of free time. And the layout within is also purposeful—a reader can open to an exercise and see everything they need to complete on the facing pages.’

 

Book review

I asked Amanda to give me a tweetable synopsis of her book and she says (tweet here)

“Chair Exercises for Fall Prevention” is a #book geared for #seniors or adults who want to work on their #balance but need a break from standing #exercises

I’ve always been clumsy (and was called Calamity Jane as a kid, because I was always falling over!) and Amanda includes a quick test at the front of the book, so that you can assess how good your balance is.  As mine didn’t go so well, I was automatically engaged in improving my performance!

This book is aimed at seniors because the exercises are seated. It’s laid out in short sections which often start with a question, such as ‘Do You Know about the Heel-Toe Express? Do You Know the Three Pillars of Balance? Do You Play the Piano?’ As ‘no’ followed most of these questions for me, I found the book quite a page-turner and I think anyone interested in health, no matter what their age, would enjoy reading this.

There are basic line drawings for those who prefer diagrams, but each exercise also has a ‘Visualize’ section, such as ‘You are a puppet, and the string holding up your head and torso is taut and unmoving while the strings on your wrists alternately lift your arms upwards.  These were excellent and really helped us understand what was expected.

Each activity is written concisely and I liked how you could see which elements of balance were being tackled in each exercise. There are even workouts at the back so that you can focus on specific elements if required.

My three test subjects (one each in their 50s. 60s and 70s) all picked up the exercises quickly and upgraded to the ‘harder’ versions, but there are easier options available too.

I can certainly see how this book would benefit anyone who is nervous about their declining balance skills and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to help keep a senior active.

For more information on this book and the others in Amanda’s series, please go to:

Website: amandasterczyk.com

Twitter: @amanda_stretch

Instagram: @amanda_stretch

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