My Y Experience: Ed McGurk

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My Y Experience: Ed McGurk

My Y Experience: Ed McGurk

By Jennifer Neil

Ed McGurk, Certified Personal Trainer and Strength & Conditioning Coach at the YMCA of Greater Birmingham’s Vestavia Branch, is a passionate force for helping senior citizens reach their physical goals. And there’s a reason aside from his impressive fitness resume - Ed will be 80 years old this November! “The Vestavia Y is my second family,” says McGurk. “I am motivated by meeting our Vestavia Branch members each morning with a smile, a ‘good morning’ and a first name when I remember. 

“Although I am passionate about senior health,” he says, “I won’t discriminate on age! I have clients from several age groups and fitness levels.” Which is fortunate for the rest of us because McGurk’s knowledge, experience, and passion for fitness are something Y members of all ages can benefit from.     

“I usually lie about my age or avoid the issue entirely,” said McGurk when asked if he would share his age in this article. “But if I can help one person – especially seniors – become motivated enough to walk in the door of the Y and do something to take care of themselves, then it’s worth it!”
McGurk’s story is a testament that it is even more important for seniors to be involved in exercise programs than at any other age. “As we age, our metabolism slows down, bones become more delicate, balance isn’t as accurate, and a lot of other health problems and injuries become a part of who we are.”  

He worked as a lifeguard during the summers of 1957-58 and was waterfront director at a summer camp at the Baton Rouge, Lousiana YMCA. A former marathon runner from Louisiana for over thirty years, Ed has been a dedicated athlete his entire life. Lifelong hobbies like hiking, kayaking, snow skiing kept him at the top of his game running his own structured settlement company. He lived life in hyper-speed with a highly successful sales career and a runner’s mentality of motivation. There was nothing that could stop him. He used to run 6-10 miles a day, 7 days a week with a men’s group and stop to eat pizza and during the run. But he soon learned that those habits couldn't go on forever. “As we get older we learn the there are things we can and can’t do,” said McGurk.

In 1999, he experienced early signs of coronary artery disease that resulted in a blown artery and flat-lining for 13 minutes during surgery.  This was a pre-heart attack event and was his life-changer. “I realized I’d been given a second chance and wouldn’t have made it if I hadn’t been in such good muscular physical condition,” he said. After recovering and returning to a regular exercise routine, McGurk was forced to have hip replacement surgery seven years ago, temporarily set him back, but he, again, returned to the YMCA in Louisiana as soon as he was medically cleared. 

After moving to Alabama, he joined the YMCA of Greater Birmingham Pelham branch and expanded his physical and social routines. “I made a lot of great new friends and knew several already from church.  It’s truly a family mentality,” he said. After talking to several Y friends who encouraged him to become a personal trainer, McGurk dove into the rigorous certification program at the Vestavia Branch and hasn’t stopped since.  

He gained official certified trainer status in 2013 and is in growing demand for his expertise and passion as both a personal trainer and motivator. “If I’m not training, I’m working out!” said McGurk. He says his goal is to help people understand and achieve what they need with their physical health. He firmly believes it is a matter of being encouraged, motivated, educated, consistent and disciplined. ”The more we learn about the mechanics of our bodies, how our own personal fitness goals can be achieved by a program tailored specifically for each of us, we can be successfully and physically healthy at any age”.  

To meet Ed McGurk stop by the YMCA of Greater Birmingham Vestavia branch and say “Hello!”

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