Get Moving

The Cliffs exercise physiologist puts the fun in functional fitness

Mike Chaney loves golf. That passion played a key role in his decision to move to The Cliffs at Mountain Park.

What he doesn’t love is pain and, unfortunately, an aching back sometimes kept him off the links, or at the very least hurt his score. But shortly after moving in, Chaney met with Vance Ferrigno, Exercise Physiologist at The Cliffs, and he started doing functional movement and strength training.

“I was just trying to get better at golf,” says Chaney. In the ensuing three years, golf has become pain-free and his handicap has dropped from 10 to 5. 

“There had been a rigidness in my body, and a lack of mobility,” says Chaney, who recently turned 60. “Now I don’t have back pain at all.”

Those results are precisely what Ferrigno has been striving for since he joined The Cliffs 13 years ago. He started out as director of wellness, overseeing operations at what was then five wellness centers (there are now seven) and training the staff on exercise physiology and movement science. He later became an exercise physiologist who traveled to all seven properties to work with residents. 

Today, Ferrigno is headquartered at Mountain Park, working with members there as well as at Glassy and Valley. Clients range from hard-core athletes training for triathlons to patients recovering from joint replacement or cardiac surgery who want to regain basic strength. Goals are as diverse as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or playing with grandkids on the floor—but it’s all about living your best life through health and wellness.

“Pain is a big limiter,” Ferrigno says. “If people have pain, they aren’t enjoying life, and they aren’t enjoying The Cliffs lifestyle. They come here for a way of life, and pain is precluding them from enjoying it. By God’s grace, I’ve been able to help people become or stay active.”

Word is spreading: Motivated by his positive results, Chaney’s wife and their next-door neighbor quickly signed up with Ferrigno, too. “I’ve definitely gotten more people to join with Vance based on what they’ve seen in me on the golf course,” Chaney says. 

In addition to his degree in exercise physiology from Florida State University, Ferrigno has numerous certifications in specializations such as applied functional science, strength and conditioning, golf performance, 3D movement analysis, cycling, and weightlifting. He appreciates working in a field that offers so many facets to learn about, and after almost 40 years, he loves staying up to date on the latest research.

One area of expertise includes functional fitness, now an industry buzzword. Basically, it means training the body for real-life movements and activities. 

“The human body integrates movement patterns,” he says. “I want to teach people to move better, not just muscle toning. The goal is that they’ll understand how to take care of their body and be more efficient, and then when they are in their 60s, they can lift their grandchild without back pain.”

After years of reading, working, and learning, Ferrigno has fine-tuned his philosophy and transformed his own fitness efforts, doing minimal workouts in the gym a couple of days a week so that he can continue to do the activities he loves, including mountain biking, hiking, and shooting competitions. 

“My thought process is, whatever I do in the gym has to make me better outside the gym,” Ferrigno says. “I don’t believe exercise itself should be the end goal. Do what you need to do, and then go out and have fun.”


This story was featured in Cliffs Living magazine. To read more stories like this one and learn more about The Cliffs, subscribe here.

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