View on Fitness


by Laurie Nelson-Barker


My client and friend, Mary, is a revolutionary. If you passed her on the street, you might not notice anything unusual, but Mary is the head of a gang of women, and you don’t want to mess with her. Did I mention that Mary is 80 years old? If you are envisioning a feeble old woman, you are mistaken. For one thing, Mary is a master hula hooper. So are Robyn, Jo, Jen, Margaret, Fran, and Margie, but Mary is the ringleader.


Mary wasn’t always great at hula hooping but she never gave up. For two years, she just kept trying. Eventually, it all clicked and when her granddaughter asked what she wanted for Christmas, she mentioned a hula hoop. Now, Mary has her own hoop and isn’t afraid to use it. Her hips move in rhythm to the music and she likes many of the latest pop culture tunes. She actually knows who P!nk is and is motivated by fast, fun, music. She never complains that it is too loud or that the language is “questionable.”


I have seen Mary walk nine holes of golf and drag her clubs and cart up a giant hill that intimidates men half her age. She doesn’t complain. She just does it. Mary also participates in yoga and is able to get up and down from the floor easily. Believe me when I say that most of my clients that age have difficulty doing that. I have seen Mary jog. I know that when her children visited in July, she walked at least three miles with them. Mary has great legs, abs of steel, and incredible determination.


Mary is “one of the girls.” We women know what we want. We don’t avoid “sensitive” topics.  Mary doesn’t either. It’s empowering to “agree to disagree” and still be friends. We believe in strength through unity and celebrate diversity. Snacks and wine help.


I always view work as a form of exercise. When we painted the Community Center, Mary showed up with paintbrushes. Others complained about shoulders, knees, and hips. Not Mary. She painted alongside everyone else without lamenting about the infirmities of aging. Mary recently checked a trip to Antarctica off her bucket list. I’m sure the penguins were impressed. Any lurking carnivores were probably disappointed. Mary can run and doesn’t have much fat. It’s bad for your health to become the main entrée.


I am trying to learn to plant fruits and vegetables year round and am taking a stab at greenhouse gardening. I shed my carnivorous ways many years ago, and wanted to add an attached greenhouse to the house. My spouse was skeptical, and a few contractors didn’t really think it would work. Mary did, though. She encouraged me, and I’m happy to say, the greenhouse is now a reality and Mike and I are still married. I feel healthier already. The neighbors are curious and maybe I will start a revolution. OK, only in my neighborhood, but it’s a start. Mary has taught me that age really is just a state of mind. The trick is to prevent age creeping into your body. Mary is not about to let that happen. Mary can do it!


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