This grandmother says it can help. And experts back her up.
May 22, 2000 -- At least five mornings a week, I hustle to the Fountain of
Youth. After tumbling out of bed and into workout togs before I've had a chance
to think about it, I'm out the door headed for the gym. Clad in tights and a
leotard to smooth my bulges, I feel energetic already.
It's a 20-year-old routine. At this point, I could be the poster girl for
senior citizen exercise. I'll never see 70 again, and that's as specific as I'm
going to get. My regimen includes not just aerobics -- walking the treadmill or
taking a class -- but strength training, which the American College of Sports
Medicine says is especially crucial for aging bodies like mine. Pump iron, the
experts say, and you'll have less of that flab that can make you feel old.
Hannah Kalil is 83 years old, and lives by herself in upstate New York. She
has aides who help with her caregiving throughout the day. But the
responsibility of managing her finances, health care -- both mental and
physical -- and long-term living situation falls to one person: her daughter --
and my mother -- Eleanor.
It's almost a full-time job. Making sure my grandmother is happy and not
feeling lonely means daily visits. Her never-ending stream of medical issues
means weekly -- if not...
The strength training part of the routine, also called weight training, is
the part most people blow off. Too boring, too repetitive, too difficult. Those
are the main excuses.
Not so, I say. I'm a great-grandmother, and I only took up weight training
five years ago. Sticking with it, I've found, isn't so tough -- as long as you
follow a few simple steps.
Here are my secrets.
Plan Ahead (and Don't Forget to Brag)
Every Sunday, I plan the week ahead, scheduling time for workouts as
religiously as I make time for work. For me, when something is written down,
it's as important as a work assignment.
My workouts are no secret, either. I tell friends, enemies, and
acquaintances all about the weights I work with, the number of reps I do, and
how often I go to the gym. I'm sure it bores them to tears, but having said all
that, how could I possibly quit?
Mornings, Music, Good Company
It's important to work out first thing in the day, I think. Go to the gym,
your home gym, or wherever you go to sweat before the business of the day
overtakes and overwhelms you. I go to an all-women's gym, which to me means
that I can wear whatever I want.
Music, whether it's rock and roll or the latest R & B hit, helps. It
provides not just a pleasant background but jazzes you up to lift a little
Having a buddy who is enthusiastic about exercise helps, too. One of my
buddies, Marilou, is a dedicated exerciser. She's really my role model at the
gym. She's younger than I am and eats a low-fat diet, as I try to do. If I miss
a day, I feel as though I owe her and my other gym pals an explanation. It's
easier just to go.
I never think about a workout in total. I always think "I'll go lift
some weights for a little while," and end up, of course, doing my whole
routine. Breaking a task up into small parts and thinking about just one of
them makes it easier to deal with.