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Pumping Iron to Stay Young?

This grandmother says it can help. And experts back her up.

WebMD Feature

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.

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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 longer.

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.

The Routine

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.

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