I am so excited to share this excerpt from my book with you as a blog post because it’s about one of my most inspiring trainees. (Takeaway: Even if you’re WAY over 50, and don’t always feel 100 percent grand, you can still train your body and get stronger, just like anyone else.)
C.H. had trained with me for 22 one-hour sessions when I wrote this. We continue our work together now that she is back from two months’ travel.
At age 83, C. was motivated to train by seeing a friend losing her robust health with age. A former tennis player and hiker, C’s friend and neighbor of 30 years experienced some health problems. She abstained from exercise afterward, and gradually became frail and unable to walk. C. was also tired of her own inertia -- she says, “I was tired of myself, tired of saying I deserve to rest.” She eventually went to see a local fitness trainer. The young trainer turned out to lack “understanding of an older body.” C. didn’t go back. Next she was referred to me by a physical therapist. She eventually contacted me and started training.
Today C.’s motivation comes from the life-changing results of her hard work. She says she’s now motivated by the energy and hope she gets from our gradually progressing strength training. Instead of going downhill like her friend, she’s gradually improving her physical fitness.
In C.’s initial email to me, she described herself as “in poor physical condition and discouraged.” Her challenges included fear of falling or of being injured through training. She wasn’t certain she would be able to make progress at all -- maybe it was too late to learn to work out, or too late to change. She had the good fortune to work with a physical therapist who helped with these challenges, assuring C. that she could benefit from exercise and who gave her some exercises to begin with.
C. met with me and we started working together twice a week. In my studio I rigged up benches of slightly decreasing heights and C. practiced sitting and standing from each one. Within four sessions she was able to stand from an inch lower bench than during her first session. This trend has continued gradually. C. can stand up from a bench a few inches lower than a dining-room chair and can stand up from the floor.
I also had C. practice walking while carrying a small weight in each hand, or in two bags, like groceries. C. says her walking speed, stamina (distance), and grip strength have all improved. In each session, we practice the “sit-stand” (the squat, modified for safety), the deadlift, walking while carrying, step-ups, and step-overs. After 22 sessions in four months, C. went to Europe with her daughter. She was able to walk to the departure gate without help, and on arrival, walked through the airport and took the train to her destination with good stamina.
C. has a couple of chronic health problems. They are difficult but not debilitating, and she has determinedly continued training twice a week most weeks. Her training is very gentle and gradual, but the amount of work increases over time, and this is what makes her stronger. (Everyone can lift, recover and adapt, and then lift more, each at her own level of ability, and that’s how we all get stronger.)
At home, C. can carry her laundry downstairs or put groceries away without "over-thinking it." She’s also started driving more, to have dinner with friends who used to come and pick her up at her home. She credits strength training -- learning to squat and deadlift and carry weights -- for her improved abilities in her daily life. And that’s what motivates her now: She’s seen the results and wants more of the same -- more strength, more days feeling good, more confidence. So that’s where motivation comes from now. She says motivation means “feeling energized, measuring progress, and having hope.”
The photo is of C. safely deadlifting 55 pounds after a few months of training.