Lessons From My Mom: Fitness, Diet and The Gift Of Turning 60

I have to dig deep to find memories of my mom when she wasn’t sick.  And looking back, what’s hardest to come to grips with is the fact that much of the illness might have been avoidable. Most of my childhood memories of her involve her sitting in a chair—often smoking cigarettes. Her only foray into exercise came very briefly when the doctor told her if she didn’t start moving she’d lose her LIFE!  My mom was many things; kind, loving, and passionate—but she was also somewhat stubborn. Eventually, even the doctor’s warning lost its power and she fell back into her usual sedentary lifestyle.

My adult memories of my Mom are of caring for her, worrying about her, and urging her to get up and MOVE. Don’t get me wrong; we had a great relationship and talked nearly every day, but when I would visit my parents in many cases my Mom would be in the hospital or in bed at home being cared for and looked after by my Dad.  She would always say “come sit with me”.  It’s funny—looking back that’s the way I see her most often in my mind; sitting still.

In the end, she just stopped moving, stopped eating, and in a way, gave up on life. She missed out on so much; she never attended any of her grandchildren’s weddings, she never met her great-grandchildren, and she didn’t get to grow old with the love of her life: my Dad.

As a result, I made the choice to break that mold and to take action for myself. I don’t want to miss a thing! I want to dance at my grandchildren’s weddings and I most definitely want to meet my great grandchildren!!

This fall I will turn 60.  They say ’60 is the new 40’ and I must say, I agree.  When I think back on my parents at 60 and how ‘old’ I thought they were as compared to how I feel as I approach 60, it’s night and day.

I was an active child. I grew up playing tennis, ice skating, cheerleading and my greatest passion was gymnastics thanks to the surge of popularity brought about by Olga Korbut in the 1972 Olympics. Once I got out of college Jane Fonda came onto the scene in her iconic leg warmers and aerobics became a ‘thing’. I remember using a VHS Tape at my first workplace, doing Jane Fonda aerobics classes with my colleagues!

Following in my mother’s footsteps, I started smoking when I was in college and didn’t fully quit until after my third child was born. I stopped during my pregnancies but always returned to it afterwards.  I hated everything about smoking but could not seem to quit.  I would imagine a life without cigarettes and longed for a clean, healthy lifestyle where fitness was at the center of my life and cigarettes no longer ruled my actions.  I was the mother of 3 small boys and finding time in my schedule to work out seemed impossible. Finally, I made up my mind to quit at the age of 32 and with the help of Nicorette gum, I was successful and never looked back. I joined my first gym and became the person I had envisioned.  Fitness has been at the center of my life ever since.  

Here’s what I did to get fit and stay active:

1. Join a gym

The first gym I joined was the one closest to my home and I joined with a friend.  We would share a babysitter and take a class at the gym together, it was a great way to allow our kids to socialize and for us to get out of the house and get in shape.  Through the years I’ve switched my gym a few times to better meet my needs. To me the most important thing about choosing a gym is will you use it! When choosing a gym, look for equipment and classes that interest you. While I enjoy working out on all of The Abs Company equipment, I particularly like the Ab Coaster® CTL and the TireFlip 180®. I love the smoothness of the Ab Coaster® CTL and I like to pause at the top challenging my abs! And the TireFlip 180® is just a beast.  I love this machine, it makes me feel strong and powerful whenever I use it!

2. Find a routine and stick with it

When Covid-19 hit we all had to temporarily rethink our workouts in order to keep moving and stay in shape without the convenience of our favorite gym.  During that time I learned a lot and now view my workouts slightly differently.  You have to have a routine and stick to it—no matter what. If your habits are formed you won’t miss.  During Covid one of my favorite fitness instructors started a virtual site where she led live classes on zoom.  The first class she taught while we were in lock down was using a roll of toilet paper since she knew everyone had that on hand. She moved on to water bottles, detergent bottles etc.  Eventually her members were able to obtain actual weights!  Our instructor would end each class with the words “Keep Moving” and that was good advice.

3. Find something you love

I recently moved to a home where I have the luxury of kayaking or going on our stand-up paddle board in the mornings before work. While many wouldn’t view this as a workout, I’m moving and it’s also really good for the soul to be out there on the water, the sun rising above the mist with no one else in sight!  As I get older I feel so grateful to be able to workout in a variety of ways that are all good for the body and the soul. Find what you love to do and embrace it. Perhaps invest in equipment for your home that is fun to use like a stationary bike or my favorite, the Ab Coaster® PS500, our new AbBall is also a great piece to add to your home gym.

4. Do something that fits in your daily life

Maybe the gym isn’t for you? Maybe you don’t have access to a gym? What can you do in that situation? We live in a very hilly area and my mailbox is located at the bottom of our street.  I’ve now built the habit of walking to my mailbox every day. It takes about 10 minutes and really gets my heart rate up. It also has encouraged me to send more mail to give me a reason to walk down there! Who doesn’t love an old-fashioned card in the mail?  When given the choice of an escalator or the stairs I always chose the stairs.  It’s small choices like this that can greatly impact not only your mindset but your physical health.

5. Make better food choices

No matter what your workout routine is if you don’t combine it with a smart and healthy diet you’re only seeing half of the picture.  I don’t like to ‘diet’ so to speak but I try to eat whole foods. I try to stay away from processed foods with lots of ingredients and stick to foods that grow naturally.  I have been intermittent fasting for a few years now and after dinner eat nothing until 1pm.  I do this 6 days a week and on Sunday’s enjoy a nice breakfast with my husband!  The key is to be sensible and eat foods with few ingredients that are natural and not processed. I heard recently that you should ‘shop the perimeter’ of the grocery store, that’s where all the non-processed foods are and that visual tip has really helped me make better choices when it comes to food shopping.

One thing I’ve learned is that while this regimen works for me, it might not work for everyone. You have to find the balance that works for you and for your body in order to feel your best. What works for one may not work for another.

As I approach 60, I can still do a cartwheel, I went ice skating this year and I feel great.  I have two grandchildren and my hope is that when they think of me they picture me doing activities with them, moving and having fun—not sitting in a chair.

My advice is not to look at age as anything other than a number. Push yourself, stick to your habits and do what’s right for your body.  For myself I see only ability, not limitations. I don’t want to end up like my Mom - sedentary. I loved my Mom and miss her every single day. She was always willing to listen to anything I had to say and doted on my every word.  She was funny and loved her family to the ends of the earth.  I don’t believe you ever fully get over the loss of your Mom.  Her legacy to me is my drive to be strong and active and take care of my mind and body! Thanks Mom!