Stronger, faster and finding wonder at 60

Nov 03, 2015
Ashley Ann Lawrie

senior-exercise-ottawa

“I hate exercise, my movement of choice is to turn the pages of the novel I’m reading.”

At least, that’s what Margy McGregor used to think.

The 60-year-old supply teacher, like many women of her generation, once thought that hitting the gym was just for those few who were into fitness and physical activity.

But in her 50s, she realized that weight training in a gym might be a necessary form of preventative maintenance for just about anyone.

Margy has osteopenia—lower than normal bone density that puts her at risk of osteoporosis.

Weight training, as we’ve written before, helps build bone density, when coupled with consuming adequate amounts of calcium and iron.

When Margy got that diagnosis, she developed a health program for herself she called W5 –weights, walking, water, writing and wonder (working on her spiritual health). Her intent was to “age with some sense of grace.”

But she could never get motivated to take on that first W –weight training. Her husband Mark, who does hit the gym and is a master swimmer, encouraged her to give Free Form Fitness a try last March.

The very idea of coming to a gym had always terrified her. She didn’t know what to do, even what to wear, and didn’t want to hurt or push herself.

But then she met FFF trainer Matt Uden.

Matt developed for her a gradual and progressive program so she could ease into the routine at her own pace. The first priority was conditioning exercises, to strengthen key joints like her knees. This quickly restored lost mobility and prepared her to take on more demanding exercises.

That was March. Eight months later, she looks forward to her sessions in the gym with Matt and picking his brain about nutrition and fitness.

She’s even started running, which she never could do before. That’s a big difference for someone who used to be left in agony just by doing deep knee bends without any weights.

“My knees are stronger, I trust them more,” she said. “There was a point where I didn’t even trust them.”

Managing anxiety and goals that matter

Margy has more flexibility overall, more energy and more strength. Hitting the gym has also proven to be an effective coping aid for a condition she has battled all her life –anxiety.

“This really helps with that,” she said.

Margy has made great strides all around, except in one area –her weight.

Back in her 40s, she had lost 20 pounds with Weight Watchers just through dietary changes without exercise. But without the exercise, her progress didn’t last.

“I had a great figure, but I wasn’t strong and it wasn’t helping my anxiety at all,” she said.

At 60, her metabolism just isn’t that cooperative anymore. Even hitting FFF several times a week, the weight she wants to lose stubbornly hangs on.

That’s raised the imperative to focus on attainable goals, like gaining strength and mobility, and reducing her stress, to avoid becoming discouraged.

“I’ve realized I can’t be so hard on myself,” Margy said. “I have to set intelligent goals that actually matter.”

Her progress at FFF has led her to re-evaluate other habits. She’s cut back on alcohol consumption and her favourite junk foods.

“Now that I spend time at the gym, I make better choices in other aspects of my life,” she said.

Margy’s gains have inspired her to encourage friends and family to get active. But while you can lead a horse to water, you can’t always make it drink.

“I think all you can do is be a role model,” she said. “That’s what my husband, Mark, has done and it finally encouraged me to try and I’m very glad I did.”

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