Five Secrets to Staying One Step Ahead of Aging From the Golden Door Fitness Staff
By Sheryl Kraft
Do you remember when aging was no more work than planning your next birthday celebration? Alas, everything changes. Aging well—and successfully—is a composite of so many factors: social, spiritual, psychological, physical. That's why I'm in awe of people who manage to do it so well.
While at the Golden Door Spa, I was heartened to see that so many of the fitness staff were in my age bracket. Many of them have been with the spa since the very beginning of their careers. In fact, many of the long-term repeat guests have seen them "grow up" from their 20s into their 50s. All of these women look fantastic. Granted, they work at a beautiful spa in beautiful surroundings—but that's not enough to keep them looking and feeling great.
It comes down to personal responsibility, after all. I watched them carefully during my visit, trying to figure out just how they managed to have so much boundless energy—convinced that if I observed them long enough, it would all rub off on me. But watching, like being in a beautiful place, is not enough to make it happen.
When I got home, I decided I'd ask two of the staff members. Trish Martin, the fitness director, began her career with the spa in 1982. "When you work at the Golden Door, it impacts your life forever," she said. "The ability to help others make positive lifestyle changes has impacted me in a way that exceeds any other work experience I have had." Trish turns 55 next month. (Happy birthday, Trish!)
Every day of my visit, I met with Diane Allen (that's her in the photo), who greeted me with a huge smile. She was my personal trainer (or, should I say, cheerleader?). How lucky can you get? Diane was so energetic and knowledgeable that I begged her to come home with me so she could keep me accountable. But bribing her with gourmet home cooking every night and whatever else I could muster was not nearly enough. I guess she couldn't bear to leave the place where she's worked for 25 years; I can't say I blame her.
And now I'm happy to share their words of wisdom below.
1. On Getting Started:
Women over 40 who are not used to exercising may feel inhibited, says Trish. Some suggestions: join a women's only gym; ask a friend to walk with you a few days a week; make scheduled appointments on your calendar. "Once you start moving, your body will respond, and you'll be more comfortable doing more."
"If you've been inactive for an extended time, see a doctor before you begin an exercise program," advises Diane, "especially if there are any concerns with your heart, blood pressure, spine or joints."
2. On Boredom-Proofing Your Workouts:
Trish's advice is to go for variety. One suggestion: "Put on music and dance—it's a wonderful way to get activity into your life, and it doesn't feel like structured exercise." Dancing, she says, is weight-bearing, and it incorporates a lot of whole-body movements that often duplicate movements in our activities of daily living; so essentially dancing can be very functional as well.
3. On Injury-Proofing Your Workout:
Diane says that mild-to-moderate muscle discomfort is common when you begin an exercise program. Follow these guidelines to prevent injuries and pain: Start slow, progress gradually, include variety, modify or avoid painful movements and get advice on proper technique from a trained professional.
Make sure to warm up properly. As you age, that warm-up may need to increase from 3 to 5 minutes to 7 to 10 minutes. "Listen to your body. It will communicate how much to do and when to slow down," says Trish.
4. On Healthy Eating:
Diane brings her own cooler when she's on the road to keep her diet healthy. She packs it with healthy snacks like nuts, yogurt, hard-boiled eggs and protein drinks. Eating these between meals helps her avoid overeating at mealtime.
"When I go out, I split a meal, which helps manage portion control," Trish says. And she doesn't use traveling as an excuse for bad eating. "I try to keep my diet similar to what I eat at home." Some of her other smart-eating tips include loading beans and legumes (excellent sources for fiber and protein) into soups and soft tacos (using whole grain tortillas); drinking fat-free chocolate milk (high in protein and an excellent post-workout drink) and incorporating whole grains, protein and veggies and fruit into every meal.
5. On Aging Well:
"," says Trish. "Incorporating a mind-body element, like gardening, is very relaxing and gratifying. If I don't move, I get cranky."
Diane incorporates lots of strength and balance training into her workouts to help prevent things like falls and osteoporosis.