Barb was active as a young adult, skiing throughout college and overcoming a minor weight gain during college through the Weight Watchers program (decades ago, when it was a bit less “commercial”). In her late thirties, Barb got back into ice skating, a sport she had participated in as a child, but had given up long ago. For almost the next twenty years or so, she continued skating while balancing a job and raising two young children. Her rather serious dedication to skating and solid nutritional foundation allowed her to maintain a satisfactory and stable body weight and levels of strength and fitness. It goes to show you that, even with a real life to handle and an exercise regimen that is, at most, of moderate intensity, portion control and practical application of correct dietary fundamentals can hold you in good stead.
At 55 years old, Barb stopped skating and began to pursue professional photography, another lifelong passion. However, she kept up with her semiannual skiing trips. Unfortunately but not surprisingly, over the next couple of years she found herself less steady on her skis and felt like her ability to perform to her maximum had diminished along with her regular physical activity. Luckily for Barb, a family member who had an interest in weight lifting encouraged her to begin a resistance training program in order to get back and even improve her muscular strength and overall stability. At 58, Barb began a full body weight training protocol with a professional trainer. Despite her misgivings at the beginning, she made excellent progress and began to notice positive changes not only in her strength and performance, but also in the size of her muscles and the shape of her body. She was surprised that a weight lifting program could make such big improvements to a 58 year old woman. But that’s the beauty of the human body: no matter how old you are, if you eat correctly and exercise properly according to your goals, you can improve both your physical ability and body composition.
Unfortunately, after six months of productive training, Barb was dealt a terrible blow: she was diagnosed with endometrial cancer, a disease of the uterus. She underwent almost a year of treatment, including rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Her body was hit hard by the sometimes fatal medication and procedures, but she did far better than many other people facing similar situations. Her doctors and fellow cancer survivors commented on her strength and toughness throughout the treatment. In fact, she credits her improved physical condition going into the diagnosis with her ability to take on the punishing solution to her disease.
Despite being depleted and weakened by the chemo and radiation, Barb survived her treatments and was told that her cancer was in remission. Less than six months later, she was back in the gym with a new trainer, ready to begin the process of rebuilding her body. Now, a year and a half later, the only remnant of her battle with cancer is the slightly softer hair she grew after losing much of her original hairdo. She has been making consistent progress since undertaking her new weight training protocol and continues to push for improvement. At 61 years old, she is proof that age is no excuse for poor health or performance.
Keep this story in mind next time you feel like you might be “over the hill”. If a cancer survivor in her 60s can make noticeable improvements in her physical strength and body composition, so can you. Fortunately, we are born into an incredibly adaptable machine. Even if it’s been mistreated for decades, it will respond positively if you make the choice to change today. Excellent nutrition and properly executed exercise can make a big difference in how you look and feel, no matter what year you were born. In the upcoming new year, make your health and ability your biggest priorities and don’t get yourself down because you feel too old to improve. Whether you’re 30, 40, 50, 60 or beyond, the right fundamentals can make a difference for you.