Did you make a promise to yourself that you would exercise regularly this year? Have you already started to make excuses and have been skimping on your workouts? Let me share with you a story that might just inspire you to put your excuses in perspective and to commit to making exercise a regular part of your healthy life.
Doris is 89 years old. Or rather 89 years young. Three times a week I visit her at her apartment in West Hollywood. She lives with her lovely and caring husband who hired me to come in and work with her in a pool. She loves exercising in water as it provides her with buoyancy and is gentle on her joints. Joints that have seen more then their fair share of impact.
In the 1980's Doris recounted she, along with her daughter and other family were involved in a small plane crash. The pilot, in a last minute and tragic decision, decided to let on an extra passenger, one more then the safety guidelines recommended. The plane got off the ground, just, but could not climb due to the extra weight and the plane came down suddenly, the bottom of the plane crashed into the ground. Most passengers, including Doris, suffered some form of broken back. Thats right, Doris is 89 years old, has suffered from a broken back and she still gets up in the morning three times a week to exercise. A beast.
Doris describers herself as a "tough old bird" which is accurate. I would add she is also very sweet. Keep in mind that we do our workouts in an outdoor pool on the top of a high rise apartment complex. Maybe I am a little soft and spoilt by the warm Los Angeles climate, but I must say, it sure can get windy and chilly up there. Add to the windchill factor the fact that the pool we exercise in apparently has some kind of mercurial, deeply complex heating system that no human can master. It is so complex in fact that it seems impossible for the pool to maintain a consistent temperature. It can be comfortable and warm, but it is regularly downright cold. On mornings when I dip my toe in and shudder, I secretly make a wish that the water is too cold for Doris. This wish is seldom granted. In water that is a little brisk, Doris lowers herself in and says things like, "It's not too bad. It is O.K once you are in", or when I think it is a bit icy, "We can get used to this". One morning the water was very nice and very warm. Doris mentioned that it was a little too hot. The pool technician arrived and I hoped she wouldn't say anything just in case he would start to tinker with the system and we would be back in an ice age. She of course, "It is too hot. Can you lower the temperature please". 89, works out three times a week, has suffered a broken back and braves arctic temperatures.
Doris gave me a Christmas card and on it she had written, "thanks for pushing me". When we first began working out, we took it slowly and step by step. I love a safe and gradual building of a clients personal fitness. I have challenged her gradually and we now do some exercises that many of my younger clients grimace and quit on pretty quickly. When Doris is pushing through the pain barrier she too grimaces, but she never, ever quits. She grits her teeth, closes her eyes and goes to work,
"There is no use in complaining. Might as well just do it." She pragmatically reasons. 89, 3 exercises regularly each week, broken back, cold water, pushes past the pain barrier…
Doris and her husband spend a few months of each year in London. When Doris returned to Los Angeles late last year from her most recent trip to London I was informed that she may be a little bit more 'fragile". She informed me that, "I have changed a little, my speech is a little slower". She got into the pool as if nothing had changed, and we got on with it. Add courage to that resume. Now, during our aquatic exercise sessions, she throws in a few tongue twisters and sounds her speech therapist gave her to practice. Multi-tasking, yep, check that box too.
There are many light moments during our workouts. Doris is a fan of Ladybugs and has jewelry and stationary to prove it. Whenever a lady bug falls into the water she takes a timeout to save the floundering insect. Doris is also a big fan of my dog Lucy. Whenever I arrive at her doorstep she gives Lucy a gourmet dog treat and usually saves one for her after we have finished working out. Lucy also gets attention during our rest periods. A dog doing something cute is a nice little mental relief after a set of 50 push-ups against the side of the pool. Thats right 5, 0. Speaking of 50, Doris recently lent me her copy of "Fifty Shades Of Grey". You have got to have a light and fun attitude while you workout; it has to be fun, else you are not liable to continue with regular exercise right?
"I've got what you call, getting old".
"Well, I lost my mind years ago and I don't have any excuse" I reply. Doris has a great sense of humor which is so important. Although she may have real fears about her health and age, she bravely faces them with laughter and with grace. She has some great zingers too. For a way to long period of time, I gave myself haircuts. I was under the illusion that my ego had created that I somehow, being relatively creative, I was capable of pulling off something presentable. Hey, what the hell, I'm an artist. I turned up one morning with one of my new hairdos and Doris commented,
" Did you give yourself that haircut?".
"Yes I did". I proudly admitted.
"It is good to be confident in yourself. Maybe not that confident". She smiled. Touche'.
89 years old, broken back, cold water, an episode that left her more "fragile", fear and yet she maintains a good sense of humor, enjoys the light moments, pushes the pain barrier and consistently exercises week in and week out. When you start feeling a little sorry for yourself, start thinking about Doris, be inspired and do something active and empowering for your body.
This is Doris, don't be fooled by that adorable smile. She is a beast.
I just thought I would include another photo of Doris because she is so darn cute.