FIT AND FAB FOREVER – age is no barrier to fitness
Gym sessions, marathons, ocean swims and boxing – Samantha Trenoweth and Nicola Russell meet four women who prove you are never too old to be fit.
AGE 75 Grandmother, gym member Seventy-five-year-old Carol Armer says going to the gym every day is as much a part of her routine as brushing her teeth. During her working life, the former personal assistant went to the gym daily at 5am. Since her retirement in 2013 she moved that to 8:30am. Some habits die hard though – she continues to rise at 4am every morning. She and her 83-year-old husband Owen have nine children between them (she has three, he has six), 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Owen, a former policeman, has Parkinson’s disease and the trip to the gym each morning has become an essential part of their routine. “While I am at the gym, he does 30 steps in the Albert Street carpark. Then he waits for me and we go out and have a coffee on the way home – it’s something we really look forward to together.” On the day of Carol’s interview with The Australian Women’s Weekly the couple were planning on replacing that coffee with a glass of Champagne to celebrate her photoshoot. Carol describes her workouts as her “wellbeing tablet for the day”. She says she’d much rather exercise than take madicine. “I do this, because no matter how I feel, I am going to feel better afterwards.” Physically, her health is excellent. “I have never ever had a cold. Touch wood my knee replacement is the only thing I have been in hospital for.” She is well known by name at Les Mills in central Auckland where she does BODYPUMP four times a week, a class which focuses on high repetition movements with weights. “I did the first pump class ever in New Zealand with Mike McSweeney [in the late 1990s].” And while some of the members of her BODYPUMP class may be more than five decades her junior, Carol could teach them a thing or two. “I watch some of their form and I think, ‘You need to put your legs together.’ I really want to tell them but I can’t,” she says, for fear of causing offence. After a knee replacement in 2015 Carol now supplements BODYPUMP classes with crossfit training, cycling and rowing, in place of the circuit training and body attack she used to do. There’s little that can keep her away from the gym – she was back two days after her knee surgery, where she sat on a chair and did weights. “I really had to do something – I didn’t want to just sit there – and within two weeks I was back doing pump. If you really try, you can do it. It’s like getting old – I am not going to.”
AGE 71 Grandmother, boxer “I began boxing training four years ago because I’d had an intruder. I thought boxing might be a self-defence tool to make me feel less vulnerable. “There were other reasons, too. I had begun looking after my grandchildren and some of my friends’ grandchildren, so I was lifting children in and out of the car a lot, and I needed to get stronger. I also wanted to improve my overall fitness, flexibility and balance, and reduce those risks that are associated with getting older: cardiovascular incidents, falls, hip and knee replacements. “I enjoy this training. You have to concentrate to learn new drills and focus on the sequences, so it’s good for both body and brain. It’s also quite a nice stress reliever because you’re punching pads or a bag and getting rid of all that aggression. Boxing makes you move around, so it’s cardiovascular and it’s been nice to learn how to jab and hook. I’m pretty tough, by the way. “My aim now is to slow down the ageing process and remain as independent as I can, and I’m achieving those things. I think I’m quite strong, pretty toned and agile, and my flexibility is good. Compared with many people my age, I’m doing well and I’m happy.” A note from Cherie’s trainer, Mischa Merz, in Footscray, Victoria: “Cherie trains twice a week for an hour each session. When she first started training, skipping was her warm-up. Now, it’s the exercise bike. Then she works out with the punching pads. Boxing training is great for strength, agility, balance, conditioning, core strength, and co-ordination, and it’s a mental workout. Cherie has a great work ethic and trains consistently, which is important. She’s more fit than many people half her age – she’s an inspiration.”
AGE 59 Architect, mother, ironwoman “I swim in a squad at Bondi Icebergs [New South Wales] three times a week at 6am. I like swimming with a group because I know that, even in the dark in the middle of winter, there will be a whole lot of mad people like me at the pool when I get there. Afterwards, we all have coffee – we stand by the pool at sunrise and say, ‘How good is this?’ “Once a week, I meet a group of women to ride longboards at Bondi and each Sunday at 8am I do surf-ski training at Palm Beach in Sydney’s north. Afterwards, there are races: board, swim, ski, run, flags. “And once a month, on a Friday, I drive up to Palm Beach to be there at 6.30am for an hour and a half of ins and outs: paddling, swimming, running up and down sandhills. “I also train and compete in carnivals with a group of women. We’ve been together for 10 years and, in the past six, we’ve come back from almost every carnival with gold medals. I’m the current Australian Masters Ironwoman and double ski champion in my age group. “We’ve competed in massive, sometimes dangerous surfs. You need to be fit, strong and a bit fearless. I always had some courage, but over the years, I’ve developed a lot more skill. I feel pretty confident now that I have the skill to deal with most things. “I love being in the water and I love being part of the surf club at Palm Beach. There are people from 18 to 80 swimming together – it’s a great community. I swim and compete with people who are much older than me. “My feeling is that, if you keep doing this every day, your body gets used to it. It’s invigorating and keeps me young.”
AGE 65 Night nurse, grandmother, marathon runner “I started running at 48 and ran my first marathon that same year. When I started, I thought my lungs would burst, but I persevered. “I found a local running group. They ran through the bush, which I loved, and it became very addictive. We would run for a couple of hours and then sit down in the bush with a Thermos of coffee and chat. “In my 50s, I started doing 100km runs. My friends said I was fanatical. My favourite was the Oxfam Trailwalker, which raised money for charity. I did several of those with a women’s running group. Then we did a 45km mountain race. I got stronger and stronger, and there was this sense of adventure, which I loved. Running with the girls, there was also social interaction and all these lovely challenges. “As I approached my 60s, friends started asking why I was still doing this and I said, ‘Why not?’ I feel that a strong body gives me a strong mind. Running gives me a sense of freedom and a lot of energy. I sleep well, my body functions well, my blood tests are all normal, my blood pressure is normal and it gives me a very positive attitude. “I’m mindful of the risk of injury as I get older. I do change my shoes often and I don’t run long distances on pavement. My longer runs are always in the bush. I also mix up my exercise a bit. I do yoga stretches and boxing, ride my bike, swim in the ocean and have regular massages to iron out the tight muscles that even the stretches don’t get to. I also watch what I eat and drink – an active body needs a nourishing diet.”
“Running gives me a sense of freedom and a lot of energy.”