Back in April, I started a "conversation" here about wellness -- and specifically about fitness, and especially as we age. Based on your comments, I'd say we all pretty much fall into one of two camps:
(1) those of us who have discovered strategies to make fitness a part of our lives, and
(2) those of us who would like to.
I thought it might be helpful to have some of the folks in the first camp . . . share their fitness and workout strategies with those in the second camp. First, I shared my sister Diane’s, story – about developing a walking routine for the long term. Then, I shared Carolyn’s story – about mastering a self-directed fitness/video routine.
Today, I’m happy to share Patty’s fitness story. Patty has developed a fitness and support community to help her stay active for the long haul.
Some of you already know Patty from her blog - Purly Spaniel. Patty is a happy wife, mom and dog owner (Hi, Boone!). She works full time as a project coordinator, and has held the same job for almost 20 years. Patty says she wasn’t raised in a particularly active family, though they did spend a lot of time outside when she was growing up. Patty’s husband, Doug, was very active when they met, and Patty says that helped guide her into a more active life.
When I asked Patty why exercise is important to her, and why she “bothers” with fitness in the first place, here’s what she told me: “The #1 reason I exercise is weight management. I want to be able to eat pretty much what I want, and especially once I crossed the age 40 mark, regular exercise became a necessary part of being able to do that. Though I’ve reigned the snacking in over the last 5 years, a treat of potato chips or a plate of cheese and crackers is still very important to me!”
Besides the potato chips, though, Patty also says that she’s done a lot of reading and learning about the important of maintaining bone density, heart health, and mental health -- all through physical fitness. That’s been a big incentive for her to keep up her exercise routine, too.
What does Patty’s fitness regimen look like?
Patty stays active with regular walking and running . . . with a group of fitness friends. She also takes an early-morning class at her local Y . . . where she is part of a caring, fitness-focused group of people who have become pals.
See the connection here? Working out with friends! Patty has built herself a fitness-community!
Patty tells me, “I am extremely lazy by nature. I absolutely will not exercise alone.” She says she may walk the dog alone, but that’s it. When Patty’s son, Dan, was young and “we were a family getting everyone where they needed to be,” it was clear that early mornings were the only time available for Patty to exercise.
She spent about 15 years running - two or three mornings a week - with two or three other women. According to Patty, the support she gained by exercising with these women allowed her to reach beyond anything she would have been able to do on her own. And it went far beyond fitness support to build long-term friendships that still nourish her today. Patty says, “I think it’s amazing that a conversation with an acquaintance in the grocery store one day . . . led to life-long friendships grown through early mornings in the dark . . . through all 4 seasons.” Patty and her husband still exercise every weekend with these early-morning-running friends and their spouses.
What makes this work? Why . . . the expectation all around that they’re all going to show up! Patty says, “If you ask them they will come! We stick to an 8:00 start time -- and it’s an hour of your day. Social, healthy and quick.”
(Can any of you guess that when it comes to Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendency Quiz . . . Patty is an Obliger?)
In addition to the weekend running, for the past 5 years Patty has become a regular participant in a 6 am strength and flexibility classes -- with a side of cardio -- at her local YMCA. Patty had a serious arm fracture a few years ago, and after a year of PT, realized that if she didn’t do something, she was going to be weak - forever. According to Patty . . . “I’ve said it more than once - that broken arm changed things! I was 55 and slowing down in my running and motivation.”
This YMCA class has been a game-changer for Patty. The class members span from 25 – 70 years of age – and they’ve formed a strong bond . . . a real fitness community. They celebrate staying fit together – as well as birthdays (that’s Patty in the photo below – turning 60, alongside classmate Rick, who is turning 70), new babies, and other life events. Patty says that if you miss a class, you can count on a friendly call-out during the next class! They also check in on members who’ve been out for a bit, and encourage them to return.
Patty says that, hands down, ACCOUNTABILITY is the key to her fitness success. The best parts of fitness for Patty are the friendships and the laughter. She admits to being very tired of getting up at 5:30, but also knows that it’s hard to ignore the facts. “Inactivity will catch up with you eventually, and as I age I am very aware of this.”
Patty knows herself well enough to know she won't get any kind of substantial work out after a long day at work. Patty says, “I make this early morning routine work by going to bed at a reasonable hour -- so I do get up in the morning.”
I asked Patty if she ever gets bored with her workout. Nope! Patty says, “fortunately boredom is not a factor these days. Our instructor changes our classes up all the time so we don’t ever know what’s ahead.” For Patty, that is key. “In a setting where the classes stay the same for a month or three, I would easily talk myself out of going ‘oh I don’t feel like blah blah today.’ With this class, I can’t make an excuse!"
Before Patty had the built-in variety provided by her class, she would mix up her activity on her own. If she was getting bored with walking, she’d suggest biking instead. When she was tired of her run, she’d change the route. And if she doesn’t have a friend to exercise with, she puts in her headphones and listens to a book or a podcast.
Patty’s advice for others looking to build a fitness community:
- Ask! Invite a friend or a new acquaintance to go for a walk, bike ride, or to try a new class together. It’s amazing how many people want to go – but might be hesitant to ask. Just go for it!
- Plan! Once you do one walk or bike ride or class together, make a plan for the next time. In Patty’s opinion, that is where you can find success ... always plan for the next activity! Make the plan. Be accountable to each other.
- Remember! If you’re hesitant to go to a class please know that there are modifications for everyBODY. Everyone in a class is participating at a different level – but everyone is just on the same page...looking for better health!
Patty's fitness regimen is all about commitment and dedication, early mornings, getting out there even when the weather is bad -- all the stuff that makes exercising . . . uncomfortable. What makes the difference for her, though, is friends! For Patty, she can get herself up and out the door because she knows she has a community of fitness friends: people she can count on to work out with -- and who count on her right back!
What do you think? Would a fitness-community help you be more consistent about exercising? And if you’ve built a fitness-community of your own, what advice might you add?