Lessons Learned From an Elderly Fitness Enthusiast
Be Humble, Be Present, Persevere
I was sitting at Gate A21 in Phoenix Sky Harbor International airport, waiting for the crew to change so I could reboard and head to Las Vegas when I was asked about my IYB Gold Series Sweatshirt.
“That is a very nice sweatshirt. What does it say?”
The Gold Series Sweatshirt is a very bold design that usually attracts attention of millennials, and when I looked up I expected to see a twenty-something. Instead, I raised my head to see a much older woman, two seats away from me. I thanked her for the compliment and turned to give her a better view of the logo.
“It says: fitness is a lifestyle, invest in your body,” I replied.
She gave me a nod of approval. “That is a great message.”
My reflexes as a business owner kicked in and I started to go into my elevator pitch, explaining the mission of the Invest in Your Body movement. She nodded along as I talked about our community, about holding yourself and others accountable to physical exercise and nutrition. Unfortunately, as we spoke, she made it clear that she felt there wasn’t much she could offer to this conversation.
“That’s what I should be doing. It was a lot easier when I was younger.” She mentioned her travel partner, a friend who taught spin classes in California, but I turned the conversation back towards her. I wanted to know more about her life, her goals and her health. After all, helping people reach their full potential isn’t just the mission of IYB- it’s my life’s mission.
As we engaged in conversation I learned that she was facing several physical limitations. The most restricting injury was a recent tear that she’d suffered to her femur a few months ago. She gestured to her leg which was still in a brace. At that moment, my inner trainer/IYB representative shut off. I just wanted to learn more about her story.
We went on to talk about life in Phoenix as she encouraged me to visit the beautiful city. She compared her life growing up in Boston with her life now in Arizona. We talked about our purpose for traveling to Las Vegas. I was headed to The Mr. Olympia Fitness Performance Weekend, and she, the owner of several eyeglass stores, to an optical convention.
I noticed she didn’t dwell on her work. Despite being a successful business owner, she mentioned her profession in passing. This stood out to me.
We live in a world of self promotion. The obsession with being connected via aps and curating lives via social media has so many of us bragging online with every bit of success we experience. Some self promote so much that they become famous for promoting themselves without actually accomplishing anything. The humility of this woman intrigued me.
My new friend was in her 70s, but she certainly didn’t look like it. We sat and talked about nearly everything we saw from people clamoring for Starbucks and the power of branding to the body builders who were pulling food out of their carry-ons to ensure that they were getting their nutrition right on schedule. At this point I realized that we had more in common than I initially thought.
While she said she couldn’t handle her friend’s spin classes, she expressed an interest in doing yoga. She didn’t think that she could handle yoga at this point in her life. I then introduced her to the idea of “Chair Yoga“. Chair Yoga is less impactful than some other forms of yoga, as all of the positions are modified so that they can be done while seated in a chair. Chair Yoga is a practice that enables seniors, obese children and adults, and people suffering neurological and physical disabilities to work towards improving their overall health through yoga. We couldn’t immediately locate a place in Phoenix that offered it, she stated that she would research it. She stated that she does side leg extensions every night. She raised her bag and said “I have my resistance bands in here”. I was impressed with her motivation to workout on her own. I’ve met so many people, half her age, with no physical limitations who are struggling to find that motivation.
At this point I smile and give her the nod of approval. “Earlier you said you should be doing it, but it sounds to me like you are already making the investment,” I told her, though she laughed off the remark. I think to her, the investment was the obvious choice.
She wasn’t impressed with herself. Maybe she shouldn’t be, and maybe we shouldn’t be either. Maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to self promote and brag about our success. Maybe we should learn to be present and give ourselves the chance to learn from others, regardless of what package they present initially. Upon meeting this woman, I wanted to seize the opportunity to tell her all about the IYB movement. I wanted to inspire her, however by the end of the conversation I was the one inspired. Inspired by her ability to maintain her humility throughout her professional success. Inspired by her her perseverance in continuing to exercise while facing severe physical limitations. Inspired by the fact that successful people can still acknowledge the good work of others, even if it’s simply saying, “hey nice sweatshirt”.
I left our conversation thinking about remaining present; giving ourselves the chance to learn from others regardless of the package they present initially. I was reminded of the true motivation behind the IYB movement: people and their stories. Not a story about any one product, any one person, and certainly not about any social media accounts.
Invest in your body and the people around you. Look up from your phone and make conversation. You never know what you’ll uncover by simply being present.
Demetrius Fincher, LMSW, NASM-CPT
Invest in Your Body