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As I See Fit
By Margaret Richard,
Author of Body Electric

I have no problem ‘fessing my age, sixty-one, as long as you don’t use those numbers to limit or define me. And, if you have a problem with that, we can meet in the parking lot to settle the matter (just kidding!). My sixty-one may just be your thirty-six: healthy, fit, vibrant, curious and sexy.

Many of us began our fitness careers in the 1970’s and discovered a new strength of body and spirit. We were hooked. Little did we know that our stronger muscles were also having a dynamic effect on the density of our bones, of critical importance through midlife and beyond.

I sailed through my thirties and forties brimming with strength, passion and infinite possibilities. Then, something changed. I began to experience a seismic shift in my body’s shape with my hormones waning and my body fat gaining. My once lean and muscular frame began to morph like a science experiment gone awry. I was in my early fifties and every ounce of my being oozed “menopause.” You would have to live under a rock to escape being affected by our youth and weight-obsessed culture, and the viewers of my Body Electric show on PBS-TV were no exception—they noticed.

Give me limitations and I’ll prove you wrong. My mantra has always been “empower thyself” and I was determined to figure out the darned thing. I had maintained strong muscles and bones, but I had to develop a “cleaner,” more honest regimen to get things under control. This was my menopause and I was the only one who could truly reframe the experience.

I was always one of those people who could eat pizza without recrimination. Now those extra calories ceased to be benign. My M&M strategy—giving (or throwing) half the bag away before eating the first one—no longer accommodated my post-menopausal metabolism; my beloved potato chips, which once whispered my name, shouted rudely and had to be silenced. I refused to be a lemming, blindly following another’s diet bliss (okay, I have an attitude about fad diets). 

Here’s What I Know ...

It’s never too late to start taking care of your body with exercise, nutrition, rest and relaxation. My first order of business was to consult a registered dietician who customized a plan of perfect nutrition designed for my body and lifestyle. I was good-to-go after a few sessions. Even better, my health insurance paid all but the co-pay.

Your muscles will always respond to the exercise challenge. Engaging in exercises that overload your muscles creates limitless strength and tone. Using dumbbells and a kitchen timer to perform twelve 3-1/2 minute exercises (each major muscle group) every three days gets the job done, no matter what your age or fitness level.

In addition to muscle and bone strengthening exercises, plan to engage in daily aerobic activity. A brisk 30-minute walk strengthens your heart, a muscle, and burns calories. Athletic competitors perform “carbo-loading” before an athletic event, as carbohydrates are the elite fuel of choice. For the rest of us, our bodies use carbs as fuel for the first 20-minutes of aerobic activity, and then dip into the body fat as back-up. Plan to walk 45-minutes some days to do some serious dipping into your fat stores.

As for R&R, I trust that you can figure this out on your own. The things that energize you may be very different from those that motivate others. Define your joy in terms that support your healthy lifestyle. Adequate rest and relaxation are essential and very underrated. Make rest and relaxation a priority, and get some.

I continue to perform twelve 3-1/2 minute muscle-toning exercises every three days, walk 3 brisk miles most mornings, consult with my nutritionist monthly to keep things “fresh,” love my family, home, and work, and enjoy a good night’s sleep. I once again feel authentic in my own body and am in sync with the universe on my own terms. Just this afternoon, I visited my favorite Italian restaurant and requested “shrimp and vegetables over penne ... except please substitute spinach for the pasta.”

The uniqueness in all that you express is, after all, precious. I am determined to define myself as I see fit: with strength of mind, body and character. 

©2008 Margaret Richard

Author Bio
Margaret Richard has been in the fitness business for more than thirty years, and her national "Body Electric" TV program has been a viewer favorite on PBS for twenty-two years. She has appeared before the U.S. Senate's "Special Committee on Aging" and was recently inducted into the National Fitness Hall of Fame where she now stands alongside Jack LaLanne, Jane Fonda, Richard Simmons, Kathy Smith, and Jake Steinfeld.

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