Exercising the Body, Mind, and Spirit

IMG_2176 Crop
Silver Sneakers in Lawrenceburg pause just long enough for a group photo. Pictured are: Joanne Beckman, Jane Brown, Norman Calvert, Shirley Grissom, Marion Hargrove, Monika Houghton, Mary Jones, Carol Kelso, Emily Kennedy, Paula Kennedy, Vimala Khatri, Kay Kress, Syble Mabry, Sharron Maki, Pauline McCarter, Marilyn McCormick, Nancy Nelson, Ann New, Ora Parrish, Sandi Pettus, Dorothy Richardson, Bobbi Robbins, Harley Simbeck, Martha Simbeck, Lillie Thomas, and Wanda Ward.

I was dragged into it kicking and screaming. Well, maybe not literally, but I did begrudge exercise. Hated it in fact. But when my 80-something-year-old mother began to lose her balance and lower body strength, my sister decided something must be done. She got on the phone from her Nashville home and found Silver Sneakers in Lawrenceburg.

Silver Sneakers is an exercise program intended for older adults. Oftentimes Medicare pays for it, though it only costs $2 per one-hour session. The wonderful thing about Silver Sneakers is that anyone at any age can participate.

The plan was for me to take my mother a few times to get her able to walk in herself and get herself situated. Afterwards, I would drop her off and do my errands before picking her up at the end of the one-hour session. That was the plan at least. What happened was quite different. I went and sat next to my mother as we learned the routines, assisting her with the tubes, weights, and balls, the standard equipment for Silver Sneakers participants. I met the smiling people of all ages but mainly 60s through 80s. I felt young. I was barely 49. But as I struggled to keep up with Marilyn McCormick, the exercise physiologist from Auburn who leads the group, I glanced around. I missed most beats as Marilyn changed routines. By the time I figured out what she was doing, we were on to the next movement.

Silver Sneakers showing our muscles
Silver Sneakers showing our muscles

Those older folks who had been coming to Silver Sneakers for a while, though, were spot on! And, their weights were a different color than my puny 3 pounders that made my arms ache so that I had to put them down between counts. I knew they were lifting at least 4 pounds. I was shamed. Yet, it was hard to care too much because the people were so nice. They cheered Mom and me on, congratulating us for working so hard, thanking us for joining them.

Silver Sneakers warming up in chairs
Silver Sneakers warming up in chairs

I was hooked. Over the next few weeks, I found myself ignoring Mom’s needs as I concentrated on keeping up Marilyn’s rhythm. She introduced little plastic square slides that made my thighs burn, and I thought I would die right then and there. But Dorothy Richardson did them, smiling, with her toned 80-year-old legs.

Dorothy Richardson, my inspiration!
Dorothy Richardson, my inspiration!

Her pretty daughter, Patti, did them as well, her body amazingly toned and strong. I decided if they could do it, then I could too. Gradually, my thighs quit burning, and I didn’t have to stand up to relieve the pain. Gradually, my body became exercised into shape. I lost inches (and pounds, but who’s counting?) and found myself with stamina I never experienced before. The people at Silver Sneakers became my friends, and what a terrific activity to share with friends!

By the time summer came to an end, all three of my daughters had joined me at Silver Sneakers any time they were home and loved it. Even my husband came. (He, by the way, believes it is the best all-around exercise for people of all ages. He was pooped after his first class, and I rose high in his estimation with my ability to keep the pace.)

Michelle Lewis & Susanne Reeves after a tough Silver Foxes workout.
Michelle Lewis & Susanne Reeves after a tough Silver Foxes workout.

My cousin, Susanne Reeves, had also been going with us to Silver Sneakers and was hooked as well. She approached me with the idea of bringing Silver Sneakers to Loretto. Since she was a schoolteacher, she would no longer have the luxury of attending midday classes once August rolled around.

Silver Foxes warming up
Silver Foxes warming up
Silver Foxes Jennifer Augustin and Mary Kress catch up after class
Silver Foxes Jennifer Augustin and Mary Kress catch up after class

Marilyn was all for it as were the folks at Loretto City Hall, who allowed us to use the Civic Center and make this a civic, non profit program. We named it Silver Foxes to distinguish it from its model, Silver Sneakers, as the Loretto program changes direction. Most exercises are the same, but Marilyn has added floor planking and crunching to work core muscles and abs more.

Marilyn & Susanne Reeves flexing some muscle
Marilyn & Susanne flexing some muscle
Silver Foxes working out with tubes
Silver Foxes working out with tubes

Both Silver Foxes and Silver Sneakers have participated in events to raise money for charitable causes. Some Silver Foxes drove to Lexington, Alabama, to help Silver Fox friends there with a fundraiser for a breast cancer sufferer. This event hit close to home because Marilyn is a two-time breast cancer survivor. To say she is an inspiration is an understatement; after surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, she climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa. Only two years later, she leads our classes.

IMG_2674
Silver Foxes Amanda, Joan Shelton, Kay Dotson, Angie Quillen, Katie Quillen, Annelise Kennedy, Della Grooms, & Liz Green showing our progress

Several of the Sneakers and Foxes participated in the Kiwanis Club Splash of Color Run last fall. I went along to walk the 5K-distance. When I arrived late and sprinted to catch up to my Silver Sneakers friends I had not seen in ages, Marilyn said as I panted, out of breath, “We’ve been practicing walking and running at Silver Sneakers, so we’re going to walk/run the distance.”

I reminded her that I didn’t run. I hated to run. I didn’t even like to walk for exercise, but she took off, not listening. Before long an 80-year-old jogged ahead of me with bouncy steps and that happy smile that brightens her face all the time. Yikes. Once again, Dorothy Richardson had shamed me.

Silver Foxes Kelly Niedergeses, Janet Bradley, Joanne Beckman, Anthionette Beuerlein, & Nan Dan happy to have made the effort!
Silver Foxes Kelly Niedergeses, Janet Bradley, Joanne Beckman, Anthionette Beuerlein, & Nan Dan happy to have made the effort!

I finished that 5K run with Dorothy. I ran/walked the distance, amazingly energized and only slightly winded. As we stood awaiting results and dusting the powdery colors splashed on us, I was proud. Proud of myself. Proud of my peeps from Silver Foxes and Silver Sneakers as each one crossed the finish line. Proud to be included and encouraged and set on the right path to health.

Silver Foxes Claire Kennedy Methvin, Susanne Reeves, Emily Kennedy, Marilyn McCormick, and Mary Eleanor Weathers pause after a long workout
Silver Foxes Claire Kennedy Methvin, Susanne Reeves, Emily Kennedy, Marilyn McCormick, and Mary Eleanor Weathers pause after a long workout

I try to tell people as they join the Silver Foxes program that takes up most of my time, that the classes are for everyone. No one should be intimidated, especially by the younger people who have flocked to our class in Loretto. If people want to sit in their chairs the entire class and move arms and legs, it is a workout and is good for the body. Marilyn gears the class to appeal to every level, so keeping up the pace is not necessary. I also remind them to be patient because progress with the muscles and toning is gradual. When Marilyn introduced sit-ups, I couldn’t raise myself without help. At all. By the second or third lesson, I could do it!

Besides the discovery of exercise and fitness that literally changed my life, I also found something equally as vital. I met new people for the first time, both those who have lived in our county forever and those who have moved here.

Angie Quillen using tubes to strengthen legs
Angie Quillen using tubes to strengthen legs

I reconnected with friends and acquaintances I have known since childhood but have never had a chance to get to know, people from all over the county and even North Alabama, people from many denominations of churches and as many backgrounds. As we meet for class after class, we find that we have more and more in common.

Silver Foxes Darlene Haygood, Peggy Price, and Ann Augustin working with weights
Silver Foxes Darlene Haygood, Peggy Price, and Ann Augustin working with weights

 

Like me, these friends who come to out for exercise have gotten hooked on fitness and like hearing about the healthy eating habits Marilyn promotes. We also share something the Germans call Gemeinshaftsgefühl. It’s the feeling you get when you belong, when you feel camaraderie with the people who surround you. When you have a common goal, a common spirit. This is what these exercise programs in our county evoke, but you can find it all around you when you reach out to other people and allow them to share your life. It heartens the soul and makes our world here better for everyone. Lawrence County has Gemeinshaftsgefühl in spades. You just have to be open enough to let it breeze right in.

Linda enjoying water between exercises
Linda enjoying water between exercises

 

Good workout for Rozelle Thigpen and Nan Dean

For information about Silver Sneakers please call Beth Campbell at Parks and Recreation 762-4231. Silver Sneakers classes meet on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10:00 am to 11:00 am. The cost is $2 per one-hour session. For more information about Silver Foxes please call Emily Weathers Kennedy at 853-6491. Silver Foxes exercisers meet on Mondays and Thursdays from 4:30 to 5:30 pm at the Loretto Civic Center. The cost is $2 per one-hour session.

Share

4 Comments

Add Yours
  1. 1
    Cheryl Arnold Moseley

    AWESOME! Beautifully written and very inspiring. I’m wondering if Silver Sneakers or Silver Foxes could be part of a national group?? My 92 year old aunt would love this, but she’s in Orange County, California. Thank you for your passionate spirit, Emily…..and all the other Silver Sneakers and Silver Foxes.

    • 2
      Emily

      Thank you sweet lady! Yes, I believe Silver Sneakers is a national group. Medicare pays for it for some people. Your aunt would absolutely love it because exercising with other folks is so much more rewarding than alone or at a gym. Our oldest at Sneakers is 85. Her name is Pauline. She tells me each week about her fishing exploits. These folks have so much on the ball!

      Now, the exercises can be adapted for younger people too; it was plenty hard for me to get fit! Marilyn mixes cardio, abs, sculpting, toning, etc. She covers all muscle groups (no stone unturned!). Since her husband is a physical therapist specializing in geriatric therapy, he gives her even more exercises that are fabulous for the entire body. Tell your sweet aunt she can call me if she would like to hear more.

  2. 3
    Monika Houghton

    Thank you very much Emily I really appreciate it. I sent it to all my friends. It looks so much better than in the paper.
    Monika

    • 4
      Emily

      Monika, thank you for coming to my website and responding! Yes, I agree, it does look better, but that’s just because I had more room for photos. Love seeing you at Silver Sneakers and Silver Foxes. You are an inspiration!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *