At 94 she’s got what it takes!


Ruth doing Plank – 3:03 minutes is her Personal Record (PR)!!! Now go try that, I dare you!

An inspiration to me over the past 22 months has been this woman, Ruth Sawyer. She is celebrating her 94th Birthday, Nov. 1, 2016.  Some of us would say congratulations to that milestone.  But Ruth has loftier goals than simply reaching her 94th Birthday. She attributes keeping fit as one of her secrets to staying healthy and strong.  Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, genetic metabolic neurologist from McMaster University in Ontario would strongly agree. “As time goes on, paper after paper after paper shows that the most effective, potent way that we can improve our quality of life and duration of life is exercise.”  Ruth, an avid reader,  is familiar with the many of the articles and studies surrounding these facts.

I am lucky enough to call Ruth one of my clients, whom I see 3 times a week. Yes, at 94, she has a personal trainer.  Now, let me explain, getting her to agree to having a personal trainer did not come without serious reserve and speculation on her part.  But when she was faced with taking pain medication several times a day and “the horror” of having to potentially use a walker because her pain in her neck, back and hips was so debilitating, she agreed to meet with me.

Needless to say, I passed her test and she has been with me consistently for 22 months! We look forward to seeing each other and her goals are nothing to snicker at.  Mrs. Sawyer is now essentially pain free, with the exception of the occasional aches from age related arthritis. (Surprised?)  She is sleeping much better, and able to live independently in her apartment at The Vi in La Jolla.   She is well known around her parts as the woman with the “personal trainer”.

Our workouts include using dumbbells, a 15lb body bar, kettle bells, and resistance bands to name a few.  She works on balance, posture and stability exercises daily.  Additionally core strength,  stretching and flexibility are usual components of our workouts.   Mrs. Sawyer is very competitive with herself and others.  I often “brag” to my other clients about what she can do, in hopes that it will motivate them along their fitness journeys.  However, every time I share a story with Mrs. Sawyer about what I told other clients she ups the ante.

For example, when I began with Mrs. Sawyer my goal was to get her strong enough so that if she tripped she could prevent a fall, or if she did fall that she had enough strength to get herself back up. Fall related fractures, among the elderly represent an important health problem.  Severe fractures have been related to increased death.  “Mortality rate within the first year after a severe fracture is 25.2% greater than those without.” Coutinho, Bloch, & Coeli, April 2012.

When I asked her if she could get on the floor, she said “of course” and got right down onto the floor.  I was amazed.  So I decided right then that core work starting with the fundamental exercise of plank was what we needed to do.  Mrs. Sawyer was completely unfamiliar with what a plank was. Her first attempt lasted about 3 seconds.  Which by the way, is very good for the first time.  She was able to hold her body weight up above the floor, while balance on her forearms and toes!  She asked me that day how long I wanted her to hold plank, because in her mind 3 seconds was “unacceptable”.  My goal was 30 seconds.  Two months ago, Mrs. Sawyer was doing a 2 minute plank consistently, until I told her that I had shared that with other clients.  That day, she got right down onto the floor and asked me to time her, she wanted to see how long she could hold plank.  Three minutes and three seconds later she plopped to the carpet!   I’m pretty sure there is a Guiness World Record that she could hold for this.

Mrs. Sawyer had a few goals of her own, the first of which was reducing the pain in her neck, hips and back which we have accomplished.  The other, being that she lives on the 9th floor of a 21 story building, was to be able to climb down two flights of stairs without assistance. This is one of  the emergency requirements of ambulatory residents in her building, should there ever be a fire.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that seniors engage in exercise that pushes their heart rate into a range that is 55 to 90 percent of their maximum heart rate.  Mrs. Sawyer uses her Fitbit HR to monitor of her heart rate during exercise.  I love that she has this, it helps give her peace of mind, and helps me keep her in a safe zone during her workouts.

A week ago there was a fire alarm in her building.  Mrs. Sawyer quickly grabbed her purse and key and without hesitation made her way down 2 flights of stairs. There she found three other residents who had also climbed down the 2 flights.  All three were on their phones trying to call security to verify if there really was a fire.  Mrs. Sawyer had no patience for this and decided to walk down the 7 remaining flights alone.  When she arrived in the main lobby she found that in fact it had been a false alarm.  Instead of becoming annoyed and taking the elevator back to her apartment, she decided to test her limits.  She walked up 6 flights of stairs before she decided she was “a bit too winded” and took the elevator the last 3 flights!!

There is always time to improve your strength and fitness and the benefits are insurmountable.  Mrs. Sawyer’s commitment to getting and keeping herself fit, has improved her daily quality of life considerably.  I am blessed to have her as a client and it makes me smile every time she says to me: ” Debbie, I think this is working!”

Happy 94th Birthday Mrs. Sawyer!! Now let’s get to work!!!!

Kettlebell Squats Really?!!

Kettlebell Squats Really?!!

Now add an upright row combo to that!!!! Perfection!

Now add an upright row combo to that!!!! Perfection!