Mollie, age 91, is one of my at-home training clients. We have been working together for nearly 2 years. Although I am the “hired hand” in this scenario, I believe I learn more from her than she from me. Her wisdom is deep, pithy and unabashed.
Here’s a couple of things she told me last week that made me realize perhaps we need to adopt her approach when we view our own bodies, our own process of observing them, caring for them, and embracing them as we try to make improvements in our healthy habits.
>> “I am fascinated by my own body.”<<
We were doing hip bridges on her bed. For those of you unfamiliar with this exercise, you are laying on your back, knees bent, and trying to squeeze your butt as to lift your hips while keeping your upper torso on the flat surface under you. It always reminds me of Jane Fonda’s workouts in the 1990s, or getting an OB-GYN exam.
We were talking about the muscles in her legs and rear end that “work” during this exercise. As I demonstrated, I had her put her hand on each my quad, hamstring and glute muscle, so she could feel each muscle working. Then I had her do this with her own body, her own muscles. As she probed around, she seemed quite delighted when she could observe that something was truly happening.
Her curiosity about how things worked, or could work, kept her engaged in the exercise. She did not consider that she would not be able to do this exercise, but rather, she remained curious as to if her body would do it, and how her body worked to accomplish it.
Many times in our pursuit of an exercise goal or nutrition goal, we may not realize we can learn from interested experimentation, but instead we may consider our behaviors black-and-white-ly:
Yes, I was able to do the squat with X amount of weight.
No, I did eat enough protein today at lunch time.
What might happen if we were intrigued by the process or open to possibilities?
MOLLIE SAYS: BE CURIOUS
>>“I was just enjoying this sexy time and now we have to stop?”<<
(Giggle, giggle). Yes, she actually said that, both of us snickering like school girls after she did.
Again, we were working on the bed doing an exercise called “pelvic tilts” for her core, with her trying her best and really concentrating as I silently looked on. I stopped her after so many reps, and then she burst out with this declaration.
After we enjoyed the shared laughter, I gathered myself and explained that we needed to do different exercise and would then return to this one again. “Oh goody!” she exclaimed.
In addition to her constant curiosity, Mollie approaches our training sessions with the enthusiasm of a Labrador puppy. She meets me at the door when I arrive, full of bubbly energy, and, but for her wheelchair, would probably wag her tail if she could.
Much like a young pup, she finds joy in the simplest of things: a new exercise, noticing a new sensation while doing an exercise, a tiny milestone of progress. All of these things are greeted with glee and amazement.
Like most of you, there are days when I head to the gym or into the kitchen with less than an elevated mood. How can we overcome lack of motivation (and possibly inertia) on those days?
What if we approached the activity with that same attitude as she has . . . trying to discover where there might be some fun or something new?
MOLLIE SAYS: LOOK FOR THE JOY
>>“I am old.”<<
Again, said with enthusiasm, a bit of wonder, and a hearty chortle. This proclamation came shortly after Mollie calculated how long she had been “working on” getting her legs to work better. She noted that she had been at it since she was in her 70s; for 20 years she had been exercising for the sake of keeping her body as healthy as she could. There was not a hint of negativity or gloom about this statement, but rather it just hung out there merely an observation.
Her honesty has always been so refreshing. She does not judge herself, but instead just looks at the facts head on. She reflects back on her journey to maintain her health, in spite of a debilitating disease, with crystal clear directness and calm acceptance.
Many times we are so looking forward …. to our bodies changing from our efforts in our exercise routines and nutritional adjustments, we sometimes forget to look back and reflect on our accomplishments like consistency, perseverance and self-knowledge.
Or perhaps, we dodge a bit and skip the step where we hold ourselves accountable, not for the purpose of condemning, but rather to learn, to see where we could make a small adjustment or find a foothold in making a new habit.
MOLLIE SAYS: BE LOVINGLY HONEST.
I find it exciting to work with older adults to see examples that learning never has to end, and there is always progress to be made. In this symbiotic relationship, Mollie and I both continue to learn and grow, understanding ourselves and each other more. And giggling along the way.
What is your takeaway from Mollie’s story? Where do you want to be more loving or accepting of yourself in your wellness journey?