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8 Awesome Women Who Are Fitter At 40 Than They Were At 30
Think everything's downhill after 30? These 8 inspiring women are very happy to prove you wrong. (Looking for answers to your most pressing health questions? .)
"If I Can Get in Shape, Anyone Can."
"If I don't do something now, I'm never going to do it." That was the thought that propelled Sue Nealy, then 44, from standing on the scale at her doctor's office—with the number 299 staring back at her—to a kickboxing class. "That first workout was so hard that I ended up back at the doctor's office the next day because I thought I must have had a heart attack—that's how out of shape I was," Nealy says. So for the next two months, she decided to take it slow, walking around the neighborhood and cleaning up her diet. After she lost 20 pounds, she decided to try kickboxing again. "I started going two or three times a week, and pretty soon I was doing it every day—that's how much I loved it." Now, at 53, she's lost 140 pounds and has gone from being the student to the teacher, leading exercise programs for K-8th graders and teaching three kickboxing classes a week. "Losing weight wasn't easy, but it was simple—eat well and get your workouts in. Don't complicate it, just do it."
The best part about being fit now:"I'm more confident and able to do so many things I couldn't do before—I honestly feel awesome!"
Her get-fit tip:Eat mostly lean protein and vegetables, and don't think of it as a diet. "It has to become a lifestyle," says Nealy. "This is how I am, and this is how I eat."
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"I'd Rather Be Strong Than Skinny."
After 10 years of not exercising, Arin Leard's first workout was a shock. "I was 31 years old, 5'2", and over 200 pounds. I couldn't even lift my legs off the ground to do a crunch," says the middle school art teacher and mom of two. "I thought, 'How can I possibly take care of my kids if I'm so weak?' " Determined to get back in shape, Leard began exercising with a co-worker each day after school, taking classes at the gym or running around the neighborhood. Soon, the weight began to fall away and her stamina increased. Before long, she was signing up for her first 5K. When that distance became easy, she started training for a marathon. Now, she's run four half marathons and completed two triathlons. "I can't believe I'm the same person. It wasn't easy, especially in the beginning, but I'm so thankful I did it," she says. "Not just for myself, but so I can be there for my boys, too."
The best part about being fit now:"I have so much more energy during the day. I'm able to be a better mom, wife, and teacher."
Her get-fit tip:"Having a workout buddy is huge. It gives you no excuses and a great support system."
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"Never Stop Trying."
Ever since having her daughter at the age of 22, Aileen Rodriguez-Walker's weight yo-yo'd with each diet she tried. "It was so frustrating. I always felt like I was taking one step forward and two steps back," says Rodriguez-Walker, now 40. It wasn't until she joined Weight Watchers in 2010 when things started to change. "Once I learned how to eat whole foods and watch my portion sizes, the weight started to come off. Seeing those results motivated me to start exercising, too," she recalls. She started with walking, but as Rodriguez-Walker continued to slim down she branched out to boot camp classes and sessions with a personal trainer, eventually running her first 5K. "I've lost 45 pounds and have kept it off for the last 5 years," she says. Now, she tries to encourage other woman via her blog. "We are always so hard on our bodies and ourselves; we need to stick together and show our girl power!"
The best part about being fit now:"Not only has being healthier and happier improved my life and my daughter's life, I get to encourage other people by letting them know that they can do it, too."
Her get-fit tip:"Always take one day at a time. Everyone has to find what works best for them and stick with it."
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"Make Yourself #1 In Your Life Because No One Else Will."
When Jeannette Proulx lost her husband, Trevor, to heart disease and diabetes six years ago, she wasn't just heartbroken—she was afraid. "At that point I was wearing a size 22+, weighed 270 pounds, and was taking the highest-possible dose of blood pressure medication," recalls the part-time teacher and children's behavioral counselor. "I knew I had to crack down and take care of myself in order to not only be there for my 12-year-old son, but to also be a healthier role model for him." Proulx tried diet after diet, but any weight she lost she gained back and then some. Finally, she joined Weight Watchers in 2011. "I discovered that I was still eating way more than I realized, and once I learned to monitor my portion sizes, things started to change," she says. Each time she lost a pants size, she donated her old clothes. "I refused to give myself an opportunity to get back to that size again," she says. Today, Proulx exercises regularly, doing a combination of speed walking and strength training routines. Now, at 47, she says, "I'm on the lowest dose of blood pressure medication and my doctor says that I have the heart rate of an athlete."
The best part about being fit now:"I'm healthier and happier with a lot more energy."
Her get-fit tip:"Never, ever give up! The body is forgiving; it always wants to be healthy and it's made to be healthy. No matter how poorly you've treated yourself in the past, you can be healthy."
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"Being Thin Doesn't Mean You're Fit."
"My genetics had all the cards stacked against me. While I wasn't living a sedentary lifestyle, fitness wasn't my priority" says Berta Lippert, 43. Lippert discovered she had a genetic predisposition for breast cancer. She'd lost her mom to the disease, and two of her aunts were survivors. At age 39, she made the difficult decision to undergo a bilateral mastectomy to reduce her risk. "Going through that experience made me face the reality that my health was fragile," says Lippert. As single mom to an adopted son, Lippert wanted to be there for him as long as possible. So once she healed from her surgeries, she made fitness a top priority. "Now I go to the gym or do yoga almost every day, and completed my first half marathon," she says. "I want to do everything I can to always be there for my son."
The best part about being fit now:"That I can be a healthy role model for my son."
Her get-fit tip:"Figure out your 'why' behind wanting to change. Once you know that, you'll be more likely to succeed."
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"The Best Part About Losing Weight Is That You Can Finally Stop Thinking About Losing Weight!"
Sandra Bienkowski's weight was like a roller coaster for much of her 20s and 30s. "I had an ah-ha moment when I saw a picture of myself at 186 pounds," says Bienkowski. "It was like a light-switch. I made the decision right then to change." Bienkowski got back to the gym and joined a dance studio, but the biggest change was logging her meals in a food journal. "Slowly I shifted towards healthier choices," she says. "I also tried to only focus on losing two pounds at a time so I wouldn't get overwhelmed and I could be happy for my small wins." Eventually she lost 42 pounds, but now her motivation isn't just fueled by how well she photographs. "Now it's about feeling good and staying healthy for my two-year-old girls. They're my inspiration."
The best part about being fit now:"I'm able to challenge and push myself to limits I never thought were possible. I love having this much energy and being able to just go out and run because I can."
Her get-fit tip:"Write down what foods you eat and workouts you accomplish. When you journal, you force yourself to pay attention to what's going on and how you feel."
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"You Can Learn to Love Exercise."
If you'd told Kathie Leslie when she was 30 that by the time she was 54 she would have become a serious runner and completed a sprint triathlon, she would have laughed. "I was never athletic growing up," says Leslie. "By the time I was 35, even walking up the hill with my dog got me out of breath." But at 42, she and her husband decided it was time to reboot their diet. They teamed up and committed to following the South Beach Diet for a month. "The weight started to fall off," she says. "I felt so good that I kept it up." Within four months, she dropped 30 pounds. Around that time, a friend invited her to join her running group. Now, she's been with them for 10 years and runs around 3 to 5 miles two or three times a week. "We call ourselves the 'Foxy Ladies,' and are sort of like a therapy group who just happens to run," she laughs. "The camaraderie, support, and friendship keeps us together and helps us get over temporary injuries and setbacks. And we're always challenging each other to try new things." Like that sprint triathlon and 10-mile race she just completed.
The best part about being fit now:"I have more energy, confidence, and I'm healthy. My doctor said he doesn't see many people who are 50+ and aren't on medication—I'm proud to be one of them."
Her get-fit tip:"Make it a priority to exercise, do it with people you love, and stick with it (running!) until you realize that you actually like it!"
MORE:10 (Awesome) Things That Happen To Your Body Every Time You Run
"Cancer Didn't Take My Life—It Gave Me A New One"
Donna Brimmer has beat cancer twice so far. On May 17, 2015, she plans on beating it a third time by completing her local Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in her hometown. But Brimmer's motivation is two-fold. She'll be giving cancer a third kick in the butt, and she'll be fulfilling a fitness goal: completing a 5K without walking. Overweight for most of her life, Brimmer's weight-loss journey started nearly two years ago. With both breast and appendix cancer behind her, Brimmer knew she had to make a change as she stood next to her son for his wedding photos. At that time, she weighed 202 pounds—a result of unhealthy eating and exercise habits she and her husband acquired after her kids grew up and moved out. "Man, I did not like what I saw in those photos and I thought, 'Geez, Donna. You're 50 years old, you've had cancer twice, you're severely overweight—you need to do something,' " says Brimmer. So she ditched her beloved fast-food and soda for healthier options like salads and water; she started exercising regularly, too, finding a home at her local gym. Now, at 51, she’s lost 45 pounds—and doesn't plan on stopping anytime soon. "I'm healthier than ever, but most importantly, I'm going to get to see my grandchildren grow up and spend more anniversaries with my husband," says Brimmer.
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The best part about being fit now:Being able to play with her grandkids and experience life with her new body. "Since losing weight, I've been able to enjoy new challenges (like participating in her first Dirty Girl race) that I never would have thought I could do," says Brimmer.
Her get-fit tip:Don't go easy on yourself—once you decide to make a change, keep that promise. "I thought [losing weight] was going to be the hardest thing, but then my determination set in that I was going to make myself better," says Brimmer.
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