FIT and FABULOUS at Any Age
Instead of focusing on ways to stop their aging process, some women focus on living life to its fullest. They believe you can be healthy and happy at any age. Whether you think life begins at 30, 40, 50 or beyond, you are right. If you think you can be fit and fabulous at any age and work persistently towards that goal, you will be. Azizah interviewed three active, accomplished women who show us how it’s done.
Kulsoom Abdullah - Standing Strong in the 30's by Kelly Izdhar Crosby
A job recruiter for the last 12 years, 10 of which she has worked independently, Ms. Hashmi is frequently on the lookout for potential employees who fit a particular company's profile. She advises job-seekers, reviews resumes and provides interviewing and negotiating tips to clients. If she can’t find a company for her client, chances are she knows someone who knows someone who can.
Weightlifting wasn’t Kulsoom Abdullah’s original choice. She first began practicing Taekwondo while studying advanced engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. In order to increase her strength for the martial art, this petite woman took up weightlifting and fell in love with it.
Close to completion of her PhD program, she dropped Taekwondo to focus on weightlifting, discovered Olympic lifts (the snatch and clean and the jerk) and found a local gym. Cross Fit Atlanta, the place where she still works with competitive lifters, offers a weightlifting program incorporating the elements she desired. In March, 2010, after three years’ training, her coach encouraged her to compete locally. By December, she had enough competitions to her credit to qualify for the nationals at the American Open 2010.
As a covered woman who works out daily, Ms. Abdullah says most people don’t care what she’s wearing at the gym or at weight lifting competitions, although a few inquire if she’s getting too hot. As for her family, they have been cheering her on all the way, although her mother is concerned about her safety. “Yes, they have been supportive,” she said. “My mom does not watch me, as she gets scared of me getting hurt. Some of my extended family think I might break my back.”
The athlete ran into a roadblock that almost stopped her dreams of competition when she was barred from entering the US championships after officials ruled she couldn’t compete wearing the loose exercise pants, the tight-fitting long sleeve undershirt and loose T-shirt she had competed in up to that point. The looseness violated international rules that require her arms, legs and head to be uncovered so that judges could evaluate her technique and determine if, at the pinnacle of her lifts, her elbows and knees were locked. Undaunted, she petitioned the International Weightlifting Federation with a detailed presentation illustrating how both accurate judging and her values could remain uncompromised; the Federation ruled that athletes could wear a full body unitard under a uniform.
This athlete’s determination is evident also in her fitness regime. She says; “I usually snatch every training session up to several daily maximum attempts (as heavy as possible), and then I take a few downsets (lighter weights) of double or triple sets for technique. I do clean and jerk movements, I try heavy singles three times a week, max out once a week do a clean complex two times a week. These exercises make up the bulk of my workout, but I also do assistant movements such as dead lifts, front squats, presses, bench presses, and pull-ups periodically throughout the week. Once a week, I go to a gymnastics gym and work on gymnastics progressions.”
For diet, she says, “I think diet is the biggest factor for recovery, progress and general health. In a nutshell, that would be avoiding too much gluten. I limit sugar, try to eat more vegetables, meat, and seafood and I limit my dairy intake.”
To motivate other Muslim women who are looking to stay fit, Ms. Abdullah says, “It isn’t easy, but you have to do it. You will always find an excuse, and even when you are motivated, you’re going to have ups and downs. Having a group or someone to hold you accountable helps so that you won’t stop, and keep going.”
Nia MacKay - Mind, Body & Spirit beyond 50 by Nikhat Qureshi
At 50, Nia MacKay, originally from Indonesia where she began her education and career, is living proof that a fit woman embodies excellence and strength. Dr. MacKay’s philosophy of fitness is simple: Mens sana en corpore sano – within a healthy body there’s a healthy spirit and mind. She infuses that philosophy into all aspects of her life – from a brilliant career as a PhD microbiologist, to a college professor, to work as a community activist and civic leader, to raising a beautiful family.
This active woman, who first participated in sports to be energized and clear-minded, became motivated to incorporate fitness into her life no matter the challenges of balancing her multiple responsibilities and activities.
Today, her fitness regimen includes teaching yoga and aerobics, engaging in Taekwondo, belly dancing, swimming laps and jogging when it is not too hot in Texas, where she currently resides. A few years ago, she discovered ice skating – an activity she calls the ultimate exercise experience – and has incorporated it into her life as well. With her daughter Anissa, a competitive figure skater and her husband Michael, a fitness buff, exercise is a family affair.
So is excellence. In 2008, the National Parent’s Day of North Texas honored Dr. MacKay and her husband as Parents’ of the Year, and they were featured in the award-winning documentary film American Ramadan. This mother also was recognized at the Trendy African Magazine Mothers Appreciation Event for her peacemaking efforts among families in the community. She was invited to speak on mainstream Muslims at The Oak Cliff Lions Club – the first Muslim speaker since the club was established in 1929.
Because faith and community are important aspects of her life, she bridges the Muslim community with the greater community in her work with several organizations, including the North Texas Islamic Council and the Peacemakers Incorporated. Additionally, she has graduated from the FBI Citizen’s Academy training, an exclusive program that offers select civic, business, and religious leaders an up-close look at how the FBI operates, experiencing firsthand how the FBI investigates crimes and national security threats.
With so many activities in her life, the connection between faith and fitness significantly influences Dr. MacKay. She explains, “Simply, I feel good that I do my best to take care of this gift which Allah has entrusted me with – my body.”
Her faith is her driving force, and her frequent exercising enables her physically and spiritually. She is more at ease now, worries less and enjoys more time and energy to do good things. These include worshipping, staying up late for extra prayers and da’wah – Islamic teaching.
This energetic lady says the spiritual connection is what she most enjoys about her fitness.
Molly Darden – At 70, Life is a Banquet by Molly Darden Photo by Michael Pugh
When I was about 14 years old, I read Around the World with Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis. The story is about a wealthy female bon vivant who takes in her strait-laced young nephew to raise. When the boy seemed appalled at his aunt’s flamboyant lifestyle, she told him, “Life is a banquet, darling, and most poor suckers are starving.” That sentence hit me like a bolt of lightning, guiding me through my life choices for the next 46 years until, at 60, I decided that I had accomplished enough for one lifetime, and I would just coast until my clock ran out.
I had lived in India and Ireland, taken the first electro-cardiogram on a whale, shot photographs from the open cockpit of an World War I Stinson and from open helicopters, promoted water skiers, and so much more.
Throughout my 60s I sat on the couch, gaining weight and feeling numb about my life. Then, as my 70th birthday approached, I thought deeply about my previous decade and what I wanted for my next one. Coincidentally, my brother Chris and his wife Ceci, who live at North Georgia’s Lake Lanier, took me for a speedboat ride in December before my March birthday. Feeling the boat’s rhythmic bumping across the waves, loving the wind blowing against my face, I found myself standing up in the ski position, balancing against the rapidly shifting boat movements, and laughing with delight. I was feeling like my real prime-time self again! Wow! I was still in there, and I could come back!
I bargained with them that if I could get back in shape by the summertime, they would take me out on the water and I would attempt to ski again on one ski. We high-fived each other and the challenge began!
Sweating it out several days each week at Bally’s Gym, and under the guidance of experts familiar with waterskiing, my strength began to return, and I felt again the enormous power that comes with self-discipline. The experts on my team were my God-sent orthopedic surgeon Samuel Milton, who guided me through a potentially crippling leg condition, and Lisa Resusek, my physical therapist at Emory University’s Orthopedic Center. When I told them both my dream-goal, I learned that Dr. Milton is an avid skier who knows exactly what muscle groups I would need to tackle, and he also knows workout equipment; he set me up on a detailed program of exercise and nutrition, which I continue to follow. Visualization and watching wonderful YouTube videos reminded me of the details of getting up on the water, and staying up. I knew that if I did my part, Almighty God would make this happen.
But, when I tried with Chris it didn’t work out so, after analysis following our “dry run” I contacted Barron Barnes of Lake Lanier Water Ski Centre, who agreed to work with me on the finer points I would need to renew. We set the date, and on a gorgeous August day in 2011, I felt the boat’s pull and, controlled strength coursing through me, slowly stood up – first on two skis then, after dropping one, continued on one – laughing, facing the wind and the next decade of my Life – as my real, vibrant, powerful self. WooHOO!
What’s my next step? My YouTube research had led me to Lane “Dawg” Bowers (The Footer’s Edge), who provides free videos on a challenging variety of water athletics. Bowers ends each e-mail with, “Expect a Miracle”, and now I do. My next venture, God-willing, will be to ski barefooted; that’s my goal for next year, and it will keep me motivated to train for another year.
I couldn’t have gotten back up on the water without my team, a hard, highly disciplined regimen and the blessings of God; I highly recommend similar experiences to my fellow septuagenarians! Reclaim your real self; your best self. Life really is a banquet, so step up to the table, and enjoy!