Patricia Chaarte is 82 years old and a resident of San Miguel de Allende, moving here in l991. Her lifelong career was spent in New York as an editor, art director and commercial artist for numerous companies, including Hallmark.
Let me share one of the first of many stories that I call “Patricia Humor.” The story started with her work at Hallmark and her impatience with boredom and senseless repetition of triteness. Hallmark had a surprise when her notably bland Easter greeting card opened to a pop up Jesus on a spring with the caption “He Has Risen” almost ending her “greeting card” career. I have spent many training sessions sharing loads of laughter and learning to understand her special brand of humor.
In San Miguel, Patricia worked on the SPA board for 5 years.While volunteering, she squatted down at a dog cage and could not get back up. She was finally motivated to consider signing up for her very “first” exercise program. She decided to lose weight, get strong and be more energetic. In her words,“I work like a dog at the SPA and need extra energy to do more for the animals. However, now I have a weight problem and weight is exactly that, a weight on me and it’s time to carry a lighter load.”
During her initial assessment, I discovered that she was a lifelong sedentary person. Patricia declared, “Years of sitting at a drawing board causes everything to sag.” Our program was designed to counter this downward pull of gravity and increase her strength so her body could fight easier to stand up tall. We had to work with a progressively painful back and knee that began to bother her when she was 18. We also needed to improve her cardiovascular system.
We began with cardio conditioning on the bike, and then switched to the treadmill. She progressed to 3.5mph and 5% incline for 30 minutes. When I reassessed her cardio condition, she had improved by 50% and had a good base of fitness, which supported the rest of her workout.
I felt it was very important to get Patricia to connect with her body again after years of sitting. I discovered she had taken ballet as a child. A ballerina re-appeared with the first set of piles. She made the connection immediately and her posture straightened up. To support this posture, we used functional band exercises to strengthen the back of her body while stretching her tight parts that kept her from maintaining this good posture.
Her home exercises were countertop pushups, standup-sitdowns, 10 deep breaths, bed crunches and turning on her light switches with the opposite hands to stretch her sides. Her willingness to incorporate exercises on her own not only gave her faster results but a feeling that exercise could be part of her daily life. Right where it needs to be!
At the end of one year, she took a longevity test that applies your risk factors, lifestyle, habits and medical conditions to your current age. The test then gives a new projected life expectancy. Patricia was going to live to be 103, even with her smoking! She told me,“I woke up the next day thinking, please God let her be wrong…103, I do not want to see!”
Over the next 3 ½ years, we progressed to Power Plate Whole Body Vibrational Training, weight lifting, Pilates and picking up marbles with her feet for plantar facisitis. We also went through shoulder rehab training, knee and back conditioning programs that helped her move with less pain.
After the initial weight loss, Patricia told me, “Now that I have lost 10 lbs, I no longer want to die. I am thinking of getting a facelift!” (With her fingers crossed). Patricia went on to lose 40 lbs and 10% body fat. She said, “Everyone says I am skinny now, but that’s only because I was so fat before.”
I wanted to enlighten her on the evils of smoking and did so almost weekly. I have been called a “fitness nag” by some of my clients and decided it was time to let it go. I would support her desire to change when she was ready to take action. Until then, I would keep my thoughts to myself. After the first year, she had cut down her smoking by 50%. One thing I have learned as a long time trainer, some things are better to accept than resist and then just let things happen.
One day, she said,“I think I want to try boxing, not only for my coordination, agility and fitness, but to release some “STRESS.” Patricia and I practiced our boxing skills with Ganchito (ex-professional boxer for Mexico). He asked us to come to his gym and give an exhibition during his boxing matches. So, Jabbin’ Janis and Pistol Pat entered the ring and provided “half time” entertainment for spectators and boxers. What a ball we had!
Patricia gained speed, agility, coordination, rhythm, and balance from her boxing days of fancy footwork. Stress relief was one of the biggest benefits, especially when I put her “less than favorite political faces” on the heavy bag and let her go at it. Patricia said, “Anything that keeps your muscles in touch with one another has got to be great as you age.”
Then 2 ½ years ago, Patricia had a stroke, losing partial vision in both eyes affecting her passion for reading and causing a huge decrease in her sense of balance and safety. She also developed severe anemia causing fatigue, depression and loss of strength.
I encouraged her to just show up and “work the parts that work.” Patricia stated, “I am not going to be a tissy pristle,” (her words) and showed up to do what she could. She was also highly motivated by her upcoming 80th birthday party.
We walked the plank (2 by 4 inch board) and stood on air cushions for balance. I knew her balance was improving when I stopped hearing 4-letter words come out of her mouth. I simply kept reminding her “progress not perfection.” We worked on the elliptical trainer when her body parts hurt. Stretching and rehab kept her moving.
Once Patricia knew she wasn’t going to die, she decided to get her teeth cleaned again and to start retraining her brain to read because living without her “Extreme New York Times Crossword Puzzles” and her books, made life unacceptable. I was amazed how the brain reorganized with her diligent work plus her body danced all night at the 80th celebration!
Patricia told me, “Exercise stimulates me in a way that nothing else can. Exercise gets my blood running, tissues and brain activated in a whole different way. Physical activity has helped my mental capacity, memory and ability to think logically. Maintaining brainpower has always been one of the most important things in my life. It would have been easy to become lethargic and give up but I just couldn’t sit away my life, if in fact, now I was going to live.”
Patricia always says, “That a person doesn’t really get “old” if they keep their thinking process active and not bogged down by looking backwards.” I witness Patricia always moving forward, observing, paying attention and most of all, thinking. Exercise has a lot to do with keeping these things alive.
Every January, I ask my clients to fill out their wellness intentions for the next year. Patricia’s intention for 2010 was increased leg strength, energy or death!
My journey with Patricia has been one of inspiration and in-your-face honesty. I consider myself very lucky to be on this journey with her.