Live like you can
By Janis McDonald
A twice-monthly column on wellness, functional aging, fitness and optimal living, illustrated by inspiring stories of local people, points to ponder on positive aging.
Patricia Chaarte is a resident of San Miguel de Allende who moved here in l991. Her career has been in New York as an editor, art director and commercial artist.
During her years as a SPA volunteer, she has worked tirelessly to help the animals. When she found herself unable to stand after squatting down to pet a dog, she knew it was time to get help with her body and took action.
My journey with her began l0 years ago, as she crushed a cigarette under her shoe and rang my doorbell. My long-time personal training clients were bringing her, rather reluctantly, to my gym for a trial visit.
My biggest challenge would be to reconnect her mind to her body. However, something magical happened when I discovered that as a child she had been a ballerina. This instantly reappeared after performing her first pliés. Making the connection with a past activity she had loved, her posture changed: head up, shoulders back, abs in and looking 10 years younger.
Our program started with increasing her posture strength to counter the downward pull of gravity. We had to work with a painful back and knee and also improve her cardiovascular system to offset some of the smoking.
Two years later, Patricia took a longevity test applying risk factors, lifestyle, habits and medical conditions to her current age. The test results gave her a new projected life expectancy year, at which she screamed, “l03, I do not want to be!”
Over the next two years, we progressed to weight lifting and picking up marbles with her feet for plantar fasciitis. We performed shoulder rehab training and knee/back conditioning programs helping her move with less pain.
When boxing became our next fitness adventure, we hired an ex-boxer to show us the basics and “Pistol Pat” was born. She gained speed, agility, coordination, rhythm, balance and stress relief. I loved hearing Pistol say, “Anything that keeps your muscles in touch with one another has got to be great as you age.”
Unfortunately six years ago, Patricia had a stroke, which affected her vision and her sense of balance and safety. I encouraged her to just show up and “work the parts that work.” Wittingly, she stated, “I will not be a tisse prisle” (wimp-like), and refused to quit. Dancing at her upcoming 80th birthday party became her main motivator.
Patricia regained her balance by walking the plank (two-by-four-inch board), standing on air cushions and walking on the treadmill with no hands. As her ability to balance increased, her four-letter words decreased. I continued to remind her, progress… not perfection.
Recently Patricia said, “Exercise gets my blood running, tissues and brain activated in a whole different way. Physical activity helps my mental capacity, memory and ability to think logically. Maintaining brainpower has always been one of the most important things in my life so I must keep showing up, no matter what!”
That is exactly what Patricia, now 86 years old, has done for the last l0 years. She keeps working hard in order to “Live Like She Can.”
Janis McDonald is a Certified Wellness Coach, Certified Functional Aging Specialist and writer, www.livelikeyoucan.com.