Elderly Pilates

Be Inspired by Sheila!

One rainy morning, Sheila a regular at my intermediate Pilates mat class was dropped off at class by her tennis partner. Sheila normally walks the couple of miles to the studio as she enjoys the walk, but today it was raining. Our conversation went something like this:

Sheila “my tennis partner dropped me off today. I’ve told him he should do Pilates too as it will help with his tennis”

Me “that’s great Sheila – thank you for recommending him to us”

Sheila “he’s a bit younger than me – he’s 83 – but I think he could really benefit”

Now, wait a minute! He’s 83 and they play tennis together a couple of times a week. Two things struck me. First, how amazing is that that he plays tennis at 83 twice a week. I was blown away. But should I have been? Should I have been focussed on age? What I love is that Sheila was not aware of the impact this statement had on me at all. To her, it was normal run of the day conversation. Sheila enjoys life to the full – she plays tennis, she attends a weekly Pilates class at intermediate level with ladies in their 30s and 40s and keeps up with them, she walks everywhere and takes regular holidays around the world. My lovely client Sheila turns 90 next year.

After this conversation, I asked Sheila if she realised she is an inspiration to me and would be for many others too – hence me asking her if I could write a short blog about her. She laughed. I mean – she is just doing what she loves. Nothing unusual in that.

We have a friend in Italy whose father is a keen skier – he is also in his 80s. Now, he goes skiing with younger people because none of his friends his own age are skiing anymore. They say they are too old. Now, have they said that, or has someone told them that? Has society said once we reach a certain age, we have to reign in our activities? Our friend’s father continues to ski every Winter, but who decides that we are too old to do what we love? If you still can – why not?

We all know the now famous quote of Joseph Pilates

“If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old. If it is completely flexible at 60, you are young”

How true he was. He was continuing with exercise right up until his death at age 84. Sheila has been practising Pilates for many years – I am sure Joseph Pilates would be so happy to see his method does not discontinue with age. Isn’t it regular movement that keeps us going? If you don’t use it, you will lose it! We get old because we do not move. We get stiffer with immobility. If you have ever been ill in bed for a few days – do you remember how stiff you felt when you got back on your feet. It doesn’t take long for that stiffness to start to settle in – you leave it a week, a month, a year – it’s going to get harder to get moving again. Simply – don’t give it a chance! Keep moving!

Joseph also said

“We retire too early and we die too young, our prime of life should be in the 70s and old age should not come until we are almost 100”.

I am with him there. Enjoy life. I look at Sheila every week and think I want to be just like that when I am in my 90s too. She is an inspiration – she has no limits, she is not discouraged from trying new things because she thinks she is too old. I don’t think that is even a concept to Sheila and I hope it never will be. Thank you Sheila for bringing your passion to class every week!

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