My MiraBabes: A Testament to Non-Excuses
Now, I don’t want to dismiss ANY of the above worries, especially the ones that relate to pain. Pain sucks and any movement specialist worth their salt will tell you to listen to the pain.
But, I have been teaching fitness classes to older adults at a residential facility since 2019. The facility is called Mirabella and it’s located in Seattle, Washington. My students at Mirabella have changed my perspective on exercise excuses. These folks are aged anywhere from 65 to 100 years-old. Some of them had never taken a fitness class with me-- or anyone else-- before coronavirus. When the pandemic hit, Mirabella & I moved group classes from a small studio at the Mirabella facility to Zoom. I suspect that a lot of the residents logged into their first Zoom class due to sheer boredom and curiosity. Maybe, they were glad to start at home. Surely less intimidating to try a new fitness class from one’s own living room than a studio setting.
These older adults have proven to me that most excuses not to exercise can be reduced to non-excuses with a little creativity, willingness, and accountability.
I call them my MiraBabes. And they prove my point: there’s very few reasons NOT to exercise. Most excuses can be… moved around (punny?).
When they walked into my first class, the MiraBabes hadn’t the faintest idea what was in store for them. Some of them had worked out with my fitness predecessor, but that instructor had been doing the same routine for years. When word got around about the fresh blood, new students who’d never done fitness before started showing up. They decided to give it a try, knowing that they could walk out at any time and never come back. They kept coming back to class.
Then ‘rona hit, and I thought the MiraBabes were screwed. It was hard enough for ME to figure out how to get my classes online, let alone teach others how to access them. But as soon as I offered Zoom classes to the MiraBabes, they rose to the occasion. I taught a couple folks how to use Zoom. They taught a couple more. They taught a couple more. And within a few days the whole crew was able to log-on and start sweating.
It’s not just the new technology. The MiraBabes are constantly trying new things-- and mastering them. They’ve all learned how to do a proper squat, a proper push-up (assisted with a chair), how to recognize when their heart rate is too high, and how to push themselves to get it higher. They give Mohammed Ali a run for his money in our kickboxing classes. Heck, the MiraBabes have better form than most Millenails that I work with.
Exercise is a serious struggle for many of my MiraBabes, mentally and physically. We’ve lost family members to Parkinson’s, Coronavirus, and natural causes. Several of them have had surgery, injections, and physical therapy. But they always show up. They know that exercise isn’t always easy, but that longevity outweighs momentary annoyance.
Part of their dedication stems from the fact that they truly follow my cue: “I am just here to give you ideas. You’ve got to do what’s best for you.” They use “options” for higher and lower intensity. Every MiraBabe exercises in a way that works for their unique body. They take a rest when they need and level up when they want to. Having to change a movement (i.e., “modify a movement”) doesn’t mean that they give up. It means taking more personalized control of a workout. Guess what? They’ve all gotten stronger because of it. Contrary to popular belief, MiraBabes prove that “taking the modification” actually leads to sustainability, skill, and performance.
They make time
Do not think that because the MiraBabes are retired “they have more time.” Untrue. The MiraBabes are grandparents making school runs. They’re caretakers who feed, bathe, and move their partners. They’re going to the opera, volunteering at the local kids’ shelter, writing articles in journals, lecturing, and being active in the rotary. They do all of the things that we wish we had time to do AND all of the things that we don’t think we have time to do. Maybe they’ve just figured out how to do it all after so many years of practice. They probably have something else they would rather be doing during our workouts. But they make exercise a priority, so it happens.
They exercise on the road
Quite organically, the MiraBabes and I started taking out workouts with us when we travel. As I’ve driven across the USA and explored Europe, I’ve brought the MiraBabes with me. They’ve done virtual classes in Moab and the Flaming Gorge. They’ve done hotel workouts in Maine. They’ve laid in the grass at Cheesman Park, Colorado. They’ve worked out below the piste in Austria. And it’s not just me. When the MiraBabes travel, they tune in for fitness classes from wherever they are. MiraBabes have taken their computer down the Pacific beach with me, done push-ups on their patio at a Mexican timeshare, and worked out in the garage at their kids’ houses. They prove that online fitness is the most flexible way to stay active. day.
When you sweat with the same people for 5 years, you can’t help but get to know each other. I like to say that when I started working with the MiraBabes, I got +/-20 new grandparents. When someone doesn’t show up for a few classes, the MiraBabes or I check-in with them. When someone doesn’t have hand weights or a band, they share resources. When someone’s spouse passes away, we welcome them back to class with open arms. We hold each other accountable, cheer each other on, and make class more enjoyable by simply being together, no matter what.
My point is proven
When I returned to Seattle for Christmas last year, I decided to teach a few classes at Mirabella’s exercise studio. We’d been exercising online for a year. I really wanted to see them. To be honest, very few of my MiraBabes set up their camera in a way that I can see their entire body all of class. And, their thumbnails are difficult to focus on when I’m also moving. I was worried that their form and fitness might have degenerated since we’d been 100% online. The only way to find out was to see them up close and personal.
To my absolute delight and awe, the MiraBabes were moving BETTER THAN EVER. It seems that working out in their apartments propelled their fitness journey. It could be that they were less likely to miss a workout, since all they had to do was roll out of bed and turn on their iPad. It could be that they had an easier time concentrating on my cues without the distractions of others in a fitness studio. It could be due to sheer repetition: there’s only so many ways to work out at home. Whatever it was, it worked, and it’s still working. Classes are still happening. The MiraBabes are getting better at showing me their entire form in the camera. I’m giving them more complicated workouts because they can handle it, mentally and physically. It’s getting more and more fun.
What can we learn from my MiraBabes?
Everything. All those excuses at the top? They’re not excuses. They might be obstacles-- and I honor your obstacles-- but they’re nothing that a little dialogue, a little dedication, and little creativity can’t surmount. It’s never too late to start.
Try a MiraBabe class! I post many of our classes to an YouTube playlist. That way, the MiraBabes can still get their workout in even when they can’t make it to a live Zoom class. (Yes, many of the MiraBabes do take myYouTube classes. They know how to YouTube, y’all). Here’s the link. Be sure to “like” the class on YouTube if you try it! And, feel free to share the playlist with your older friends.