My mom – or, should I say, mum - is visiting me from the US at the moment. She is 70 years old, going on 50. I can't believe her energy. Her skin. The life in her eyes. And how well she's moving.
She's not just my mum - she's my inspiration, and she's damn healthy. A school teacher by trade, she was never really in the fitness industry until she managed the front desk at a Chicago fitness centre while she raised my brother and me.
Now I'm in the fitness industry, and it is one with many complexities. There are courses to pass for every personal trainer, and the continuing education is endless. Head into a fitness expo and there are more complex machines, gadgets, and powders to purchases than one can imagine. But complexity breeds confusion, and to be healthy is oh-so-simple. Mum has taught me exactly that. Here are her lessons:
Move your body
When my brother and I were kids, just like today there were video games and plenty of TV to watch. Instead of showing us cartoons, mum showed us some kind of ball, then the door. “See you when the sun goes down,” she said, and off we went.
The lesson for me, my clients, and column readers is the simplest of all: move your body.
In the gym or outdoors, do what you like, and do it with intensity.
There's a parenting lesson in there as well – turn off the video games, internet and cable televisions. Children's tears will toughen them up; then give them a hug as they head outside to move and have real fun.
Eat your greens
I hated when mum would make me eat my green beans. “Eat your age” she'd tell me as a nine-year-old at the dinner table, as I tried to sneak nine green beans to our dog Nicki – she wasn't interested.
As an adult, I still dislike my greens, but I do as mum said. Spinach salad, a morning green juice, broccoli, kale, cucumber, whatever … I do my best to consume green veggies. I get greens in my body because of the nutrients – my body loves greens, and so does yours.
Good energy comes from quality rest
Mum never let us stay up until 3am watching crap television, and she doesn't do so as the guest in my apartment today. I see Mum head to bed at quite an early hour, and I see her rise with serious energy to have an active day.
There are no energy drinks or “amp up” pills from some dodgy vitamin store. There's good rest mixed with good nutrition … that turns into quality energy. It's the only way to do it.
Go easy on the booze
Mum was never a big drinker or partier, and that's turned into active weekends and quality health. Sure, she missed many nightclub openings, but she enjoyed many sunrises with a clear head. She enjoys a glass of red every night because a little naughtiness is healthy and fun.
Less booze is more living … healthier living. Rethink your drink – it can turn your life around.
Do. Not. Smoke
Smoke is poison. Smoke ages the mind, organs, skin, and body. Mum has never had one ciggie, and neither have I. Find a way to quit inhaling poison.
Even on the jetlagged day of her 8am arrival, we hiked a good 10km around Sydney … the CBD and The Rocks, Circular Quay, the Opera House, Botanic Gardens, then a few Eastern suburbs and the Pitt Street shopping mall.
It was a long day that ended with a Darling Harbour meal, but then at 8pm in my apartment mum busts out her yoga mat, drops and does 25 push-ups, on her toes. Rests, then another 25. Then two more sets to make it 100. She does this every day, and has performed more than 127,000 push ups since September 2010. That's impressive.
Whether you're 20, 45, or 70 years old, it's important to have a bit of strength. It tones the body and makes the day easier when it comes to physical challenges. A strong life is a better life.
Consume healthy fluids
Before her arrival, I asked mum what she'd like in the fridge. “Just lemons and apple cider vinegar,” she said. She squeezes lemon into her water some days or uses the wives' tale of a splash of vinegar on others.
Energy drinks. Fizzy drinks. Juices loaded with sugar. There are none in my fridge, because healthy water equals healthy life.
Last Saturday, having laughs and fish and chips with my mum (along with an Aussie beer) just steps below the Opera House with the sun shining and the ferries passing by is … well, it's an emotional, unforgettable memory of a lifetime.
The last lesson is the easiest one for us all - smiling, laughing, and having fun is healthy. Here we are doing just that on the Bondi to Coogee walk.
A Buddhist client of mine teaches me some cool lessons during her training sessions. A quote from Buddha states: “To keep the body in good health is a duty ... otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”
Hanging out with one of the healthiest septuagenarian mums around, I see exactly why such a quote should be on the door of every gym and junk food joint on the planet.
To combat obesity in Australia isn't so complex. Do we really need all those new fitness trends, the new pills being developed when sometimes it's just so simple. And sometimes you just have to listen to what your mother tells you Thanks for the life (and health and fitness) lessons, mum.
What did your mum teach you about looking after your health and fitness?