In Fittest After 50: Pump Some Iron, I alluded to my World Gym days in the 1980s.
I trained at the original Venice location back when Joe Gold, in his leather slippers, greeted you by name and a big guy named Arnie dispensed pointers on squat form (I hear he went into politics).
I idolized Rachel McLish, who became the first Ms. Olympia in 1980. That’s her at left, age 50 (sigh). You can bet she hasn’t been curling 3 lb barbells for the last 30 years (we’ll ignore the other work she’s been doing).
When ladies’ bodybuilding got ugly, it broke my heart. (You know you can’t get those big bumpy muscles, right girls? They’re chemically induced.)
In the last six years, I’ve gained 35 pounds and wasted thousands of dollars on unused gym memberships. I miss the intimacy and camaraderie I found at World. However, it’s been over 20 years since I trained seriously, and I loathe crowded chain gyms.
A Pink Gym?
One day, while lunching at a West Hollywood cafe, I looked across the street and saw a sign in the strip mall: Pink Iron Women’s Gym. I had to check it out.
I hesitantly walked in. It looked annoyingly like a strawberry parfait. Stenciled across the wall in big curly letters: Building lean, mean girly machines. I assumed it was going to be overrun with starlets and strippers. But they had serious equipment and a full array of free weights (not just light ones), so I joined.
I heard 25-year-old owner Holly Holton regularly toted Barbell, her teacup Maltese, to the gym in a matching pink bag. Oh please, I thought. Then I met the tiny white fluffball and fell in love.
I also learned how hard Holly worked to bring her dream to fruition. She and Barbell open Pink Iron every morning at 6 am. She’s an inspiring role model for young entrepreneurs.
The place is sparkly clean. It’s never crowded. The trainers walk their talk.
I’ve seen one starlet, but most clients are like me—women who need to lose weight and get in shape, and appreciate a beautiful environment. There’s a 70-year-old gal who lifts heavier than I do!
Ironically, Pink Iron reminds me of World Gym’s early days—serious training combined with real care and camraderie. No corporate hard sell poo. Joe Gold would’ve loved the place.
Currently, I do a full body workout twice a week. It takes 50 minutes. There’s little rest between sets, so it’s actually a form of aerobic weightlifting. Later I may switch to a more traditional routine that isolates muscle groups over separate workouts. I still walk a few days per week, because I love being outdoors.
I have no desire to reinvent my World Gym physique. I was a bit obsessed back then. At Pink Iron, they encourage tracking fat loss instead of pounds. I use the Omron HBF-306C handheld unit.
In five weeks, I’ve gained a pound, which I partially blame on some lovely wine tastings.
However, I’ve lost almost 3% body fat and feel fantastic.
In early December, I weighed 169 pounds with 38.5% fat. Today I weigh 170 pounds with 35.6% fat. My goal is to weigh whatever at 25% fat, a healthy figure.
- If you’re not sure where to start your fitness program, go with strength training. You can add other diet and exercise goals later. (If you’re not convinced, check out the other Fittest After 50 installments.)
- Check with a doctor to make sure your weight gain isn’t masking a medical problem.
- Don’t be afraid to lift heavier than you think you can. As you get physically stronger, you’ll get mentally stronger. Further changes will come easier.
- Set a realistic goal, and track it with a fat loss monitor, not a scale. Fat loss monitors are motivating because they track fractions of a percentage point, so you see more progress.
- Search until you find a gym and/or workout that feels absolutely perfect for you (even if you think it’s silly at first)!
I’ll update you on my progress in future installments and I’d love to hear about yours. Have you found an inspirational fitness path, one that doesn’t feel like work? How did you do it?
Update: June 16, 2014
A series of medical problems sidelined my progress for over two years. In that time, Pink Iron morphed into a CrossFit gym. I’m not sure how I feel about CrossFit.
I know people who are crazy about it—to the point of scary. It has a bad reputation because you do reps against a timer, so form can get lost and injury is common.
But I still have a credit with Pink Iron. So with great trepidation, I signed up for Pink Iron’s Miss Fit Summer Challenge and got my indoctrination to CrossFit yesterday.
I saw a lot of flailing and bad form, especially during squats and sit-ups. People were just moving too fast. The whiteboard said that the last exercise was a “burpee.”
It looked like a few dozen women belly-flopping on the floor, jumping back up and clapping their hands above their heads, over and over again, like some kind of tribal sun-worshiping ritual. I couldn’t track the actual series of movements.
And sadly, I didn’t see any women over age 30 or so. Is CrossFit just a young person’s game?
I’m so sore I can’t bend down and pick up my 25 lb cat today, but that’s okay. I’ve got a great coach and enthusiastic team, so I’m determined to stick with it for eight weeks on my own terms—I’ll be 55 on August 18 and it’s time.
Wish me luck! (And if anyone can explain a burpee to me before my next session, I’d be obliged.)
More in this Series
- Fittest After 50: Get Off the Treadmill
- Fittest After 50: Pump Some Iron
- Fittest After 50: More Inspiration
- Fittest After 50: Bodybuilding Brain
Post image, left to right: Wendy Ida (56), Ray Moon (83), Tosca Reno (52) got in the best shape of their life through bodybuilding.