Age-Defying Bodies

What's so special about these star physiques? These women made fitness a top priority and wound up with better, stronger, sexier bodies over 40 than they'd ever had before. Try their secrets on for size.
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Starting point "I spent my early years not doing any exercise, just practicing piano. In my 20s, I began training in tae kwon do while working on my doctorate. I started doing it nearly every day; that was too much. I was unhappy in my marriage. I was stressed, and my body showed it."

Work out smarter, not harder "I’ve learned that your body will serve you well if you treat yourself with respect. Once I left my marriage, I found that I didn’t need to train daily or as hard. I started practicing yoga-based exercises called the five Tibetan rites of rejuvenation. Each is a simple motion done 21 times. I am so much more self-forgiving now, and my body reflects that."

Do everything in moderation — sort of "I still play hard. I did my first triathlon in Honolulu last April. I did the Empire State Building Run-Up Race just for fun. I’m training for my first Ironman. My body functions at an optimal level now because I give myself breaks and rewards."

My better-body payoff "I feel like I can do anything now. I have more flexibility, strength, and endurance at 40 than I had at 26, because I am more relaxed and confident as a person. When I look in the mirror these days, I notice what my body looks like, but what I really see is the happy, contented expression in my eyes."


Starting point "When I was young, I danced a lot, but I became a lot less active by my 30s. Everything in my life gave me an excuse to edge out exercise — career, marriage, kids. At 40, I realized that I needed to put staying healthy on top of my list. I wanted to reconnect with dance, but I also wanted to try something new. I added kickboxing to my regular ballet classes."

Set goals — constantly "Last spring, I ruptured my Achilles tendon. Exercise was no longer a choice or a luxury, but an absolute necessity. To keep on track, I told myself I’d train for a marathon — I was eager to get back to running. Whether or not I actually compete, this goal has kept me going."

Run with the kiddie crowd "I started coaching my daughter’s soccer and softball teams when she was in kindergarten. At first, it was a great excuse to cut out of work early. Then I realized I was passing on something worthwhile to the next generation — the importance of fitness in their lives. I am sure someday these girls will outrun me and kick or swing harder than I can, but they will always keep me young at heart."

My better-body payoff "The combination of kickboxing and ballet has made my body stronger and leaner. My flexibility is better now than it was in my 20s. Also, I have more mental flexibility. I try to avoid thinking of fitness as a number on the scale or even a certain dress size. It’s about feeling healthy, strong, and yes, accepting our limitations so we can age gracefully."


Starting point "I started working out 20 years ago, when I met my husband. It was something fun we did together. I never got out of shape, but I was running in place; I didn’t really have a specific goal. Four years ago, I was at a Christmas party, and a woman walked in wearing a sleeveless shirt — she was really ripped. I went to talk to her, and we hit it off. She is a personal trainer, and she pushed me to get certified to be a trainer myself. That year, I ate what she ate, exercised the way she did, and I completed my certification."

Time is muscle "I tell anyone who says she’s too busy to exercise that there’s always time — you just have to find it — and that improvements are gradual. There’s no instant gratification. I work with a lot of women in their 40s, and I have to remind them to be patient, more so now than when they were young."

Keep your body guessing "I have a strict routine of cardio and strength training, but I mix it up so that my body doesn’t adjust to it. One thing I do three or four times a week is 15 minutes of abs work. I reward myself with two cheat days a week, when I eat whatever I want."

My better-body payoff "I’m tighter, more muscular, and stronger than I have ever been. My mom has told me that she knows I will age differently than she has. She’s right. She is a beautiful woman, but because she has never been able to exercise, she’s not as fit, and that is taking its toll."


Starting point "My body was just something to carry my brain around. As a surgical resident and then a surgeon, I was working insane hours; I had all but abandoned swimming laps. At 40, I gave birth to my daughter, Kate. Pregnancy definitely changed my body. Although I was giving talks day after day, leading the opposition against HRT, making the argument that lifestyle was the way to go, I wasn’t doing it myself. I really believed it, so why wasn’t I acting on it? It finally hit home."

Considering family history "My mother died in her 50s — and I realized that if I wanted to be around to see my grandchildren, I needed to act. I’ve gone from taking my body for granted in my youth to using it to keep me young."

Get with a group "I started to exercise at 43, when my partner, Helen, and Kate and I moved from Boston to Los Angeles. It’s so much easier here — the weather’s better and there’s more support. I started walking, then running. I joined a running group, the L.A. Leggers, when I was 50. I found out they were training for a marathon, and thought, ‘I guess I could do that.’ At 51, I ran my first marathon in Los Angeles. I’ve done two more since then, in Dublin and Boston. Now I’m planning to run Boston next spring."

My better-body payoff "I’m 20 pounds lighter than I was in my 40s, way more energetic than I was in my 20s and much smarter about what I eat and drink. Frankly, you think twice about overindulging in alcohol when you have to get up and train the next morning!"


Starting point "I was a total slacker. I wasn’t into exercise — I was into partying. I was also a two-pack-a-day smoker. When I quit, I gained 30 pounds, so I started working out to lose the weight. I met my husband, Robert, at the gym when he came over to correct my form. Several years later, when I was 30 and recovering from a knee injury, he started helping me work out my upper body to keep my spirits up. I became strong enough that he suggested I train for a power-lifting competition.

Find the winner within In my first contest I placed fifth, so I went on to nationals. I’ve won a total of five national championships and one world championship. I was this tiny little thing, 130 pounds, and I was benching 185 pounds, deadlifting 392 pounds, and squatting 347 pounds. I love surprising people with my hidden strength."

My better-body payoff "I still lift heavy weights, but have stopped competing. My workouts now include cardio, and I’ve lost about 15 pounds. When Robert and I got married last fall, I wore this extremely tight dress that was sheer lace up to the top of my hip. Wedding guests asked me if I could get them into shape so they could wear something like that."

Originally published in MORE magazine, May 2006.

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