Fit Over 60

From biking and hiking to yoga and weight training, these 10 individuals have made a lifetime commitment to their health and fitness. After all, age really is just a number.

By: Alicia Carter | Photos by Karl Lamb

It’s that time of year again, when the new year brings about new resolutions to finally get fit and stay healthy. And considering the year we just had, it’s likely that a number of us are reevaluating our relationship to our health. Dealing with the stress- ball year that was 2020 led many of us to make poor choices that inevitably packed on the pounds. Plus, stay-at-home orders, closed gyms, and social distancing also put a damper on our motivation to work out.

For our annual Fitness Issue, however, we sought out motivation from those in our community who have maintained their health and fitness for the long term. For these ten individuals, the adage “age is just a number” certainly rings true. From biking and hiking to yoga and weight training, our Fit Over 60 group is setting a great example for the community at large. After all, what better motivation to finally commit to getting healthy than highlighting those in our community who have maintained good health and remained active in their 60s and beyond? For us, they are the true definition of #FitnessInspiration.

Cris Townsend
Age: 64
City: Suwanee

Aside from a little snow skiing while living in Upstate New York, Cris didn’t truly start exercising until she met her husband, Scott, in college. “I started exercising more because he was very fit,” she says. Her entrance into exercise began with running. Then when the couple moved to Georgia, she started lifting weights and says it all progressed from there. Now, she and Scott log 30 miles cycling three to four times a week, and even more often in the summer months. “My main motivation is to be able to stay healthy and maintain a consistent level of stamina, strength and flexibility as I age,” she says. “As they say, a body in motion stays in motion.”

HOW DO YOU CURRENTLY KEEP FIT?
I used to run but never really loved it, so I transitioned to more group exercise classes and weight training. During the ’90s, Scott and I were both spin instructors and that is how we got into cycling. We had a group of friends who biked — mountain and road — and they convinced us to buy bikes and “come outside.” We’ve been riding now for over 15 years and that’s my main cardio exercise. I still strength train and I also participate in various group exercise classes, from HIIT to yoga to spin.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO WANT TO GET FIT?
If you are younger, I’d say find something you love that fits your schedule so you’ll stick with it. If you want to meet other people, check out a run club or cycling group ride. If you’re older and want to start an exercise program, I’d say be kind to your body. Don’t take up running if you have bad knees. I highly recommend cycling for all ages as it’s very social — it’s challenging for any level, it’s easy on your joints, and it’s “free” once you buy the gear. Weight training is also great for all ages and levels. But remember that while exercise is important, it’s only half the equation. You can’t out-train a bad diet. You have to do the work in the kitchen, too!

Scott Townsend
Age: 65
City: Suwanee

Scott Townsend describes himself as your basic jock. “I played sports in high school, basketball in college, and rugby until I was 43 for The Atlanta Old White Rugby Club, so therefore I have always had some decent level of fitness,” he says. Scott met his wife, Cris, in college and the two have been married for 37 years. The couple shares a love for staying active and can regularly be seen cycling from Suwanee Town Center through downtown Buford all the way across Waterworks Road to Lake Lanier — and back. The trip totals roughly 30 miles. “I would say my motivation for staying fit is to feel better on a daily basis and for obvious health reasons as well,” Scott says. “The more calories I burn the more I can visit StillFire Brewing!”

HOW DO YOU CURRENTLY KEEP FIT?
I have a torn ACL from a Rugby injury in 1989. Over the years, it became harder to run long distances, so in 2006 my wife, Cris, and I took up cycling. It is a great cardio workout, and you can also test your Anaerobic threshold through group rides and riding the gaps in the North Georgia mountains if you wish. Cris and I don’t ride the gaps much anymore, but we still enjoy the road rides. I also go to the gym (Georgia Fitness) to lift weights. I am trying to keep some form of muscle mass. It seems harder the older you get.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO WANT TO GET FIT?
Everything in moderation. Don’t deprive yourself too severely. To me, fad diets don’t work. It is a lifestyle change that you are looking for. Cris and I try to eat healthy and train hard during the week and then on the weekends reward ourselves with a little treat — pizza, etc. Work hard, play hard. Have fun in life.

Patricia Holt
Age: 82
City: Lawrenceville

In 2010, Patricia was involved in a near-fatal accident that left most of her right side broken. “At the end of physical therapy my shoulder curved toward my chin,” she says. ”I couldn’t walk long distances, like at the airport, without severe swelling in my knees and a burning pain on the bottoms of my feet.”

Patricia eventually moved to Lawrenceville where she met Terry Gatewood of Physique Refinements in Suwanee. Terry was instrumental in turning Patricia’s life around by helping to improve her health and strength. “I love to travel, and all I wanted was to carry my own suitcase and keep up,” she says. “He has made my wish come true! My shoulder is back in place. I don’t use a wheelchair at the airport, and I put my suitcase in the overhead unassisted.”

HOW DO YOU CURRENTLY KEEP FIT?
I began seeing Terry Gatewood of Physique Refinements twice a week, then three times, and now, until COVID ends, four times a week. Because he sees only one client at a time, I don’t make mistakes with the weights or injure myself. Each program is customized for each client. Because I want to stay strong and upright, we focus on body mechanics, balance, and arm, leg and core strength and stability. I pull 80 pounds, push 120 pounds, do 120 ab crunches with weights, and do all my leg and arm exercises with a variety of weights. At the beginning, when I said I couldn’t lift or pull or push, Terry’s response was always, “Yet.” I walk two miles on the treadmill on days I’m not doing weight training.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO WANT TO GET FIT?
Cost means nothing when it comes to protecting your health. Consider training as preventive care. When I was told I needed a pacemaker for the heart laceration I received in the accident, Terry told me I could pass the stress test that the doctors said would be too much for me. I passed. When I was told I needed a knee replacement, Terry told me we’d build the muscles around the knee. Eight years later I have neither the pacemaker nor artificial knees. I credit Terry with saving my physical stability. I’m still traveling and still keeping up!

Bill Hornsby
Age: 60
City: Flowery Branch

Bill, who recently moved to Flowery Branch with his wife, says he hasn’t always been as fit as he is today. At around age 45, he discovered a series of at-home workout videos that changed his life. Now at age 60, Bill has a body that many half his age would love to have, and he credits it all to at-home workouts. “I started with P90X a number of years ago and went through all of those series,” he says. “Now I’m doing Body Beast. It’s a series of DVDs that focus on individual body parts: chest, arms, back, shoulders, legs. So every day you are working a different body part.”

HOW DO YOU CURRENTLY KEEP FIT?
My main form of exercise is DVD workouts in my basement. Before COVID I worked out at Gold’s Gym on Saturdays, where I did a one-hour spin class and lifted heavier weights. I run 2.5 to 4 miles at least once per week and usually walk that far several times a week with my wife and dog. I also do some hiking and biking when the weather is nice. I definitely miss the spin class. I usually work out six times a week. Diet goes hand-in-hand with exercise. I am not a fanatic but I generally try and eat more protein and less carbs and stay away from sugars and fried foods. I mostly choose red wine over beer.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO WANT TO GET FIT?
Make the decision to do it in your head and do it. It’s not so easy starting out, but it will get easier after a few weeks. Stick with it. Try and find a partner (spouse/friend) to join you. Mix it up to keep it interesting. Try and incorporate some weights with some cardio. Track your progress to stay motivated. If you are using weights, you may not have weight loss because you’re replacing fat with muscle. Watch for changes in how your body looks and how you feel.

Ken and Weyline Branscombe
Age: Both 71
City: Suwanee

For Ken and Weylene, getting fit has been a lifelong quest. As children they were outside as much as possible; they played sports and were involved in other extracurricular activities. That active lifestyle carried over into college, and now, as married adults, Ken and Weylene both recognize the health benefits — mental and physical — of leading and maintaining an active lifestyle, even while juggling children and careers. Ken, a retired businessman, remains active by hiking weekly. Weylene, a retired Gwinnett high school teacher, is part of the ALTA tennis league. Both also participate in walking and working out at the gym multiple times a week.

HOW DO YOU CURRENTLY KEEP FIT?
For almost 50 years now, even after children arrived, we continued to play year round tennis, walking, lifting a few weights at the gym, and running. We’ve participated in more than 25 Peachtree Road Races including last year’s 50th anniversary and this year’s “remote” 10K. We also hike in various locations around the world, including Georgia to Maine on the Appalachian Trail. We lived in Amsterdam from 1994-1998, and have continued to travel and tour internationally two or three times a year for more than 20 years.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO WANT TO GET FIT?
In order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and age “gracefully,” exercise is a key and very necessary component. Exercise done on a consistent basis becomes a daily habit, eventually becoming akin to brushing your teeth, i.e., you just don’t feel right going through the day without doing it. And, most everyone enjoys eating, and exercise allows for a vibrant and varied diet while offsetting the extra calories we all seem to indulge in, especially during the holidays. Probably one of the greatest benefits of an active lifestyle is that it helps one to be energized. Even taking in a short walk on a hectic and busy day is just about guaranteed to make you feel better!

Cherie Heringer
Age: 62
City: Suwanee

Last spring, Cherie created a Facebook group called “Just B Healthy” where people within the community, mostly women, come together to cheer each other on in their fitness. Members range from people with marathon training goals to others who simply strive to be steady and get their exercise in, such as posting about their daily morning walk. The Facebook group took off and has become a safe space to share victories, ask for advice, hold each other accountable and provide motivation for those who feel stuck in a rut. “My motivation for getting and staying fit at this stage in my life is much different than it was earlier in life,” Cherie says. “Although I still want to look good in my clothes, my higher goal is to feel good and maintain strength and vitality. It takes much more effort now to keep fit, but the payoff is you feel better and I’d rather have a life full of energy than longevity in a lounge chair.”

HOW DO YOU CURRENTLY KEEP FIT?
I do a variety of exercises that I feel work best for my body. And I try to do at least 30 minutes a day. Consistency counts! I walk daily. We have a very active schnauzer who requires long walks. But some days I hit the greenway and try to do a 5K. I love yoga. My body loves yoga. And the more you age, the more you need that lengthening and stretching on a daily basis. I follow Be Tru yoga online with Victoria Ladd who is a local instructor and the best I’ve ever worked with. I also do strength training with weights. The best way to tone quickly is to use weights. I also cycle with my husband. I love hitting the Silver Comet for a 20 mile ride on Sundays. Other flat low traffic areas are great. The longest I’ve ever ridden was 64 miles for Bike MS. I trained for it and it paid off because the course was hilly and it was a challenge. I really got to the end of myself on that one.

I try to eat well. I’m not legalistic about it, but I find I do feel much better eating light and eating less. And alcohol in moderation. I’m not giving it up, but I remind myself how much better I’ll feel in the morning if I stick to the two drink max rule. Do I always hit all of these? Hardly. But I strive to.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO WANT TO GET FIT?
My advice to anyone is to start slow and be consistent. Move. Just move! If all you can work in is a 15-minute walk, do it. Soon you’ll want to do more and then eventually you’ll find that you have to exercise because your body craves it. The more you give your body what it wants, the more it wants. And the better you feel.

Kimberly Reed
Age: 63
City: Duluth

At 63 years young, Kimberly says her motivation for getting and staying fit is to enjoy a physically active lifestyle as a healthy, independent single mother and grandmother. She credits yoga and daily walks with helping to maintain her health and fitness, and says she loves to hike the North Georgia waterfall trails – exercise with a beautiful view! When asked her advice for those who are looking to make a lifestyle change, she says, “Begin today! You are worth the effort and investment!”

HOW DO YOU CURRENTLY KEEP FIT?
Primarily through daily walks and yoga. Intermittently, I mix in a balance ball and free weight exercises. These are my foundation because they can be done at any age and modified to fit any physical challenges. For example, when I fractured my leg three years ago, I could still do chair-yoga, free weights and balance ball exercises. I’m considering adding bicycling in the spring, for more aerobic activity. I also practice intermittent fasting and eat a high protein diet that is primarily pescatarian/vegetarian, but I indulge in a filet steak or hamburger when the craving strikes.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO WANT TO GET FIT?
Try partner exercising with a friend to stay encouraged. First steps such as choosing a healthy diet, getting sufficient sleep, and a daily physical activity (as little as 20-30 minutes a day) is a good start!

Rita Pincumbe
Age: 66
City: Suwanee

About 16 years ago, Rita made the decision to make a lifestyle change. Like many of us, she was simply looking to shed a few pounds. Along the way, however, Rita met Donna Schuster and they formed a friendship that would not only transform her life but also her health. You can find the pair meeting at Suwanee Town Center at 4:30 in the morning, like clockwork, to run 4 miles together. Rita and Donna are a shining example of how finding an accountability partner — or simply a friend you enjoy being active with — can transform not only your outlook on exercise, but also your overall life. “I love that I can be active with my nine grandchildren,” Rita says. “We can be found out walking to the park … and of course a stop for ice cream.”

HOW DO YOU CURRENTLY KEEP FIT?
I started training for my first marathon just before I turned 50. At the time I trained with my daughter. We completed that Disney marathon and I was hooked on running. I used to exercise when I would get off work, but other obligations always got in the way. But then, I met Donna Schuster and she would exercise in the morning. So I joined her and we started running in the mornings. We trained for another marathon and since then we have done several races. We meet each morning at about 4:30 a.m. during the week at Suwanee Town Center Park and run a little over 4 miles. Then on Saturdays we do longer runs. I also try to do a Body Pump class at least two days a week. My husband and I like to bike and hike. He and I are frequently on the Suwanee Greenway.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO WANT TO GET FIT?
The best advice I would give is to find something that you LOVE to do. And it really helps to find someone you can work out with. You can hold each other accountable. Many mornings I feel tired and think I would like to sleep in but I know that Donna will be waiting for me. I must say that even though I may be tired when I start I have amazing energy by the time I am finished and that seems to last all day long. We run even when it is cold or sprinkling, just dress for the occasion — don’t let anything STOP you. It must become a habit.

Donna Schuster
Age: 65
City: Suwanee

Donna says that the key to successfully staying fit is to find a workout partner. “Accountability is key,” she says. And that’s exactly what she found in Rita Pincumbe. The two, both in their 60s but exuding the energy of besties in their 20s, have been running together bright and early six days a week for 13 years. “I don’t always feel like getting up at 3:45 every morning, but nothing can interfere with my routine at that time of day,” Donna says. “I know that I will feel so much better after my workout — and Rita is waiting on me.” Her motivation for getting fit is to simply feel good and stay healthy, stressing the basics of regular exercise and a healthy diet. “I want people to know that they can be active well over 60.”

HOW DO YOU CURRENTLY KEEP FIT?
I have a wonderful friend, Rita Pincumbe, and we run six days a week. We run 4 miles, at 4:30 a.m., during the week and then try to do a longer run on Saturdays. Since COVID, I also do a 30-minute workout virtually three to five days a week. I’m always up for walking, biking, etc., as time permits.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO WANT TO GET FIT?
For healthy eating, stick with a plan that works for you. Eat healthy 80% of the time and give yourself 20% to enjoy those guilty pleasures. For exercise, find a time and make an appointment with yourself for exercise. Make it a time when other things won’t interfere.

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