Thanks to the fitness industry, I’ve been lucky enough to meet tens of thousands of people.
A lot are brief interactions, but also plenty are deeper connections and relationships. But only a few continue to stand at the front of the line of the memory bank.
One such person is a wonderful women named Mary Renfro.
There’s much to say about Mary — she was humble, sweet and always pleasant. But the memory that I hope to keep forever is from 7 years ago.
Around 2 p.m. on a hot summer afternoon, I looked out the window of the gym I own — Cocoa Beach Health and Fitness — and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
Here it is the heat of the day, and there’s Mary walking down the sidewalk with her cane!
I ran out the door and down the sidewalk to go meet and walk with her.
Astonished, I asked her, “What are you doing?”
“I’m coming to class and I couldn’t get a ride,” she said.
Mind you, that at that time, Mary was a spry 92 years old. She was coming to take a Silver Sneakers class and she took the SCAT bus because her friends who usually gave her a ride were not available.
Who does that? At 92!
It’s hard to get an able-bodied person with their own car motivated to come to the gym, especially on hot summer’s day. And here was an elderly senior dedicated to herself.
There are many benefits to exercising as a senior.
Cardiovascular activities like walking, cycling and even housework can decrease the risk of a stroke or a heart attack.
Weight bearing exercises like walking or jogging can help reduce the development of osteoporosis.
Taking a class like Mary did is also a great way to go.
It’s nice to have an instructor there to guide, encourage and challenge you.
Most classes also include balance and agility exercises which can help with fall prevention.
A class also gives you the benefit of socializing and the support that comes with a group of friends.
The friendships developed is one of the most important benefits that I’ve observed with our senior group over the years. Plus the class is indoors where it’s air conditioned!
Exercising as a senior has many more benefits but importantly it can help prevent or slow down the onset of disease and help you live a longer, happier life.
Thanks to the help of the instructor and her friends in class that day, we did make sure she would never have to take the bus again. She went on to take classes for years.
Sadly, Mary passed away earlier this year at 99.
Even at the end of her life though she was still participating in exercise classes at her nursing facility.
What does that say about her commitment to live?
Regretfully, I never did get to ask what motivated her.
One last story about Mary.
When she was around 4 years old, her father took her to Yankee Stadium where she saw Babe Ruth hit a home run.
Her father told her to remember that moment, as that would be her claim to fame.
That’s a good story since Mary might have been one of the last people alive to have seen the Babe play, but It’s safe to say she will be an inspiration to many of us for years to come.
Jim McCormick has been the owner of Cocoa Beach Health and Fitness since 2008 and has been a resident of Brevard County since 1970.
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