At 77, Joyce McLeod follows her mantra, "You're never too old to improve your health."
The septuagenarian had just finished her 45-minute workout at Ahwatukee's the Body Firm, her third of the week.
Clad in yoga shorts, T-shirt "and really good shoes," the Ahwatukee resident completed three sets of 15 curls using 8-pound dumbbells, systematically worked her way through other free-weight routines -- often hoisting 10-pound weights -- completed sprint intervals on a treadmill set at a 6-degree incline, and still offered a large smile.
McLeod said she hasn't always had this energy or muscle mass.
"I was overweight and had type 2 diabetes. I realized I needed help to get healthier, but I didn't want to go to a regular gym with all those young people doing their thing. I knew I wouldn't fit in," said McLeod, who celebrated her birthday Monday.
She chose Ahwatukee's the Body Firm, selecting Judy Hacker as her trainer.
"I'd been going through the motions at the gym, but Judy started pushing me. I felt safe with her because she's an R.N.," said McLeod, also a registered nurse. "She has a way of making me do things; she says 'you can try' and nine times out of 10, I can do it."
McLeod's commitment to her exercise regimen, along with an improved diet, helped her drop 55 pounds.
"I had a terrible diet," she admitted. "I stopped eating ice cream, pasta, pizza, and started eating more fruit and veggies."
Like her daughter, Trisha Bonnell of Ahwatukee -- who works out alongside her mother, weight wasn't an issue until midlife.
"I never in my life had a weight problem until my 40s. Then, I quit smoking 15 years ago, and it just sort of crept up," McLeod said.
"I don't think she realized what she was putting in her body," said Bonnell, a former surgical nurse and single mother of triplet daughters who attend Desert Vista High School. "I'd never been a heavy either, but it's easy to get sidetracked. Now, I've lost 35 pounds."
McLeod said her improved diet and thrice-weekly workouts also affected her battle with type 2 diabetes.
"Two months ago, I visited with my endocrinologist and she took me off my medication. She'd cut the meds in half about six months ago. I'm more delighted about my blood sugar being normal than I am about the weight loss."
But it's the weight loss that's most apparent to others.
"A lot of people I haven't seen for a while say to me 'you're amazing,, 'you look fabulous.' There is a sense of accomplishment in that," she said. "I really look forward to going to the gym now. Of course, I find it's a lot easier to move a body that's nearly 60 pounds lighter."
Hacker voices pride in McLeod's progress this past year.
"It's phenomenal what Joyce has accomplished," she said. "She's such an inspiration, not only to older people, but our younger clients, too. I hope I'm doing what she does when I'm her age."
McLeod's daughter concurs.
"I think she's just amazing, and she's a totally different person. She doesn't act like she's 77."
McLeod said she hopes her story encourages other seniors to get back in the game.
"I want people like me to know they're not too old, and it's never too late to improve your health. I'm pleased with myself, and that's another good feeling."
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