April 12, 2001
Fit After 50
Betsy Mendel helps older women build strength and smell the roses at the same time.
Looking to get in shape, clients of all ages, shapes and sizes come to youthful fitness trainer Betsy Mendel. Mendel, who operates a business called No Excuses, has developed special insights into the training needs of her middle-aged clients. After arriving in Los Angeles from Atlanta five years ago, she fell in love with the sunny climate and found it the perfect place to indulge her fanatic workout habits in the great outdoors. Since 1999, she has been training full time, offering workouts suited to L.A. beaches, canyons and other outdoor spaces.
Mike Levy: Can you describe your average client?
Betsy Mendel: I'll train with anyone, but a lot of my clients are women over 50. What I try to do is make it easy, convenient and fun for them.
ML: How do you begin a fitness routine?
BM: We fill out a medical history, make sure they don't have any medical problems where they'd need a doctor's supervision. Then, we just talk about what their fitness goals are. Most people just want to get back in shape; they want to start feeling better and doing something a few times a week.
ML: You've said that many of your clients are women over 50. Do you have specific workouts for them?
BM: Let me give you an example. I have a client -- she quit smoking a year ago -- [who] feels like she's put on weight. We do a warm-up where we stretch, then a 40-minute power walk around her neighborhood with light weights for the arms, and then we do a cool-down. She's really into burning fat and working her cardiovascular, so we have a program emphasizing those things.
Another woman I work with, she's 69. I set up a step. We use exercise bands, which are like giant rubber bands, and body bars, which are padded and weighted. We start off with a warm-up, and then we do stretching, because she's very concerned about flexibility. A lot of the warm-up is done on the steps, or jogging in place. Then we'll work with the bands, which provide resistance for upper-body strength.
ML: So, more generally, what do women need to be focusing on in their fitness training?
BM: As you get older, maintaining your flexibility becomes more of a challenge, but also more important. It gets very easy to break your bones, for your body to get more brittle, if you don't stay active.
ML: And what is the most important part of the fitness routine for your older clients?
BM: For most of my clients, for women over 50 as well as the younger women, the most important thing is just getting out and doing something. That's going to make them feel better about themselves, and when you feel better, you take better care of yourself; you eat better. It all comes together.
With an older woman, you just start out slower, you use a bit more precaution. And the results are going to be different as well: obviously, you don't get as much muscle tone when you're older. But you can still feel great, which is really what it's about.