40 Being Stronger In Your 60’s Than In Your 30’s

InForm Podcast Amy


Is it possible to actually be stronger in your 60’s than you were in your 30’s? It is if you ask Broadway theatrical lighting designer, Ann Wrightson!
Ann has been an InForm Fitness client for 15 years and is stronger than ever. Did we mention that Ann has been nominated for a Tony Award? For her impressive resume and examples of her lighting designs visit https://www.annwrightson.com
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Ann:                I think I’ve always liked feeling strong. My work is very sedentary; when you’re working in theatre, you sit. You sit literally 8-10 hours a day, you get up, you take a break when there’s an equity break, otherwise you’re sitting. So outside of that, I liked being active and I liked being strong, and I also noticed over time, the stronger I was, the healthier I was.

Tim:                 InForm Nation, welcome to the InForm Fitness podcast with Adam Zickerman and friends. I’m Tim Edwards with the InBound Podcasting Network and this is episode 40 of the InForm Fitness Podcast. Am I the only one clapping that we’ve made it to 40?

Adam:             Yes, you’re the only one clapping. We’re excited though. I’m holding coffee I can’t clap, I’m not being rude. I’m really excited about this. And no better person than to have Ann Wrightson with us on our 40th time. She’s a longterm client with a tremendous success story. We’ve known her a long time, I forgot how long but she’ll tell you. How long?

Ann:                15 years, in 2002.

Mike:               Yeah, she’s been here for 15 years, has an incredible story, and that’s why I wanted her to be a guest on the podcast. She’s a theatrical lighting designer and she works all across the country and even in Europe and Australia occasionally, but she is most known for–she did the lights for August, Osage County on Broadway.

Adam:             Her Tony nominated work on August, Osage County.

Mike:               She was nominated for a Tony award for that lighting design and got us fourth row tickets. It was a phenomenal play.

Adam:             I felt so cool knowing someone who was…we know the lighting designer!

Sheila:             That’s a true artist actually.

Mike:               It was fantastic and she’s so talented. She’s shown me a lot of her photographs from some of her work over the years too and so it’s a pleasure to have her here.

Tim:                 Ann, would you share with us some of the other productions that you’ve had a hand in?

Ann:                Let me think. Recently, I did a show at Steppenwolf called Here. I’m about to go to Steppenwolf  in Chicago and do another show called The Rembrandt. Most of my work is outside of New York and around the country. I work in Portland, Cleveland, Atlanta, Hartford, everywhere. It’s not always easy to have a steady kind of diet in New York theatre, so you work everywhere.

Sheila:             Have you ever worked in L.A, Annie?

Ann:                I have. I actually did another Broadway show called Souvenir, which went to the Playhouse in Brentwood in 2006, I think it might have been. But L.A doesn’t have a huge theatre community.

Adam:             Oddly enough, I’m surprised.

Tim:                 It’s all Hollywood over here.

Sheila:             It’s more New York and Chicago.

Ann:                It is.

Mike:               So Ann, what made you walk through our doors back in 2002?

Ann:                I was training–I’d been training myself and with at home trainers for a long time. When I was 32 I think, I took up weight lifting, free weight lifting on my own. Then I graduated to having a trainer come to my house, so this was a person who came to the house, Laurie Jackson, and she then started coming here to train here and to become a teacher. She thought this protocol was suited for me. I have scoliosis so I have issues of being able to get like, both hands down on the floor behind me. She was concerned over time that I was losing a lot of flexibility and mobility. So she thought this would help that, and over the course of 15 years, it certainly has.

Mike:               This method, this slow weight training.

Ann:                Yeah, just for strength and I think for–especially for strength.

Mike:               I also just want to let everyone know. Ann is 67 and she looks a lot younger than 67. She is a force to be reckoned with and incredible performance when she’s working out. So what do you think has made you stay here for so long? What about the workout have you really been able to stick with?

Ann:                I think I’ve always liked feeling strong. My work is very sedentary; when you’re working in theatre, you sit. You sit literally 8-10 hours a day, you get up, you take a break when there’s an equity break, otherwise you’re sitting. So outside of that, I liked being active and I liked being strong, and I also noticed over time, the stronger I was, the healthier I was. Sometimes, especially during technical rehearsals and you’re working really long hours, you’re in a cold theater, putting stuff up. I know so many designers, especially lighting designers, who get sick every single time they do a tech rehearsal. I don’t, I really don’t. So I’ve worked hard over time to not get sick while I work.

Mike:               So you think monitoring your health and being strong is the reason why?

Ann:                It’s part of it, yeah.

Mike:               How do you think being strong has helped you in your personal life and professional life, beyond what you just said?

Ann:                I also have a family history of arthritis. I had a hip replacement eight years ago, so part of it was also just staying strong on both sides of my body so that I don’t impact the other good hip I have. The only other good hip I have. So far, I do have arthritis in it but I have no pain at all. So in 2009, I got a hip replacement and then I started to do pilates. My right hip had not been replaced yet and I was very hobbled on the right side, but I started pilates. The orthopedist said, stay strong, so I thought, I need to stay strong in a way that’s kind of controlled and focused. So besides still lifting and doing strength training here, I added pilates and I’ve done pilates since. So I do a mix of walking, jogging, a couple of days a week, pilates a couple of days a week, and strength training once a week or sometimes twice a week.

Sheila:             That sounds like exactly what I’ve been doing. I love pilates, I just added it myself. I love it, it’s a great–in conjunction with the strength training, it’s a perfect combination.

Tim:                 How about when you’re on the road? How do you factor this workout into the schedule while you’re touring or traveling?

Ann:                On the road, I do not do strength training. Sometimes I’ll find a pilates studio but my times are really short. I am an early morning person, so I tend to get up at 5 or 5:30 and I walk. I will generally walk–outside is generally my favorite. So I’ll walk in almost any city and most cities have either nice greenways or bicycle paths or canal paths that I can find to walk outside. In the wintertime, harder and harder to do. So I try to find a gym, it’s my least favorite thing to do, but at least I can do it on a treadmill. So I keep that up for the two weeks I’m on the road.

Adam:             I heard you calculate how many of these strength training workouts you do in a year here. How many were they again?

Mike:               I was looking before. We’ve been monitoring with our system, it goes back to about 2005, and she’s done 330 sessions between 2005 and 2016.

Adam:             And that averages to?

Mike:               Just under 28 sessions per year. That kind of makes sense, it’s a little bit more than half the year.

Adam:             Do you feel like you’ve gotten weaker since coming here?

Ann:                Weaker? No.

Adam:             So think about that. She’s been working out only 26 times a year strength training and she does not feel worker. So I guess it’s working enough, as well as mixing in the other things you’re doing and your diet.

Mike:               We were talking before. Really at 67, looks phenomenal and is very, very strong. I mean I would put her in the top 1% of anybody who is in her age range over 60, I’m just going to go down to 60 and above and even way below that. What’s interesting is that when we were talking about that before Annie, you were comparing yourself to like your 35 year old self.

Ann:                I actually think I’m stronger than I was when I was 35.

Mike:               That is the testimonial right there.

Ann:                I actually do. I also think that just because of pilates, I feel stronger from like head to toe instead of just–when I started, I was 32 when I started free weights and I did free weights. I got a book, I figured out a routine; I did abs, I did arms, I did legs, but I think over time, because this is a much more kind of complete workout, strength training, and pilates also adds to that, So I just feel like the strength in my body is much more cohesive and much more complete than it felt at 35.

Mike:               In regards to when you were doing free weights, did you feel–with the way you were doing them, did you feel it was unsafe the way you did it or you felt like it was okay? And then comparing it to the setting you’re in right now.

Ann:                I would say it probably was unsafe. I mean I had a weight bench, I monitored myself. I did my own routines, I probably did them too fast, but I did them and I did them religiously and I liked them a lot. But I would say they probably were unsafe. I never hurt myself doing them, but I think I was lucky.

Adam:             It seems like you never felt like you were putting yourself in harm’s way.

Ann:                Certainly not consciously, not consciously.

Adam:             How intense was the workout? How hard were you pushing yourself?

Ann:                Well, that’s a good question. I would do three sets of ten reps. I would do–the one that I thought probably was the one I could have hurt myself on was Roman chairs. I would put a weight on my chest, hook my feet under my couch and I would go all the way back and up on a bench. I would do that–I loved those but I so don’t think that was safe.

Mike:               There are a lot of people who do a lot of things that they really enjoy until it hurts you. What’s really remarkable though over the last few years are some of the changes you’ve had with your weight and the focus we’ve really put into that. Obviously you’ve gotten stronger and you’ve felt stronger over the years. So what happened over the years, what were you thinking about?

Ann:                I noticed when I was around 63 and 64 that it was harder and harder to take off holiday weight around Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’d usually put on around five pounds, usually five to seven tends. Usually I could still take it off pretty well, but weight loss for me is always slow and kind of methodical. Like one pound a week, sometimes a little less than that, but I noticed around 63, 64, I couldn’t get it off at all; it was taking me months to take off two pounds. So again, my friend Laurie had found a nutritionist that she liked a lot. I’ve encountered other nutritionists that I was never really impressed with, but Laurie really liked this person. So I signed on with Lisa Jublee, and I changed entirely what I ate. Went to organic–because I have arthritis in my hands, and I treat it with a lot of remedies and a lot of, not medication but remedies. I went gluten free, I went dairy free, and ate mostly a high fat, high protein, low carb diet. I did it for, well, I still do it, but over the course of the year, I lost 15 pounds. So I went from about 145 down to 130, 131.

Mike:               With the same exercise regimen. One or two workouts a week, pilates once or twice a week and intermittent walk/jog type of thing.

Ann:                Yep. I plateaued around 135 and had a really, really hard time getting below that. So Lisa suggested I do InForm Fitness twice a week because that kind of training kind of ramps up your metabolism and the ability to burn fat more efficiently.

Mike:               I think for you, finding out that dosage; we advocated once a week or twice a week and it depends on the person and their health and the intensity they can tolerate, a lot of different variables. People ask us all the time, should I come once a week or I should twice a week, and sometimes we don’t really know. People get the results you’re talking about doing it once a week and what’s interesting, one of the things I want to just make sure gets mentioned, is what I admire about Ann is she is so focused and she’s very patient with what I refer to the troubleshooting process. Figuring out what is the way to your results because it actually isn’t exactly the same frequency or the same exact nutrient intake per person.

Adam:             Not only that, but it changes for you as time goes on.

Mike:               Correct, it changes at certain times in your life, exactly. I think a lot of people, they throw their arms up in the air. They may get results for a week or two weeks, and then all of a sudden, wait a second. It plateaus and stops, and then they throw their arms up in the air and give up on the process. Which involves a lot of different things. We talked about Adam’s over the last few podcasts as well, and he’s made tremendous gains but it’s a process. That’s the thing, I just wanted to like–I think it’s amazing that we’ve figured out that two times was actually appropriate for you.

Adam:             That’s a really excellent point. I can’t tell you–I mean that is the secret to success and the one word is patience. Being willing to try something and stick it out, because you don’t know if something works if you just do it for a week. I mean this is something that takes time and realism; patience and realism are the two things, understanding what a pound is. And just because you lost a pound in two weeks and you’re frustrated by that. So you lost a pound every two weeks for a year, you’re talking about losing 25 pounds, that’s major, consistently. The thing is, it might take some time to find what works for you and again, patience.

Sheila:             And what you said before Adam, it changes in the different phases of your life. What worked for you when you were in your thirties or forties, all of a sudden you’re like, it doesn’t work anymore.

Adam:             You have to be observant enough and patient, again, enough to make certain changes and try certain changes. It’s a testament to you Ann, because we can give you all of the information, all of the guidance in the world, but for you to have the patience and to actually do it is–we don’t see it very often. We don’t see it enough.

Ann:                And it really worked. It was the silver bullet for me that literally got me past 135 and down to like, 130. It took a while but as I’ve said, I’m willing to be patient about it. I also noticed doing this twice a week, my strength ramped up that I could notice. I just noticed–I do other exercises at home and I just noticed the ability to do them changed, definitely changed.

Sheila:             And how many days in between your two routines do you have?

Ann:                We usually do Monday/Thursday type of thing or Tuesday, Fridays. I changed up my pilates routine so that I wasn’t back to back, because I have a hard time if I’m back to back exercising and coming here gets pretty hard to do.

Mike:               Another thing is breaking through that plateau for you is interesting and intermittent fasting for you was an element too, wasn’t it?

Ann:                Oh yeah, and I still do intermittent fasting. So I eat for about–I eat eight hours out of 24. So I basically do not eat breakfast. I get up early, I’m a 5 AM riser. So I eat lunch at 11 or 11:30 because I’m hungry by then. I’ll have almonds maybe if I need to have something at 8:30 or 9 and then I’ll eat lunch at 11 and dinner at around 7. Basically that’s about it.

Mike:               Is that 7 days a week or 5 days a week?

Ann:                Probably 6-7 days a week. Sometimes on the weekend, I’m a little bit looser and eat breakfast because my husband’s home and we’re a little less intense about getting up and out of the house so I’ll eat breakfast. Otherwise I don’t eat breakfast.

Adam:             How about socially, how do you work in eating like that on a social basis? Do you find it difficult, are you being judged, or do you just not socialize?

Ann:                I do socialize. There are days like, I just went out this past weekend and went to this place called the Meatball Shop and I had….

Mike:               Ann is a New Yorker, you better believe she socializes.

Ann:                And I had an ice-cream sandwich, which is two huge cookies and a huge scoop of ice cream and I thought, I can do this. It’s not something that I do very often but I love food so it’s nice to have a good time with it. I do find that when I’m on the road working, I’m really strict about eating then. I make my own food, I take my own lunch, and I’m really–I don’t socialize as much when I’m the road. You sit for eight hours, and then if you’ve got a bag of questions there, that’s what you eat, and I don’t. I take carrot chips or I take something, I take nuts, and I take my lunch and put it in the fridge. So I’m really careful about that.

Mike:               Was it difficult initially to make those transitions, like getting rid of all of those inflammatory foods when Lisa sort of guided you?

Ann:                No, I literally switched gears overnight over the course of a weekend. I literally looked at what I needed to shop, I shopped it, I rearranged it. I do keep a food diary on myfitnesspal and I still love it.

Adam:             This is like a Gretchen Rubin dream. What does that make her, according to her distinctions?

Sheila:             She’s an upholder or an obliger.

Adam:             She was just told what she had to do and she did it.

Ann:                I find now that I’ve done it for so long, if I blow it out and eat a lot of carbs a few days in a row, I can’t do it. It’s not feel comfortable, I can’t comfortably do that very often.

Mike:               You’re in a pattern where you know what serves your body and makes you feel good and you know that having some indulgences from time to time, whether it’s the meatball shop, ice cream, a sandwich. You have the treat and then get back on the saddle. That’s reasonable.

Adam:             Your body hardly notices it.

Mike:               Well, you may notice it, but you want to quickly get back on the track you’re on. That’s the license I think you have to earn if you want those meatball shops and those ice cream sandwiches and those loose social engagements, you have to have a tremendous amount of discipline, which you’ve established for yourself. Going to Gretchen Rubin, that was another thing; troubleshooting your own personality and how to actually get into it.

Adam:             What works for you.

Mike:               One of the things I wanted to mention about it, people don’t see Ann on the podcast, but Ann–this is a female thing. What I’ve found in watching women over 50 is having a lot of difficulty in losing the weight in that midsection area, and Ann has done it. She has really, really significantly done what a lot of people find to be impossible. I think setting that goal and working towards it. I think it’s just worthy of mentioning that it’s attainable. If you were ready to pursue the troubleshooting process.

Adam:             Let’s say it’s possible, because I don’t know if it’s attainable for everybody but it’s definitely possible. If that particular thing, losing that little pouch as I hear it referred to a lot. If for some reason, because you’ve had five kids and you can’t lose that pouch, all is not lost. I mean you’re still eating a healthy lifestyle and you are healthy. The thing that Ann said at the beginning of the broadcast, if you want to call it that, is this. I realized that being stronger was being healthier. That’s a realization, that’s a profound realization, that her strength is what made her healthy. We often try to get fit and many of the times that we choose to get fit, they actually do the opposite; they undermine our health and the fact that she said that being strong, avoiding sarcopenia which is one of our early episodes that we’d done on this podcast and all of the problems that come from muscle loss and things like that. It’s a profound statement for somebody in her position that hasn’t been trained or schooled in sarcopenia and all of that, just to say that she realized her strength was her health. And then doing it in a safe way, so getting stronger doesn’t undermine your health and I think that’s an important point to make and to kind of close with. Although I do want to bring up one other thing that Mike brought up, which is not really about Ann and her success but it’s something that comes up, and the word was used and that is plateau. I just want to say something about plateaus for a second, and it’s only going to take me a minute. That is, I think plateaus, in some instances, in many instances, get a bad name. As if it’s a bad thing that I plateaued.

Ann:                We were just talking about this. We were literally just talking about.

Adam:             So tell me if what I say is actually what you were talking about, this is funny. So it’s kind of just an observation that I’ve made. The thing about plateaus is if you come here–how long has it been Ann–you’ve been coming here for 15 years. If you were realistically getting stronger every single time you came in here, you’d be like Arnold Schwarnezgger by now. There is a limitation to how strong you can get, and the real thing about plateaus. The analogy is like, when you’re a starving artist and you have trouble paying the rent, every penny make counts, but when you’re a millionaire and you don’t ever have to worry about making some money ever again, and you make some more money on top of that, it’s almost like, who the hell cares. The thing is this, when you’re as strong as Ann has gotten.

Mike:               And has maintained.

Adam:             Well, that’s the point that I’m making about plateaus. Let’s say you are 200, 300, 400% stronger than you were; like you said, you’re stronger now than you were in your 30s and you’ve been maintaining that into your 60s now. And you’ve been plateauing at this high level of strength for all this time, I’m thinking, that’s huge. That’s great, plateau is not bad. The fact that–this is the other thing about plateaus also though. It doesn’t mean you stop trying to get stronger, that’s the beauty of this. You keep trying, you keep trying to get stronger. You keep looking at your results, you still exert patience and you still tweak. And it’s really cool to really see if you can get it higher, why not. You’re here, and it just reminds me–I don’t want to set limitations either. Even though we know there are theoretical limitations that we all have, who wants to set those limitations because it reminds me of when the four minute mile was broken. What’s that guy name, Bannister, is that the guy that broke the four minute mile? So before he broke it, the first guy to break it, no one thought it could be done. As soon as Bannister broke it, all of a sudden, all of these people started breaking it soon after because the belief was there that it could be done. So I don’t want to ever set limitations that you can’t get so strong, that you’re already at your plateau, and I don’t even really want to talk about plateaus too much. Because that can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, but at the same time, it’s not a bad word, especially if you’re like, 300% stronger than you were in your 30s.

Mike:               I think it’s coupled with the expectation of where you would be if you did not do any strength training when you’re 67 years old. Where would she be, like we were talking about that. If you draw a line, let’s say Ann Wrightson lifts 100 pounds when she’s 30 years old at whatever exercise, and at 40 she lifts 100, and at 50 she lifts 100, at 60 she lifts 100, at 70 she lifts 100. The thing is, if she wasn’t doing the strength training, she’d be declining. Really the increase is the delta between where the decline would be and where the plateau is. I don’t know if people can understand that through a podcast, but that is–

Adam:             Deltas change.

Mike:               That percentage, which is below the plateau line, between the plateau line and where you probably may have been lifting, or if you didn’t do any strength training, what you possibly could have done if you weren’t strength training. That’s the big thing.

Sheila:             Also on the whole topic of plateauing, you can talk about that just as far as getting older and people saying, oh, forget it, I’m never going to lose that belly fat. I’m never going to look as good, I’m never going to feel as good again, and I’m kind of my own journey that started with that in the last month. I hired a nutritionist so Ann, you are an inspiration to me, because it’s like, no. I’m going to look the best I can at my age, I’m going to do this. I don’t have to settle for, oh, I guess I’ll just have to deal with this. I’m going to slowly gain more weight and slowly have to buy more clothes. Anyway, I just wanted to say, I’m very happy to meet you and I think that you’re an inspiration to women, especially. Thank you.

Ann:                Thank you so much.

Mike:               Thank you Ann, thank you very much for being with us today. We really appreciate it.

Ann:                Certainly.

Tim:                 Much appreciation to 15 year, InForm Fitness client, Ann, Tony award nominee, Ann Wrightson, for sharing her health journey with us here on the InForm Fitness Podcast. As Sheila mentioned, she is truly an inspiration and a living testimony for this slow motion, high intensity strength training protocol, offered at seven InForm Fitness locations across the U.S. To find one near you, click on over to informfitness.com. The website is chocked full of entertaining and educational blog posts written by Adam. You can also see what Adam, Mike, and Sheila actually look like in their trainer bios and the videos. And we invite you to head on over to Amazon to pick up Adam’s book, The Power of Ten: The Once a Week, Slow Motion, Fitness Revolution. The book itself is only about thirteen bucks and you can download the Kindle version for less than eight. Inside the book, you’ll find nutritional tips and exercises that can be performed anywhere, even if you’re not near an InForm Fitness location. Alright, so next week, Mike Rogers will be sharing a very personal story about resiliency. We’ll discuss how this type of workout can not only keep you healthy in your golden years, but could possibly even save your life. Make sure you’re with us for that one. Until then, for Adam, Mike, and Sheila with InForm Fitness, I’m Tim Edwards, with the InBound Podcasting Network.