(Photo courtesy of Flickr)
Since I moved to Minneapolis six months ago, I’ve been continually amazed by the women here. Damn, they’re strong! I’m not talking about women in their 20s, 30s or 40s. I’m talking 50 plus, “une femme d’une certain age,” as the French say. Take my kettlebell class, for instance. There are no men in it. Just women who are my age, or close to it. I’m 62. Whether they’re doing jerks, snatches, lawnmower pulls or planks, I can barely keep up with them. I don’t think it’s just me, either. I’d like to see how many of those pumped guys in the free weight room could get through one of our hour-long circuit training classes. What are Minneapolis women made of?
I don’t just mean the ones swinging iron cannonballs through their legs and over their heads either. For my first three months in Minneapolis, before I rented my own house, I stayed with a friend’s mother named Mary Ellen who lives in Bloomington. She’s 83. By the time I’d get up at 7, she had already been up for hours cleaning, doing laundry and cooking. Even when it was 15 below zero, she’d be outside walking my dog and scraping the ice off my car windows. When I went to visit her the other weekend, she was gardening. No kneeling stool for her. She was on her knees, on cement — jeez, what I’d give to have her synovial fluid! I wish I could say Mary Ellen’s amazing strength comes from nutritious food choices. But her pantry staples include M&Ms, Cool Whip and margarine.
There’s a grandmother in my Pilates class who told me that her daughter is a germophobe and makes her kids continually wash their hands. I told her that children need to be exposed to germs in order to develop immunities. Paraphrasing an article I’d once read, I told her, “Studies show that people who grow up on farms don’t develop allergies because they’re exposed to everything.” “I grew up on a farm,” she told me, “and you know what, I’ve never been sick a day in my life.” Mary Ellen grew up on a farm too, with eight brothers and sisters who are either still alive or lived to a ripe old age. Her mother just died at 100.
I don’t know if the women in my kettlebell class grew up on farms. I’ll have to ask them. Better do it before class, though, while I still have some breath left. I’ll also have to ask my next door neighbor where she grew up. I just met her over the weekend. She had a hoe in her hand and was ripping out weeds in her backyard. Turns out she’s in her 90s and still teaches English at a Catholic high school.
Wonder if she does kettlebells?