This summer during the Coronavirus pandemic, I have returned to bodybuilding at 55 to help me get back in shape as I get older. My previous experience with bodybuilding was to keep me strong and safe for an independent research project in Italy that required lifting, moving and examining 2,000-year-old stone epitaphs ranging from 20-100+lbs stored in museum depositories in Rome and Naples.

Through bodybuilding, my aim was to strengthen my back, legs, arms and shoulders so that I could lift, move and examine these heavy stone epitaphs safely and carefully. Bodybuilder and Personal Trainer Nola Trimble at Quads Gym in Chicago crafted a program to meet my health and fitness goals. We even made a fitness video to encourage other women my age that it is never too late to begin a strength training program with a bodybuilder. My trainer Nola made training a lot of fun. Her program debunks the myth that women who body-build will become too muscular or masculine in appearance.

When I was in my thirties and serving in the US Army, fitness was a requirement. Running and doing push-ups and sit-ups were a daily routine as a soldier. After my military service, I integrated rigorous exercise and bodybuilding into my daily routine. This health practice in my mid-forties gave me such a sense of accomplishment.

At age 49, I started a two-year graduate program in Historic Preservation at the School of The Art Institute in Chicago (2015-2017). My master’s thesis focused on the need for conservation of Roman Jewish stone epitaphs in Italian museum depositories and required researching stone epitaphs from ancient Rome. It was urgently important to maintain my strength and endurance in order to lift and conduct on-site condition assessments on these cumbersome stones.

While completing my thesis at The Art Institute of Chicago, to maintain my physical endurance and fitness, I also conducted running tours for Chicago Running Tours and more.

Since Covid hit, I live fulltime in Cori, Italy. The gym closure during lockdown, forced me to step up my game and develop my own cardio endurance routine to improve overall muscle endurance. I innovated and adopted to Cori’s ancient hilly terrain and created my own stamina building through cobblestone step-master workouts.

Cobblestone step work out

Taking giant big steps in a forward and upward climb targets my glutes, upper thighs and hamstrings.

No pain no gain: cobblestone hill workout

To tone and work on my legs (quads), I turn around and climb up the cobblestone hill backwards. I include crossover steps by slightly turning right, then left, as I climb up backwards to work on my hips (abductor muscles).

Cardio and upper-body workout

To add cardio and upper body work out, I sprint up a few cobblestone steps and pause in a Medieval piazza to jump rope. Jumping rope helps with my coordination and strengthens my ankle joints, quadriceps, and general core.

Then, to work out my upper body area; chest, shoulders and triceps. I do two sets of push-ups for a straight two minutes each. I position myself in front of a sixteenth-century church and use the stone to do a set of inclining push-ups and declining push-ups.

Now I am 55, I am on a mission to stay stronger than ever, lose the extra weight I gained that comes with getting older and focus on remaining positive while I patiently wait to return to Chicago to complete my Spertus Institute program, visit with my family and friends and volunteer at the Clarke House museum during my visit. These exercises encourage me as I continue to cope with unemployment, my unknown future in academics/work, and the life cycle of aging. It is exhilarating to be able to integrate my physical fitness regimen with the geographical terrain, cobblestone hillside streets and the cultural history of my ancient neighborhood of Cori. It enlivens the breath of life in me!

The Greek philosopher Herophilus wisely remarked:

When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless and intelligence cannot be applied.