To everything, there is a season. And that holds true for exercise, as well. For Ruth Ann Gurr, 52, middle age is the time to work out -- because she has the time.
Twice a week she works with a personal trainer, and four to five times a week she walks for two miles. She also line dances once a week, which she says is her cardiovascular workout.
"I just feel it's a good time in my life," she says. "A lot of people don't have that flexibility; I know, I had five kids." When the kids were younger, she was busy running them to their various activities. She also played basketball and softball.
An avid volleyball player as well, she kept playing that sport until she was in her 40s. Her husband was in the military, and she played on the post team wherever they were stationed, and on church teams.
But Gurr, who is a program coordinator with the Civilian Personnel Operations Center Management Agency in Aberdeen, noticed that she didn't feel the same when she quit playing sports.
"As I was getting older, I felt I was losing muscle tone, especially in my upper arms." But because she has a herniated disc in her back, she knew she couldn't just grab a bunch of weights and start lifting.
She hired a personal trainer -- Daniel Schmidt of Body Style Health and Fitness -- and began working with him. After eight or nine sessions, she says, "I had lost inches everywhere and 5 pounds." But even more important, "I felt stronger." She noticed, too, that when she walked she didn't get winded as quickly.
To help fit her workouts into her schedule, Schmidt travels to her condominium complex in Bel Air, which has a fitness center. Before he arrives, Gurr walks for six minutes on a treadmill to loosen up, and then does 15 minutes of stretching and flexibility exercises, stretching her arms, legs and especially her calves. When Schmidt arrives, she concentrates on weightlifting and exercises designed to strengthen her back.
Scheduling her workouts really helps her stick to them. "It has to be the No. 1 important thing in your life," she says. "Those things that are important in your life, you'll do. You have to really plan it into your day."
She laughs and adds that spending money on a trainer also helped her stick to it. "Once I commit money, I'm committed."
Now divorced, Gurr found that she tended to eat out a lot, and skip breakfast. Since doing the weights, she notices she wants to eat more during the day, and now she has five small meals, including a piece of fruit for breakfast. She also has started drinking lots of water. "Before I was drinking four to five colas a day," she says.
She began to plan meals as well as exercise so that she wouldn't get caught in a time crunch and end up eating out of a vending machine. But don't, she says, paint her as some kind of strong-willed person when it comes to diet. She loves treats, and constantly has to ask herself, "Is it worth the calories?"
Not only has she regained strength and healthier eating habits, exercise in middle age also provides her with energy. "On the days I feel really tired and don't want to work out, when I force myself to go, I feel 100 percent better," she says. "I don't feel dragged out and I have more energy. It's not just the exercise -- it's a lifestyle change."