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Fitness Advice From Women Over 50: Alisa Destefano

Alisa Destefano is one busy woman! But she doesn't let that get in the way of her health. She has learned over time that making her fitness classes (something she enjoys) a priority is key to continued health.

Alisa has been married to her husband Frank for 37 years and is the mother of two adult children (Vince-28 and Kyle-25). She is a woman of faith and states "He is the center of my life and gives me purpose". Alisa is a financial aid administrator at IUP, and has two side businesses: Whatsoever Lovely Designs (jewelry making) and motivational speaking.

Before starting classes with Haley, Alisa was super active. She participated in swimming, bicycling, Zumba, aerobic classes, and hiking/walking. 30 years ago her friend was challenged to swim 50 miles over a period of time at the YMCA, so Alisa did it with her. Then over 25 years ago Alisa was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. "The odd thing about this condition is that the pain makes you want to lie down to find relief, but physical activity is actually one of the “prescriptions” that will help it.", says Alisa. Another friend of Alisa's who was also a fitness instructor, helped her get moving (very slowly at first) by doing Tae Bo and walking, and when she could see that it was actually helping the pain and that she felt better, she was hooked. Then Alisa began working out at lunchtime with a group of like-minded women and walking with friends every chance she got. "I had been athletic in high school and felt I would always be thin. But in my late 20’s I realized I couldn’t just go on autopilot anymore (eating what I wanted and not working out). I started limiting my food intake in an unhealthy manner and didn’t want to work out. This created a decline in my overall health. Then I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and had two children in my 30’s. I thought the baby weight would just fall off, but it didn’t. It was because of the fibro and the need to get rid of baby weight that I became serious about working out as a lifestyle and not just as a way to lose weight for a summer wardrobe." Alisa was taking classes at Uptown Fitness and heard about a step class that Haley was teaching. Alisa states, "I wanted something that would make me feel like I really worked out (like running - but I hated running), so I decided to give it a try. It was so challenging and interesting, and I didn’t get bored with the routines. Then Haley started a boot camp class. I was afraid to try it because I didn’t think I’d be able to keep up. But I finally tried it and left so exhilarated that I kept going back. I love the way I feel stronger after a workout." Alisa states, "I have been so busy for so long that it’s hard for me to rest and recoup, but at the end of last year I sprained a ligament in my upper leg/lower back area and, by doctor’s orders, couldn’t exercise for 4 months (other than yoga). It really affected me in a couple of ways. One is that I HAD to slow down (no choice), and found that I began to enjoy life more at a slower pace. But then I was also a bit depressed because working out is not only a stress buster for me, it also makes me feel happier (plus I realized how much I loved and missed my workout families). I can now exercise again (modifying) and I hope to continue to live life at a reasonable pace now that I am better."

Alisa was asked to share what she loved most about the atmosphere of Haley's classes. This is what she had to say: "Energy! Kindness and support. Encouragement. Excitement. A sense of belonging, no matter where a person is physically. When I was off for 4 months, Haley and people from class emailed and texted me to see how I was and encourage me. And when I came back, I was hugged by so many and welcomed back. I just love my boot camp family!"

Despite Alisa's busy schedule she makes time to fit the classes into her day. "It’s become a part of my routine every day (I work out 6 days a week). I either get up early (5:00am) for some morning classes, work out at home when there’s not a class, or I go right after work to boot camp to get it done before I go home for the evening. Saturday morning PiYo with Jody is a great way to end the week (strength training and stretching all at once). I love the way all of these classes make me feel mentally and physically. I hate missing even one class. I schedule other activities around my workout classes because if I didn’t, the classes would be pushed to the background and they are a one of the things that gives me energy to do those other things. And again, I love my workout families."

Something that Alisa loves the most about these classes is how she feels after. She states, "I come out of workouts so pumped and energized that when I get home my husband just lets me chatter until I wind down. I feel like I can accomplish so much more in my life (not just workouts, but projects, things at my job, trying new meals, etc.), and I am more prone to get out of my comfort zone. Exercise definitely helps with the fibromyalgia (the pain is less; my episodes are much less now that I work out). I’ve learned not to undo what I’ve gained in exercising by eating healthy overall (I used to eat whatever, justifying it because I just worked out)."

Alisa's advice for anyone who might be intimidated to get started is this: "It is for all levels, ages, and body types. And once you do it a few times you’ll be amazed how much more you are able to do than when you first started. At first I was concerned that boot camp was only for those younger than me, but it’s not! If you need to modify, then modify and get the benefit of a great workout with great people. I recently met another women in class that is 66. 66! I want to be like her. I want to be doing this when I’m 70!

Once you start it only gets better. You’ll find yourself thinking about class during the day and looking forward to it. I think group classes are the best. I show up because I signed up, I push to the end because those around me are pushing, and I want to be with people who are enthusiastic. I joined Haley’s challenge groups and I’m eating so much better now. I’m the one at work that brings in healthy things to eat for office parties and it’s expected. Haley is like the Energizer Bunny. She just keeps going and she keeps coming up with new ideas of things to do. I love being a part of her journey."

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