‘I’m 71 and in the best shape of my life – here’s the one super simple tip I swear by’

By | April 1, 2024

Wendy Ida is a lifestyle coach, award-winning bodybuilder and best-selling book author Take your life back! My no-nonsense approach to health, fitness and looking naked. Here, in her own words, she shares how she began taking charge of her health at age 40, transforming both her body and the way she thinks. She gives her best advice for starting your health journey, no matter your age, including the habit that will have the biggest impact.

I may be in great shape now, but it wasn’t always that way. Actually, I didn’t know anything about health until I was forty. I grew up in New Jersey and at the time no one around me was talking about health. I got married when I was 19 and the relationship escalated into an abusive relationship. I have experienced a lot of domestic violence. My husband was on drugs, which affected me and my children badly.

At the time, I had low self-esteem and didn’t love myself enough. But I did love my children, and that is what pushed me to escape the abusive relationship. It took me three tries to finally escape safely. The first two times my husband found me and my children and brought them back. The third time we boarded the plane to California with nothing but our clothes on. Then I started to reinvent my life.

Related: The One Thing You Should Never Do If You’re Over 60 and Want to Stay Healthy

A makeover of body and mind

In California, a lot of people went to the gym, so I started going too. I was working as an accountant and everyone kept saying they were going to the gym before or after work, so I decided to try it. I was overweight, but since my mother and aunts were overweight, I assumed this would be my fate too and there was nothing I could do to change it. I didn’t really know what I was doing in the gym, so even though I was working out, my body wasn’t changing. I went on the treadmill and did some abdominal exercises, but it didn’t seem to make a difference.

Then, one day, a trainer offered to help me. He taught me how to lift weights and use the weight machines. It was like magic. My body started to change and at the age of 42 I was healthier than I had ever been in my life. My mindset has also completely changed. I became more fun, relaxed and carefree. I was finally alive.

I was so inspired by the way fitness changed not only my body but my entire mindset that I decided to take up personal training myself. I wanted to help others reinvent their lives as I had reinvented mine.

Related: Research shows this simple adjustment can add 7.5 years to your life

When I was 57, I decided to start bodybuilding. I won several bodybuilding competitions, beating women decades younger than me – it blew my mind! When I turned 60, I became a two-time Guinness World Record holder. The first was for doing burpees: I did 37 in one minute while the record was 30. The second record was the oldest fitness trainer with multiple disciplines.

Over time I lost 80 pounds, but the biggest change was my mind and mental health. Trying new fitness challenges gave me confidence and joy. It really changed my life!

The number 1 nutrition tip I swear by to keep my body in top shape

When it comes to staying healthy, what you do outside the gym matters too, especially when it comes to food. Personally, besides fish, I mainly eat plant-based food. I don’t eat dairy. While I don’t necessarily follow a specific diet, this way of eating is consistent with the Mediterranean diet, which is scientifically proven to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and can add years to your life.

What I like about this way of eating is that it’s not about deprivation; There are still so many delicious dishes on the table! I enjoy eating out at nice restaurants, but for me it’s more about the people I’m with and the atmosphere than anything else. If you also enjoy eating out but are trying to lose weight, my main advice is to skip dishes with creams or sauces. They add a lot of extra calories to your meal.

The fitness tip that will change your body

I want people who are middle-aged or older to know that it is never too late to start your fitness journey. I know it can be intimidating for a lot of people, but you really can change your body at any age. My best advice is to just start and find someone who can actually teach you what to do. After all, that’s how we learn everything else! I understand how overwhelming the gym can be. But being taught by a trainer how to actually use the machines in a way that is safe for you can really make a difference.

The main habit I recommend is to focus on strength training because it is so important for bone health, which is crucial as we age, and also what will really transform your body. But it’s important to do it safely. Don’t just imitate what you see other people doing because it may not be best for you.

As for my personal training, I prioritize full-body strength training six days a week, alternating between upper-body strength training one day and lower body strength training the next. I also mix up the type of cardio I do. That keeps it fun! I take one day off a week where I don’t exercise at all. Part of taking care of yourself is knowing when to rest.

Below is the exact strength training I do:

Upper body strength training (three days a week):

  • Cable rows (3 sets, 15 to 20 reps, 40 to 50 lbs)

  • Lateral pull-downs (3 sets, 15 to 20 reps, 40 to 50 pounds)

  • Combination of mountain climbers, burpees and push-ups (3 sets of 10 to 20 reps of each move)

Lower body strength training (three days a week):

  • Sumo Squats (3 to 4 sets, 15 to 20 reps, 15 to 20 lbs.)

  • Walking lunges (3 to 4 sets, 15 to 20 reps, 15 to 20 pounds)

  • Bird dog crunch-to-plank combination (3 to 4 sets, 20 reps)

Related: This is the #1 sign someone is ‘aging well,’ according to a geriatrician

My other big piece of advice is not to become complacent. It’s so easy to get into the habit of not moving your body. It’s important to find ways to exercise throughout the day, even small ones. For example, gardening, walking and swimming are great ways to exercise your body.

Finally, stay curious. Every year I challenge myself to learn something new. This year I decided to take swimming lessons and learn Spanish. Trying new things keeps you on your toes. Aging does not have to mean that you become weaker or more vulnerable. Aging can mean you become stronger and sharper. The most important thing is to just start. That first step can change your life.

As told to Emily Laurence

Then find out what you should never do if you want to live to be 100.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *