A Strong Family Tree

Left to right: Caroline Johnson, Erika Johnson, Judy Marcus and Kristen Johnson

Three generations of healthy women discuss exercise and motivation

By Jeff Howard
Photos by
Erin Trimble
Location: The George

What I love most about my job is meeting strong women. By strong, I don’t mean physically strong but women with strong minds, attitudes, work ethics, passion and, of course, strong in their belief in health and fitness. Can you imagine if you found all of these qualities in the same family?

It was truly an honor to spend the afternoon with three generations of strong, inspiring women, ages spanning from 24 to 80. Health truly can be achieved through learning by example. While speaking to them about their healthy habits, each had a sparkle in their eyes that lets you know they are strong-minded and determined.

Judy “Gramsie” Marcus
Age: 80 years young

1. When did you start working out and why?

“I have always done some kind of exercise. I was the second oldest of 11 siblings, so there was always something to be done. I always knew that continuing to move was important through five pregnancies and raising my children.”

2. What does the word “fit” mean to you?

“Fit to me means being healthy, happy and outgoing and looking your best.”

3. What type of movement/class do you like? How has it changed over the years?

“I have always loved walking ever since my children were babies. I began formal aerobics classes while pregnant with my first child at 21 years old. I was an original member of Baptist Health/Milestone Wellness Center and have continued through the years with a personal trainer. My favorite class now is Sue’s aerobics and weight classes along with Blakey’s pyramid class at Milestone. I continue to walk in my neighborhood throughout the week with my daughter and granddaughters.”

4. What has been a major influence in your fitness journey?

“The biggest influence on my fitness journey has been wanting to stay healthy and strong in order to take care of first my mother and father and then my late husband. My daughters and granddaughters have always provided me with great support and encouragement to continue to take care of myself.”

5. How do you stay motivated to work out?

“I stay motivated knowing that at age 80, I continue to feel good about my appearance and my ability to stay healthy and strong. I hope to continue to inspire my family (so they know) that it is important to take control of your life by staying healthy and active.”

Erika Johnson
Age: 48 (almost 49)

1. When did you start working out and why?

“I started my fitness journey in my early teens. It was when Jazzercise and other group fitness classes were big. My mom, sister and I did a local group fitness class called Bodyworks. I also did Jane Fonda’s workout with my girlfriends.”

2. What does the word “fit” mean to you?

“To me, fitness has had several meanings through the years. In my younger years, it meant being thin. If you were thin then you were healthy and fit. Now, my definition of fitness is feeling healthy and strong.”

3. What type of movement/class do you like? How has it changed over the years?

“I am a group fitness person. I love a class that involves movement and weights.”

4. What has been a major influence in your fitness journey?

“My major influence in my fitness journey has been my mom. I mean, look at her! She’s beautiful! She has always been active as long as I can remember. From yoga classes to brisk walks around the neighborhood, she made some kind of movement a priority. She was always cutting out articles and healthy recipes for us to try.”

5. How do you stay motivated to work out?

“Staying motivated actually gets easier the older I get. I don’t always love coming to the gym. It can be easy to find a reason to skip, but I love the way I feel after a good workout. It helps clear my mind and relieves any stress or anxiety. I love coming to class and checking in with all my friends there. My daughters and my mom all go to Milestone, so they help to keep me accountable as well.”

Caroline Johnson
Age: 26

1. When did you start working out and why?

“I can’t pinpoint a time when I started exercising. My parents always encouraged me to try new sports as a child. I do have a vivid memory of my mom and dad taking me to a breast cancer 5K when I was in third grade. They have always been and continue to be great examples of the importance of taking care of your body and staying active. I formally started taking exercise classes at Milestone with my mom as a young teenager. I remember her taking me to Annie Locke’s aerobics classes and thinking how amazingly fit the class full of women were! I still to this day love group exercise classes.”

2. What does the word “fit” mean to you?

“To me, the word fit means feeling strong, healthy and confident in what your body is capable of through movement.”

3. What type of movement/class do you like? How has it changed over the years?

“My fitness journey has changed a lot over the last 10 years. In high school and college, I focused a lot on cardio and never changed my fitness routine which became very boring. After moving back home, I started group fitness classes at Milestone with my mom and found the perfect fit for me. It is so motivating to be in a class with a room full of people, and every single time I push myself to do something different. I have added weight training into my weekly routine. I still love the Peloton for cardio and a run at Seneca Park, but have found how important it is to change up what I am doing.”

4. What has been a major influence in your fitness journey?

“The biggest influence for me in my fitness journey has changed over the years. In the beginning, I exercised because I thought it was just something you were supposed to do. As I have gotten older, I have realized the importance of consistent exercise. It helps me to sleep better, allows an outlet for stress and lets me feel my healthiest and most confident.”

5. How do you stay motivated to work out?

“I am a physician assistant and being in the medical field, I have realized what an absolute privilege it is to be able to move my body the way that I can. So many others do not have that privilege, and when I think about those people who would give anything to have their health and to be able to go to the gym, that is all the motivation I need to continue. Also having the motivation from my beautiful sister, mother and grandmother always helps. It is an honor to be surrounded by such strong women.”

Kristen Johnson
Age: 24

1. When did you start working out and why?

“I feel like I have been active my whole life. My parents were always very active and encouraged us to be active as well. As a child, I played a lot of sports and that was my movement for a long time. As I started getting older and wasn’t playing a sport every season, I took a new approach to fitness. My mom occasionally brought me to group fitness classes with her and it was around eighth grade I decided to join a gym.”

2. What does the word “fit” mean to you?

“To me, fitness means so much more than just the physical aspect. Fitness also encompasses my mental and emotional state. I used to work out purely to look a certain way, but now I work out more to feel better, have more energy, feel strong and manage stress. There are so many benefits to staying active, and the physical results are just a bonus.”

3. What type of movement/class do you like? How has it changed over the years?

“My exercise routine has changed a lot over the years. When I was no longer playing sports and first started working out on my own, I did pretty much all cardio. I would do some form of cardio for 60 minutes and then call it a day. Now, I focus much more on strength training. That is why I love group fitness classes – there is strength and cardio involved, and I don’t have to plan my own workout.”

4. What has been a major influence in your fitness journey?

“My parents have been a major influence in my fitness journey. Seeing them stay active motivates me to stay active. Also, Milestone has had a major impact. I have met so many great people at the gym, and they hold me accountable and also motivate and push me to be my best.”

5. How do you stay motivated to work out?

“I think it is more about staying consistent rather than motivated. There are plenty of days I don’t want to work out, but it’s all about holding yourself accountable. I also remind myself how good I feel after I workout and how much better of a mood it puts me in.”

 

 


Inspired by these four amazing women, I have included a lower body and ab workout for all ages. All you will need is a dowel rod or broom stick. Do all of these exercises with three sets of 16 reps.

1. Assisted Squat

Start with your feet hip-width apart and sit back on your heels. Use the Dowell to support your move. Hold in the sitter position and pulse for 16 beats.

2. Lunge Left

Start with your feet hip-width apart. Step back with your left leg and lower your body to the floor. Hold and pulse for 16 beats.

3. Lunge Right

Start with your feet hip width apart. Step back with your right leg and lower your body to the floor. Hold and pulse for 16 beats.

4. Deadlift

Start with your legs wide and lower your torso to the floor, keeping your knees slightly bent. Pulse for 16 beats.

5. Plié Squat

Stand wide and turn your feet outwards. Bend your knees and hold. Pulse for 16 beats.

6. V-Sit with a Twist

Starting seated, lift your legs and your chest upwards. Twist to the left and then right, 16 times on each side.

7. Bridge

Lying supine, bend your knees and lift your hips upwards. Pulse for 16 beats.

8. Crunch

Lying supine, lift your legs and move your upper torso to the sky. Pulse for 16 beats.