Growing up, no one really talked about fitness or nutrition. We were not an athletic family, but we have great genes and a history of longevity. Knowing this makes me think about the quality of life I’ll have later. What we do now largely determines that, so it is something I take very seriously.

Working out was never a part of my routine until the late 80s when the aerobics craze hit. Though I did have a purple spandex outfit with matching headband that I loved, I joined a gym and did mostly cardio on the treadmill and stationary bikes, like many beginners.

After about 10 years, I fell off the wagon. The gym just wasn’t a good fit for me, and it didn’t feel right. It didn’t make me happy and I eventually quit going. It took a few years to get back into it.

I wasn’t coping with stress very well and realized that exercise was the missing piece. I had to make changes but wasn’t sure how to get back into it again. I work full time as the director of libraries for St. Mary’s Episcopal School, so I understand how working people can struggle to make time for themselves. I had to figure that out too.

It was truly great timing that got me here. We had just moved to Midtown from East Memphis and InsideOut had just relocated to its current location. They put flyers out in the neighborhood, and I decided to go check it out. That flyer was the start of a whole new healthy chapter in my life.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I knew almost from the first minute I walked in that I’d found my place. You really have to find your place and your people.

One of the things I love about InsideOut is the number of classes to choose from. They offer a bit of everything, from spin and TRX to rowing, yoga, or ball classes. With so many options I was able to keep trying new things until I found a combination that worked.

In a week, I’ll get in three spin classes, a ball class, two box aerobics classes, one weight class, a workout on my own, and a session with my trainer, Marda Kaiser. I know it sounds like a lot, but I can get all of it done in four or five days because I do two to three classes each time I go. Because I do the same routine every week, I can plan around and for it, and so can the people in my life. That’s been an important piece for long-term success.

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen people make over the years is going too hard too fast. They give up everything they like to eat and work out like crazy, then burn out. I can’t emphasize enough the need to gradually incorporate healthy eating and exercise into your life! It can also be intimidating to walk into a gym, so I recommend a trainer to help you get comfortable with the machines and equipment. After a while, it becomes something you want to do, not something you have to force yourself to do.

For nutrition, deprivation isn’t a viable option for me. I eat what I want, with a few exceptions. I eat pasta or chips if I feel like it. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth so the dessert has to be worth the calories. I’m not tempted by a candy bar or a store donut, but if it’s a homemade slice of pound cake I’m in.

I made three changes in my life that should have a lasting impact:  I have a strict “no fast food” rule. It’s been so long since I’ve had it, I’m not tempted anymore. I quit drinking soft drinks about 20 years ago, and I quit putting sugar or artificial sweetener in my coffee. These things add up over the years. If your goal is long-term health you have to think long-term lifestyle changes.

My husband John is very supportive, and we have very similar outlooks on health and lifestyle. We both are very active. During the week, it’s usually 9 pm before we even sit down. That’s when we check in with each other and talk about our day.

I’ve never had Botox and don’t plan to. It’s just not for me. I’m too cheap and too chicken! I’m sticking with sleep, sunscreen, and drinking tons of water.

I want to grow old with dignity, and I don’t want to be a burden to my children. Plus, my husband built me a fancy closet. It’s upstairs and there’s no way I’m giving that up anytime soon!

By Mary Helen Randall. Photo by Taylor Tartera.

Mary Helen Randall is the Executive Vice President at Burson Cohn & Wolfe Public Relations.

Photo by Taylor Tartera.