Mom, Thanks for the Gift of Fitness
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Mom, Thanks for the Gift of Fitness

She's our mentor, our teacher -- and for many of us, our exercise role model, too! In these very special thank-you notes, writer Mindy Berry and four other daughters describe how their moms got them moving.

Make Time to Work Out

Mindy's mother, Jackie, has always exercised. "I tell Mindy never to feel guilty about taking time for it," says Jackie, who walks on the treadmill every morning and took up yoga last year at age 61. "When I was a young mom of three girls, I didn't have much spare time. I also worked part-time as a high-school French teacher. But most days I played tennis for an hour after school. It was my 'me time' -- I chose it over watching TV or reading -- and the sense of well-being it gave me made me a better mom." Mindy, a freelance writer, has taken that lesson to heart. "Now that I'm an adult, I realize the reason I love my morning jog and trying a new yoga or Pilates class is because I had my mom as a role model," Mindy says. "She gave me a passion for fitness."

Thank you, Mom, for...

"Starting the first girls' tennis team at your school when you were a new teacher. You'd never really played before, but that didn't stop you. You learned with your students and even went on to coach several successful teams.
All those "You Can Do It!!!" signs you hung on the kitchen cabinets in the morning when Cheree, Brittany, or I had a basketball, volleyball, or tennis game after school that day. You instilled in us confidence and tenacity.
All those long strolls when I was home from college. I planned my life on those walks."
Love, Mindy

Going the Extra Mile

Laura's grandmother, Laura Franklin, walks a mile around her Houston neighborhood most mornings. But after a half mile, the 89-year-old has to let her dog back in the house. "He can't do the full mile," she chuckles. She passed down her energy to her daughter Kathleen. "I didn't have time to belong to the gym when I was raising my three kids, but I'd always walk the track while they were at soccer practice or take them on hikes in the woods," says Kathleen, the executive director of an educational nonprofit. She now hits the gym at 5:30 most mornings. "The year that Laura left for college, I decided to get a trainer," says Kathleen. "I wanted to have cut muscles when I turned 50!" Laura, who works in public relations, thinks about her mom and her grandmother when she doesn't feel like going to the gym to take her ballet aerobics class. "If they can do it, so can I, and that's what gets me there."

Thank you, Mom, for...

"Helping me lose 20 pounds without pressuring me. It was the summer after my junior year in college, and you told me that we needed to help inspire Dad to exercise by working out with him. That was smart of you, because I would've been angry if I thought you wanted me to lose weight. Four years later, I've kept those extra pounds off!"
Love, Laura

Thank you, Grandma, for...

Emphasizing the importance of getting in shape. "You'll get to see more things and do more things your entire life," you've told me. The fact that you toured China last year at age 88 is proof enough for me!
Love, Laura

Get Fit -- Body and Soul

Eight years ago, Alissa's dad suffered a major spinal-cord accident that put him in rehab for six months (he now walks with a cane). "I hated waking up alone -- it reminded me of how much our lives had changed -- so I started going to the gym first thing in the morning," Sylvia says. "I loved being surrounded by all these people working out." Her newfound strength helped her again in 2005 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. "I kept my workout clothes in the car and after my radiation treatments I would drive straight to the gym. I wanted my identity to be with healthy people." Now mother and daughter regularly take walks during the week on their lunch breaks. (They both work at McGill University, Alissa as a senior researcher in adolescent high-risk behavior and Sylvia as the associate director of the Centre for Educational Leadership.) "My childhood memories are full of skiing, snowshoeing, and swimming, and I want the same for my daughters," says Alissa, who also does Pilates twice a week. "I truly believe that exercise builds self-confidence and makes you a more interesting person."

Thank you, Mom, for...

"Teaching me the importance of making myself physically strong. I learned from you that when you're in shape, you can handle anything -- even stress and traumatic life events."
Love, Alissa

Buddy Up to Tone Up

If you're driving by the Charles River in Boston at 6 a.m. on a weekday, you'll probably see Nicole and Darlene doing push-ups and pull-ups as the sun rises. For three years, they've been attending the army-tough FitBoot fitness program that's held there. "I don't think I would've lasted this long without my mom -- going with her is what gets me out of bed every time," says Nicole, who is a marketing manager at Harvard Business School Publishing. Says Darlene, a preschool teacher who has dropped from a size 10 to a size 6 thanks to FitBoot, "Sometimes I'll say I'm too tired and Nicole will tell me, 'You can do it, Mom, let's go,' and then we're off."

Thank you, Mom, for...

"Being the best exercise buddy I could ask for. There's no one else I'd rather get up at 5:30 a.m. for!"
Love, Nicole

See Your Body as a Miracle

About 20 years ago, when Asha was a size 16, she started working out. "Exercising on the Stairmaster and lifting weights made the difference. I've been a size 10 since then," says the freelance writer. Her mother, Dolores, has always exercised; she now attends Gyrotonics classes, rides a stationary bike, and lifts weights. "I'm glad Asha found exercise for herself," says Dolores, a part-time headhunter. "I never preached to her; I knew that wouldn't work." Asha is applying that same sage technique to her daughter. "I want Nisa to see her body as the same miracle that I see it," she says.

Thank you, Mom, for...

"Teaching me to create a space for myself. I remember waking up in the morning when I was little and you would be practicing yoga. That was your time. Now I use my time at the gym as a way to be alone in my head and with my own body -- honoring it and taking care of it."
Love, Asha

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, June 2007.