SHiNING Star: Nan Solow
Location: Pittsburgh, PA, USA
SHiNE Certification Date: Spring 2020
Favorite SHiNE routine: I Feel Good by Pitbull
We all make excuses.
I’m too tired. Too clumsy. Too old. Too out of shape. Too busy.
Enough. Enough excuses. Enough with the self-loathing. Enough with the shame.
We’re putting our bossy pants on and shouting it from the rooftops. YOU ARE ENOUGH. And if you don’t believe us, just ask Nan.
Nan found SHiNE at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, and at 79 years old, she’s one of our most active SHiNE Online participants. We had to find out what her secret-sauce for life was, because let’s be honest, we all want a little of that on our breakfast every morning.
An early-bird by nature, Nan spent 35 years teaching 4th and 5th grade, training her brain to wake up with the sun and start each day with enthusiasm. After retirement, Nan says her job changed to keeping herself strong and healthy. With a mindset like that, she must have grown up fit-as-a-fiddle, right? Nope. When asked if she had any dance experience prior to finding SHiNE, Nan replied with an emphatic, “Oh, heck no!” In fact, she recalls weighing 150 lbs at the age of 10 and lovingly referred to herself as, “a little roly-poly of a person.”
“I remember my mother taking my sister (who was lean) and I to dance class, and when I found out I had to wear a leotard and tutu I hid in the closet and never went back!” says Nan.
In another moment of reflection, Nan shared a memory from elementary school where she and her classmates were told to line up in gym class according to weight. “It was awful,” she said.
So, when did exercise become a part of Nan’s routine? “I was not athletic and did not begin to enjoy moving my body until I was into my teenage years,” says Nan. She found tennis and swimming and quite enjoyed doing both, but recalls that her motivation at the time was to lose weight and be smaller, a big change from her motivation today which is simply to be healthy and strong.
“Getting older is not for sissies,” says Nan. “But I view it as a privilege because not everybody gets to grow old.”
Nan spent the last 40 years as a self-proclaimed gym-rat and added aerobics to her routine when Jane Fonda hit the scene. Even with no fitness background, Nan felt determined to incorporate a variety of movement into her life and she did just that for years!
Nan is, by nature, a motivated person, so when she had a stroke in 2017, she was not going to let that keep her down. “I baffled the doctors,” she says. “I had no indicators or health issues that would typically lead to a stroke other than I was a woman in my mid 70’s.” But because she was fit and strong, Nan was able to rehab and get back at it. “I was grateful for having made some great decisions in my past,” says Nan.
Even though she wanted to jump right back into her workouts where she left off, Nan’s doctors restricted her activities, and at first she would simply go and walk around the track at the gym. She says she was envious of the folks in the group fitness classes and the physical therapist soon allowed her to just go in, stand in the back and march. “I’d listen to the music, let it fill me, and keep marching,” says Nan. Eventually, Nan was able to increase her activities by modifying her workouts to suit her needs.
“It took me a while to learn not to be stubborn and to accommodate and modify my moves,” says Nan. “ I learned to respect the changing needs of my body. It’s unavoidable. It’s sometimes demoralizing, especially when you focus on what you used to be able to do, but if you want to continue exercising and leading a healthy lifestyle, you’ve got to listen to your body or it will just cry louder.”
With no dance background, we wanted to know why dance fitness spoke to Nan now…
“When Covid hit, I was scared to death that I would become a blob by not going to the gym, so I went to the internet to find something I could do at home.” And so began Nan’s SHiNE journey.
“As soon as I found SHiNE I knew it was the right thing for me. It makes me happy.” Nan says, “I’d like to say I became less self-conscious, but that’s not it.” Rather, Nan enjoys the life lessons that come from her instructors, the freedom to workout at a time that suits her, and the way SHiNE energizes her body and spirit. “I gain energy by exercising,” says Nan. “I’m more tired sitting in a doctor’s office or a car than when I’m moving my body.”
When we grow up, we want to be like Nan. So, we had to ask what her advice would be for adopting healthy habits that lead to longevity.
“Find a form of exercise you love and enjoy,” says Nan. “SHiNE fits the bill for me. Within whatever you find, avoid overdoing. If you can’t jump, you step. If you can’t dance, you march. If you can’t do a full class, you do a half class. Acknowledge and celebrate and put focus on what you CAN do.”