Marge Holston moved to Spokane Valley from Southern California and somehow left a lot of her activity behind. That’s when she decided to join a gym, hire a trainer and start working out.
“I knew I needed to get motivated right away,” Holston said between repetitions on a weight machine pinpointing shoulder muscles. “At 79, I can do everything I need to do. I’m proud of it, man.”
She jumped up and headed to the next machine, never missing a stride as she talked about living alone for 30 years after her husband died, mowing the lawn and her love for shoveling snow.
Although Holston is fit and active, she was knocked down in February by the shingles virus. The nerve pain was so fierce it kept her from the gym. She lost 15 pounds of muscle and now her regular routine is difficult.
“Oooh, it’s almost like starting over,” Holston said, her blue eyes squinted in concentration and discomfort as she lifted the last set.
Yet if Holston hadn’t been strong and active when the shingles hit, she likely wouldn’t be recovering so well, said trainer Stacy Benoscek, who specializes in helping the aging stay active, fit and healthy.
Holston credits Benoscek for her success.
“This is why I’ve been coming to her all these years,” Holston said.
And she enjoys the fact that her personal trainer is also a pageant queen who recently won the title of National Classy and Petite Mrs. Queen in the Today’s American Woman Pageant in Greenville, South Carolina.
To translate, that means Benoscek, who turns 50 this year as the youngest of the baby boom generation, won her age group 39-49 for married women under 5 feet 4 inches. Benoscek, who has won smaller titles at the state level, represented the state of Washington among 38 competitors.
Pageant spokeswoman Karly Rose said Benoscek stood out because of her “poise, class and inward and outward beauty” even though she severely injured her knee days before the pageant.
“You would have never known the incredible pain she was in while wearing her high heels and walking across the stage without even a limp,” Rose wrote in an email interview. “Her character and strength inspired us all.”
That’s exactly why Benoscek said she participates in pageants, to inspire people to have a fitness plan for aging and longevity – not just so they can wear a swimsuit or look good at the class reunion. Aging gracefully is all about strength and balance, she said, adding that people need to start in their 50s if not sooner.
“Wake up. You are going to live a long time. Take care of yourself,” Benoscek said almost like a battle cry to her fellow baby boomers who are expected to live into their 90s. She wants everyone to start exercising today to avoid common – and preventable – aging problems such as humped posture, tripping, falls and muscle atrophy.
Falls are the leading cause of injury – including broken hips and traumatic brain injuries – and death in older Americans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Experts also say that people who train and stay strong usually heal faster after a fall and have less chance of serious injury if they do fall.
“A title and a crown opens the door,” she said. “You do what you have to do to get people to hear you.”
Ever the self-promoter, Benoscek winked as she admitted she likes getting dressed up and rockin’ a bikini at age 49.
But then she got serious and talked about being raised in the state foster care system, weighing 230 pounds, having epilepsy and a teenage son with autism. Pageant judges often ask her why she mentions her tumultuous history.
“This isn’t the ‘Real Housewives of Orange County,’ ” she said. “We all have struggles. There is no perfection.”
Benoscek chooses to work with seniors because she said life has given her compassion. With television shows like “The Biggest Loser,” she said there is a current trend in belittling and degrading fitness clients. She sees no use for that, especially with people who are aging and have health issues.
Currently she has clients who are recovering from knee replacements, rotator cuff surgery and chemotherapy treatments. She also deals with nutritional concerns such as diabetes, obesity and gout, and immune system disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Benoscek and her husband, Ken, are both certified personal trainers who pay a fee to Oz Fitness in the Spokane Valley so they can work with their clients there. The clients have to join Oz. Benoscek said that way they can work out alone in a safe environment with familiar equipment.
Holston is confident doing leg workouts solo but needs Benoscek’s help and guidance for her upper body. Benoscek said it’s crucial to help keep clients’ bodies in alignment while using the weight machines.
“My job is to look at every single detail,” she said while helping hold Holston’s shoulders in alignment while lifting. “You can really hurt yourself if you don’t know what you’re doing.”
One of the main things Benoscek focuses on is posture, which involves strengthening and stretching the chest, back and shoulder muscles. This, she said, will help eliminate the sure sign of aging – the stooped-over hump. Stretching and increasing range of motion in all the joints is also crucial as is strengthening core muscles and working on balance.
To prevent tripping, Benoscek said people have to stretch their calves and practice raising their toes.
“The things we do here is to make your life out there easier,” she said. “If you have no core structure to support you, everything is hard from brushing your teeth and vacuuming to putting on your shoes.”