Note from Molly: When I first invited my Aunt Judi to be a Spotlight, she felt very self-conscious and a bit reluctant. I told her about all the e-mails we get on a regular basis from readers asking GGS to Spotlight older women, and how she was the first woman I thought of. While I know Judi can be an inspiration for everyone, she told us that she’s doing this especially “For all the women who went to school before Title IX!”
Name: Judi Galbraith
Age: 72 this month
Location: Lexington, Kentucky
What does being a Girl Gone Strong mean to you?
It’s having emotional strength, physical health, and strength of character. To me, that strength of character is continuing to treat other people the way I want to be treated. I think strength of character is very important, and it leads me to look for the strengths in others. It has been an extremely important motivation for me.
How did you get introduced to strength training, and how long have you been training?
My niece, Molly! Last summer while on a family vacation at the beach, I told her I was concerned about losing my upper body strength, and she suggested lifting. I’ve now been strength training at Gym Laird Strength and Conditioning for for 13 months. I’ve been walking and doing exercise classes at the Y and doing video classes off and on for, maybe, 40 years. I had a wonderful role model—actually, I had two wonderful role models—for doing that: Hank Galbraith, my husband, and Dollie Galbraith, my mother-in-law. I think Hank started because of her, and as I continued to see her walking regularly and loving it, I thought “there’s something to this.” So when I was working full time I was walking two and a half to three miles, three or four times a week. And when I started working half-time it was four or five days a week with that, and three days a week of an exercise class for older people.
What does your typical workout look like? It’s getting on the floor every day for fifteen or twenty minutes—stretching, lifting my legs and arms, rolling—and going to the gym two days a week. Then either doing an exercise video or walking four or five days a week. I move every day, but I don’t really have a typical day.
I have two favorite lifts. The first is the kettlebell deadlift where, I am proud to say, on a regular basis I am lifting half my body weight. I also love kettlebell squats. I can do squats with good form, which reinforced me early on.
Most memorable PR:
I don’t actually have a most memorable PR
[Note from GGS: half your bodyweight is a pretty awesome PR!]
Top 5 songs on your training playlist:
Really I prefer absolutely no music. I wear two hearing aids, I train with my husband and a trainer, and I need to hear what they say! When we go to train after our gym’s regular class on Mondays, the music is always blaring and the first thing I do is ask if we can turn the music down.
Top 3 things you must have with you at the gym or in your gym bag:
I go to the gym from my home, take nothing into the gym, and then go back home. I don’t really need anything at the gym.
Do you prefer to train alone or with others? Why?
In all these years Hank and I have never trained together. We’d go to the same gym, but he would never be in my exercise class. Years ago we played racquetball, but we were in separate leagues. Our only exercise together was our Sunday walk, where we made it a point to walk together. And now we’ve tried something where we had no idea if it was going to work, and that’s go to the gym together! I’ve gotten such a kick out of it, and so has he.
We can laugh at each other, laugh at ourselves, tease each other. So it’s been fun, and it’s opened up a whole new experience for me.
Most embarrassing gym moment:
I went into this [strength training] with the attitude that we’re probably going to be the oldest in the room, and I could not let anything I did bother me. This is where I am, and if I’m going to get where I want to be, I just have to accept it. And there have been several times when I have fallen sideways when we’re supposed to be doing something on the mat. To be honest I have probably embarrassed myself more outside the gym by asking family members and friends to feel my biceps!
Best compliment you’ve received lately:
This is kind of cool. Fourth of July weekend I was with my nephew and his two friends and one of them turned to me and said, out of the blue, “I just want you to know, I love your energy.” And I thought, “Hey, I like that! A twenty-five-year-old guy telling me he loves my energy? That’s a pretty good compliment!”
Most recent compliment you gave someone else:
Well the first thing I thought of was something that happened that same weekend. I told my (73-year-old) sister-in-law, who also strength trains, that her arms were looking good. And they are! And then yesterday at the gym, there’s an older guy who just recently started, and in a matter of weeks I could see a difference. So I complimented him on it. I could tell it meant a lot to him.
It’s hard sometimes to see our own progress, but it’s easier to see someone else’s progress.
I have two answers to this: in the summer, by far, my favorite meal is Caprese salad with fresh tomatoes from the farmer’s market and my own backyard basil. And any other time of the year, it’s any meal that I don’t have to cook.
Favorite way to treat yourself:
That one’s easy! Traveling, eating at nice restaurants and going to pottery class. It is my hope that continued strength training will enable me to continue “treating” myself for many more years.
I’ve thought about this a lot. I love quotes and subscribe to a quote-a-day e-mail list. But really, my favorite quote is my own. When Hank and I were 55, he was diagnosed with his first cancer, and walking became even more important to me. It was a chance to clear my mind. And I found myself repeating this mantra that I use to this day, every day. On days I don’t walk, I use it as my sort of prayer before I go to sleep. It’s very simple:
“I will be strong, I will be healthy, I will be aware of my attitude.”
Of course, once I’m aware of my attitude I’m able to work on getting a positive attitude. Oftentimes, especially when health problems or other events negatively affect me, I know my attitude is something that I can control.
I can’t come up with one favorite book. I mean,that’s impossible. I thought about the first three writers who came to mind, who I love: Kurt Vonnegut, Pat Conroy (I’m so sad that he died!) and Toni Morrison. The only thing I can say definitively is that my favorite non-fiction book is “Boys In the Boat” (by Daniel James Brown). That book is so well written that I had to remind myself I was reading a factual book, not fiction. It’s the story of the Olympic rowing team for the 1936 Olympics.
What inspires and motivates you?
Hank Galbraith is an inspiration to me. What he’s overcome, his strength in overcoming it. Plus, he’s the one who started walking before I did. So his attention to his physical health is an inspiration. He started walking because he knew his sedentary job was not good for him, and he also realized the importance of being a good role model for his psychotherapy clients.
What do you do?
I’m retired now, I do not work at all. I have been, for most of my career, in public education. First as a special education teacher, then as a counselor, then at 40 I went back to get my MSW. I continued working as a school counselor or a social worker. One of the things that was neat about my job was that I retired early, with enough years to get my retirement, and then worked part time. That was wonderful. I completely stopped working three years ago.
What else do you do?
I exercise more. I love being able to go to lunch with my friends these days, because being in education you never left the building, much less went to lunch.
And I probably spend 12 to 15 hours a week trying to do pottery. I’ve always loved pottery, and I started taking classes years ago. I’m left-handed, and I’ve never found a teacher who could show me what to do. I’ve had to change everything around, but I’ve always loved it. I’ve started and stopped many times, mostly because of heart surgery and shoulder surgery. Because of strength training I can sit at the wheel for two to three hours. I can stir huge cans of glaze with a wooden stirrer.
It’s hard, but I can do it, all because of strength training.
Describe a typical day in your life, from waking up to bedtime:
Ummm, I don’t have a typical day.
Your next training goal:
I have a couple of goals. I started out with the same goal I’ve always had, and that is to not injure myself at the gym. I think for any older person, any of us really, that ought to be the main goal. Don’t hurt yourself! My other goal is to keep getting stronger!
What are you most grateful for?
Number one is my health. Number two is Hank’s recovery from some very serious illnesses including acute myeloid leukemia, lung cancer, and heart surgery.
What life accomplishment are you most proud of?
Really, my relationship with Hank. This month we will have been married for 49 years, and we’ve known each other for 51. It’s been an amazing ride. A good marriage is hard work. I’m also very proud of my career in public education. I feel grateful to have found a career that allowed me to be helpful to others.
Which three words that best describe you?
Enthusiastic, patient, and positive.
What’s a risk you’ve taken recently, and how did it turn out? OR Tell us about a time when you overcame fear or self-doubt.
Walking into the gym to start strength training at age 70 was risky, in my opinion. Now I urge my older friends to give it a try!
What’s the coolest “side effect” you’ve noticed from strength training?
Definitely the lack of pain. Since 2006 when my back was sprained during open heart surgery, and then when I had surgery on my left shoulder in 2008, I always had pain. Even after more than two years of rehab. When I worked in the garden or went to pottery class, I planned my life around the pain, which would follow. For anywhere from three to five days afterwards I could hardly move. I began strength training 13 months ago, and eight months ago the pain stopped. I thought my trainer was going to cry when I told her:
I no longer have to weigh how much pain I can endure in order to do the things I love.
How has lifting weights changed your life?
What do you want to say to other women who might be nervous to start strength training?
I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised by the high they get from lifting and pushing weights. You know, there’s never been a time when I didn’t feel better at the end of a walk than at the beginning. It’s a little different with strength training, but it’s still a high!
If you’re feeling inspired by Judi, read on to learn more about—and join!—our community of strong, supportive women…