By Staness Jonekos, Author The Menopause Makeover
Have you ever wondered how female body builders age? How menopause affects them? How do they keep fit after 40 or 50 and beyond?
Cory Everson won the Ms. Olympia contest six years in a row from 1984 to 1989. Cory showed the world you could be sexy and strong – even at 53! Check out her Ironman Magazine cover to the left — she was 50 – woweee!
Cory was the original host and producer of the fitness show “Body Shaping,” which was the number one rated fitness show on television. She is one of the top names in fitness today, and has authored numerous fitness books.
This busy lady has also appeared in the movies “Natural Born Killers,” “Double Impact,” and “Ballistic.” Her television work includes “Charmed,” “Home Improvement,” “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” and many more.
Today Cory has a line of workout equipment and accessories, and shares her fitness secrets with us in her “I’ve Still Got It!” interview.
Question: What was your inspiration to start bodybuilding?
Cory: I had a 4-year scholarship to attend the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Although I was not required to participate in sports I just didn’t feel complete without it. At the U of W, I lettered in gymnastics (yes I was the worlds largest gymnast) indoor track, badminton and outdoor track.
It wasn’t until I completed competing on college teams that I took a try at Bodybuilding. I had just won my 4th Big Ten Pentathlon Championships and I had this urge to try something new. Since gymnastics had given me a very early head start in the muscularity and stage presence department I felt I had an advantage in bodybuilding because these basics were already formed.
The strength coach at the time, Jeff Everson, was the person who actually noticed my potential and filled me in on the background of bodybuilding. I had never heard of it, so he showed me books and magazines and urged me to compete. I still to this day remember photos of a bodybuilder who came from gymnastics named Lynn Conkwright. I was impressed with the graceful blend of power and athleticism she portrayed.
Question: How long did it take to prepare for your first Ms. Olympia?
Cory: It took me a number of years of training to get to the top due to a major, scary setback during my first year out of college. In the middle of the night I woke up in massive pain, unlike anything I can even describe, but so great I thought I was dying. I was experiencing thrombophlebitus a major blood clot in my three major veins in my left leg which was blocking circulation from my hip down to my toes. I remember overhearing the doctors talking about a possible leg amputation if they couldn’t get blood circulation to the tissues.
I was hospitalized for six weeks in intensive care in Chicago with the doctors stumped as to why this had happened to a young healthy 20-year old athlete. As it turns out, I have a blood clotting disorder called Protein C Deficiency and Factor Five Leiden which put me at high risk to clot, but we didn’t know about this until some 20 years later when tests were finally invented to diagnose this rare and deadly problem. My doctor put me on a dangerous bout of an experimental drug called streptokinase to dissolve the clot that is what ultimately what saved my life and my leg.
I lost a tremendous amount of muscle weight and strength while I was bed ridden in the hospital. I was laying on my back unable to walk or even turn over for weeks on end. After I was released from intensive care I was moved down to critical care for another four weeks where they started to teach me how to walk again. I can’t tell you how afraid I was to just stand up and take one little baby step …but each day I took one more step until I was off my crutches and mobile again.
The doctor’s prognosis was that I would never be able to compete again, and most likely not walk normally either because of all the vascular damage.
It took me a few years of gaining strength, weight and mostly confidence to finally compete again. I lived in daily fear of this clot reoccurring. I had to be so cautious to even exercise, so I took it slowly and set little mini goals. This was 1980, and I won the Ms. Olympia in 1984.
To win my first Ms. O was truly a surprise. Honestly I was not expecting to even place in the top ten as it was my first Professional competition. I was coming off a victory at the National Championships, and was invited to compete in the pros in just a couple weeks.
Question: When you hit 40, did you find it more difficult to stay fit?
Cory: Not really at 40, I didn’t notice much change in my body. For me it was more like 45 when first my eyesight started to go, and then slight body changes followed, but it is not like it happened overnight.
I wasn’t exercising as much and many times not all, so I still wonder if it is not aging per say that makes the body change but instead not exercising with the same intensity as before. Sometimes I believe that we fall out of shape mostly because we get busier with less time to train, we have more responsibilities, maybe don’t eat as correctly and less of the fact that we are getting older.
After we finished with our ESPN-TV fitness series “Gotta Sweat” my husband and I adopted 2 kids from Russian orphanages, so my focus changed almost overnight. It suddenly went from its all about me/us to it is all about them. At age of 40 I became a parent and that alone was a new experience.
I actually don’t think it would be that hard to stay relatively fit if you have the time to exercise a little and can stick to a clean diet. Time management is the biggest challenge I find for most of us. When we lose our motivation the end result is our butts get bigger and cellulite takes hold of where nice toned shape used to exist. Lack of time is a huge culprit.
Question: What body area was the most difficult to keep tone after 40?
Cory: I think across the board it is the lower abdominals, hips and butt. Those are the places as a female fat wants to accumulate. But after saying that I think we don’t give ourselves half the credit we deserve to be able to redirect our own destiny.
I am serious when I say we can have better control over these areas by balancing the right amount of exercise with the right amount of caloric intake. Some people don’t want to hear this, but we have more power to control our physicality than we think.
Menopause definitely has its challenges, but we can’t use it as a crutch nor an excuse. We can do things about it. Of course changes take place but we can slow them down and determine just how far we will let it go.
I know many women in their late 40’s to early 50’s that are in the best shape of their lives. I see it more and more and often times these women are in far better shape than their 16 year old daughters.
The bad news is that as we age our hormone production in our ovaries slows. The good news is our fat cells actually have the capability to produce estrogen. So I welcome a certain amount of body fat to maintain some estrogen production. Exercise also stimulates testosterone production in both men and women which is important to in building our lean body mass (which is responsible for our metabolic rate.) More reason to exercise.
Question: Did menopausal hormone fluctuations affect your body after 40?
Cory: Not until about 48. When I turned 50 I really noticed it mostly in the texture of my skin and neck, legs. I remember last year my daughter playing with the skin on my neck enjoying herself so much commenting how it was like working with Play-doh …funny to her at least not so much to me. I am 53 now and wonder who is staring back at me in the mirror sometimes…when did I get those little lines around my eyes? Seems like they all of a sudden appeared.
I think my body has held up better than my skin, and I honestly believe that would be the same for most women. We can control what we eat, how we exercise, but we can’t really control our skin. I think the hormones really challenge our skin’s texture and color, our hair health, facial lines, and yes moods and patience.
I did a photo shoot when I turned a half century old and believe it or not wore a bikini on the cover. I didn’t even question that since all I had ever worn in photo shoots was bathing suits and leotards. I didn’t really think about being 50, it just didn’t cross my mind …. what was I thinking?
I doubt I would be so quick to jump into a photo shoot nowadays. I would need to prepare a bit more than before.
Question: What tips do you have for women over 40 on staying fit?
Cory: I think to be realistic is key, don’t expect to look like you did when you were 16 or 25. Life has an effect on all of us, so take the good with the bad. Don’t sit back and just give up either. Put up a fight and do a little something for yourself each and everyday. Not only do you need it for physical health, but equally important for your psychological and emotional health as well.
Join a gym. Say hi to new friends, take some classes that push you a little harder than you would push yourself at home. Don’t be afraid to fail or get intimidated, if you even show up you are already more successful than you were yesterday…just go to the back of the class and be the best you can.
No one expects you to be a superstar, so you shouldn’t either. As long as you sweat a little, who the heck cares if you followed the routine correctly. Just live and laugh, and enjoy each day but at the end of the night think back and make sure you did a little something for yourself. Hey it is okay if it was just a 20-minute walk… that was the best 20 minutes you could have ever taken for yourself.
Don’t compare yourself to others… you are your own person and inherited your own set of DNA so don’t compare. You are unique both with the challenges, as well as the gifts you were given so don’t compare. Don’t give up don’t get frustrated. Try to reset your focus onto all the wonderful gifts you have and remove any negative thoughts that are floating around your little head. Be grateful everyday for your health and respect your body.
1.Take a little walk for at least 20 minutes 3-5 days a week. If you are already doing that then add a few minutes to your existing time or try to walk that same walk a little faster to make it more intense.
Or make time for a few cardio days…try spinning or taking a dance class to get your heart rate up to where you feel like you are late for a meeting and you are a little short of breath but not gasping for air. This insures you are in your fat burning zone. Remember the first 15 minutes your body is burning stored sugars, so any amount of time after that you are most likely burning fat stores.
2. Try to do three days a week of 20-30 minutes of weights, either machines or take a sculpting class. You need this to maintain your lean body mass and maintain your muscle and bone strength (will help prevent osteoporosis) your metabolism stoked throughout the day. Muscle burns calories throughout the day it is metabolically active fat on the other hand does not. Lean muscle not only looks great, but allows us to eat a little more.
3. Always eat clean basic foods, reducing the amount of dressings, fats, sugars and white flour items. Don’t fry your food, instead grill bake or broil it. Just eat the way you think our forefathers ate. Eat raw fruits and veggies and lean meats…it is not that hard to do at all and is so uncomplicated. If you eat this way, you can actually eat more, because the choices are so low in fat and processed sugar. Give it a try it is so, so, so easy. It is all about making good choices, just like we teach our kids.
Question: What is your “I’ve Still Got It!” moment? (Cory has a few)
Cory: When a truckload of teenage boys kids drove by saw me walking my dogs and whistled. If they only knew that under my baseball hat and glasses was a 53 year old mom.
When I was on the cover of Ironman Magazine at age 50 in a tiny bikini.
When my sister and I were ‘hit on’ by a college volleyball team …until my nephew yelled at his teammates to stop talking about the hot cougars because they were commenting about his Mom and Aunt.