Skip to content

Dorothy Hamill on Staying Fit at 58

The 1976 Olympian keeps it simple but isn't afraid to try new things

Fit & Fab Dorothy Hamill Fitness Advice Exercise

John Mutrux/Kansas City Star/Newscom

Dorothy Hamill, 1976 Olympian.

The athleticism, the grace, the contagiously cute haircut — it all made it hard not to love figure skating phenom Dorothy Hamill throughout the 1970s and 1980s. At just 12, the Connecticut resident won her first skating title. She then went on to captivate America with a gold medal win at the 1976 Winter Olympics and a first place spot at the 1976 world championships. Her professional career was nothing short of remarkable.

She added four pro titles to her résumé, lent her name and talent to charitable causes, headlined her own TV specials, and performed in shows like the Ice Capades, which she owned until 1984. Along the way, she raised a daughter, 27-year-old Alexandra Forsythe, from her second marriage, to Kenneth Forsythe. In 2009 she married business executive John MacColl.

What's she up to now? Various projects, including an annual, week-long fantasy figure skating camp, where a group of lucky applicants get lessons from retired pros like herself. Yes, that means she's still skating, just not nearly as rigorously as she was at the height of her career. Back then, she was practicing on the ice before sunrise. At 58, she still makes it a priority to stay active on and off the ice. Here, Hamill gives her top nine health and fitness tips, which she shared with us during a recent talk in her Indian Wells, Calif., digs.

1. Never get bored

I walk a 3.2-mile stretch in the desert in California with a group of lovely women. I also count walking my dog Penny (a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel) as exercise. I ride my bike. I'll go to the fitness center and jump on the weight machines a few times a week. I like the rowing machine and I love TRX (a suspension training system, in which you perform body-weight exercises while elevated by your upper or lower body).

2. Know your limits

When I'm on the ice, I get disgusted when I think about what I used to be able to do and what I can do now. I struggle with whether I want to try and do something and I have to accept it if I can't. I do love going in and tooling around the ice with music. I don't jump anymore. I'm afraid to. The falling hurts so much, and I have a degenerative spine condition. It's not worth doing. The speed work and skating around the edges are fun to do. And I still spin!

3. Exercise for the body and mind

I have more energy when I do physical activity. My head is clearer. It doesn't have to be rigorous activity, but if I go too long without doing something, I get very foggy. I have more negative thoughts. It must be those endorphins from the exercise that make me feel so much better.

4. Don't neglect your core

I've learned from skating that keeping your core muscles strong is very important so now core exercises are my favorite. I'll do planks and use the stability ball. I love TRX, which I do twice a week. I like that it helps with balance, and the options it gives you to stretch a muscle. It uses your own body weight. I really like that. My upper body is very weak, so strengthening it is something I really try to do. If you have your own TRX equipment, you can take it everywhere.

5. Motivate yourself with music

I exercise to just about any kind of music you can think of, from pop to classical to Broadway tunes. I'm enjoying Meghan Trainor lately.

6. Strive to eat healthy

I don't follow a particular regimen. My food is eclectic, like my music. I try to eat healthfully. I eat three meals a day. I'm trying to get better at eating breakfast. I'll have a smoothie in the morning with Greek yogurt, protein powder, fruit and flaxseed to get my vitamins.

7. Keep healthy stuff at home

My go-to healthy foods are broccoli [high in fiber] and brussels sprouts [high in vitamin C], chicken breast [lean protein], tomatoes [contains cancer-fighting lycopene], walnuts [packed with anti-inflammatory-rich Omega-3 fatty acids] and almonds [they lower bad cholesterol].

8. Indulge sometimes

We love peppermint stick ice cream. Luckily, it's usually only around during the holidays. And I love cookies. I just don't keep them in the house, or they'd go pretty fast around here.

9. Start little by little

It's so hard to take a huge leap. Take a little leap by walking a few blocks or taking the stairs. Little things like that can add up. Do a gentle run in place at home. Maybe do it twice a day. Before you know it, you'll feel better. It's the movement that matters.

Stacy Julien is executive online editor for the Health Channel.