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How I Became Ripped at 70

Joan MacDonald's path to fitness — and Instagram stardom

joan macdonald standing on the beach


En español | When my daughter, Michelle, was home for Christmas in 2016, she told me she was worried about my health. At the time, I was 70 years old and nearly 200 pounds — at only 5 foot 3 — and on meds for blood pressure, cholesterol and acid reflux. I'd had a knee replacement several years earlier, but I hadn't fully recovered — I could still take only one step at a time on the stairs. My blood pressure was rising, and my doctor was threatening to up my meds. I hated how I was living.

joan macdonald flexing muscles

Courtesy of Joan MacDonald

Michelle is a personal trainer in Mexico, and she dared me to let her train me long-distance. It was strategic: She knows I'm always up for a dare, and I agreed to start training that January. She put me in a group with other women who were learning to lift weights and eat a more balanced diet — and it worked. I lost 40 pounds within six months.

Then Michelle got another idea: She said I should join Instagram. I'm a little reserved by nature, and she thought it would get me out of my shell. I said OK. At first I didn't hear from many people, but as I posted about fitness and continued to lose weight and get stronger, my account accumulated more and more followers. I've got more than 900,000 of them now. I've lost nearly 70 pounds total and become much stronger, healthier and happier — and I'm off all of my meds. Every day, I interact with people who are inspired by my story of turning my life around. I'm called an influencer now. When I joined the platform, I didn't even know what an influencer was.

People sometimes tell me, “You're lucky having a daughter who's a coach.” That is true, but I did the work! I hear from people all the time who have been able to reduce or get off their meds through diet and exercise, and they don't all have a daughter who's a coach. They just have the discipline to do the work.

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Joan's favorite moves to stay fit and flexible

Glute Clamshell

Lie on your side with your knees bent and a loop resistance band around your thighs. With your feet together, raise your top knee. Hold, then lower. Do this 10 times, then switch sides and repeat.

Glute Kickback

Holding a chair, stand with your feet apart and a loop band above your ankles. Swing one leg straight behind you. Hold, then lower. Do this 10 times, then switch sides and repeat.

Hip Thrust

Sit on the floor with your knees bent, your feet flat, your shoulders propped against a bench. Raise your hips until your back is parallel to the floor. Hold, then lower your hips. Do this 10 times.

Joan MacDonald, 75, is a retired driver's license examiner who divides her time between Cobourg, Ontario, and Tulum, Mexico. Her Instagram handle is @trainwithjoan.

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