My six-month plan to go from being a couch potato to a mogul masher.

I had a revelation and a wake-up call on the slopes of Heavenly Mountain Resort this winter while skiing a few runs with the resort’s director of skier services. I had not taken my own advice regarding pre-skiing conditioning or done anything to lose the pounds that have piled on in the last decade or so. And even though I had been able to squeeze into my ski pants and didn’t seem to be affected by the 7,000-foot mid-mountain elevation, I felt like a lumbering whale as I went down the slopes. When I got into gunk, I really had to struggle to work my way out of it. I just didn’t have any strength.

Correspondent Rose Marie Cleese BEFORE she started her fitness program. Credit: Rose Marie Cleese
Correspondent Rose Marie Cleese BEFORE she started her fitness program.
Credit: Rose Marie Cleese

But having my ski gene reactivated and sitting amid all that alpine splendor at lunch, I realized how much I love this invigorating sport and all that comes with it. I decided then and there that one of the things on my bucket list (which I still haven’t put together) is going to be skiing down a slope somewhere at age 90!

So I’m going public with my fitness plan; if that doesn’t keep me on track, I don’t know what will! Plus I’m hoping that my personal journey to fitness will encourage other seniors to make the effort to get in the shape they need to be in to return to the slopes and be able to ski safely and with great satisfaction. And I hope that we’ll learn from each other as I share my progress over the next six or seven months. Comments and suggestions are encouraged! My monthly progress reports will be interspersed with bold-faced suggestions to help readers take action.

So, first things first. Before folks at our age jump into a fitness and diet regimen, it’s vital to have the blessing of one’s doctor. I had a complete physical a few months ago, and my doctor was encouraging me to move more, eat less and more healthy. I’m planning to include a few comments from her in a future progress report. Check with your doctor before you begin any fitness and/or diet program.

Since I can’t afford a personal trainer and have a big DIY streak in me, I’m planning to do a mix of things that I think I can stick with, keeping in mind the elements of fitness and health in general and for skiers and boarders specifically. Ignoring any one of these will not get me where I need to be next November. But at its simplest, it all gets down to exercise and diet.

No nonsense aerobics instructor Pablo Molina keeps his classes hopping. He'll be 73 in June, just a few months older than Rose Marie
No-nonsense aerobics instructor Pablo Molina keeps his classes hopping. He’ll be 73 in June, just a few months older than Rose Marie. Credit: San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department

First, I plan to move a lot more. In March, I started several once-a-week classes at the local San Francisco Park and Rec Senior Center located in Golden Gate Park two blocks from my flat: a low-impact and a medium-impact aerobics class, a stretching and strengthening class, and a weights class. And they’re all free. Look for free fitness classes or programs for seniors; they’re more common than you’d think. These classes have shown me in no uncertain terms what I have to work on most: building up my core strength and regaining my balance!

Cardiovascular-wise, I’m finding that, after just six weeks, I’m hardly out of breath now when I walk up the hill to my flat after class. My exercise goal is this: by the end of the summer, to be able to do all the floor core-building exercises and the aerobics exercises that involve balance without batting an eyelash. It’s a pretty pathetic sight to see right now!

My other big move toward fitness and good health was joining Weight Watchers. I’ve known many people over the years who have sworn by it and were also able to maintain a healthy weight once they quit. Choose a dietary program that you can stick to. I signed up for Weight Watchers’ online program in mid-April for three months and after figuring out how to navigate around the website, I’m finding that I’ve become a lot more conscious of my food consumption. Since Weight Watchers’ integrates activity into the point system, I’m also seeing quantitatively the connection between exercise and what and how much one eats. When I started, I weighed 170 pounds and today my weight is 166 pounds. My goal is to reach 140 pounds by the end of my three months with Weight Watchers’, next maintain that weight for a couple of months, and then get down to 130 pounds before the flakes fly.

And finally, I want to concentrate on getting adequate sleep. I’m still working on that one, inveterate night owl and all-nighter puller that I am. I am, however, making sure I get a good night’s sleep when I have an exercise class the next morning. It’s a start!

One more caveat before I sign off: set realistic goals. I expect that I will hone this fitness plan in the coming months, possibly adding some yoga classes, hiking the trails in the wealth of parklands that surround me, and adding more fruits and vegetables to my larder. All I have to do, whenever I waver, is picture being at the top of some fabulous snow-covered mountain, and everything seems possible. Wish me luck!

[Editor’s Note: salutes Rose Marie for publicly chronicling her personal journey back to fitness  She is an inspiration to us and we hope to those seniors in our readership or friends of our readership who would benefit from getting back into shape.  Please support her with advice and comments as she travels down that challenging road.]


  1. aamaginn says:

    What an inspirational article Rose Marie, all the followers of SeniorsSkiing will follow your journey and help to keep you inspired. You definitely inspired me to join Weight Watchers, something I have been considering, but you have pushed me to action to help me recovery from an ankle injury without adding extra pounds from a forced decreased activity level. Best of luck, use this warmer weather to gear up for the slopes in the fall.

  2. vickie louie says:

    I am amazed at your determination to return to the slopes! Keep up the spirit and dedication Rose Marie!

  3. John Barker says:

    Hello Rose Marie.
    Congratulations on your return to the skiing life. I know from experience just this past summer how easy it is to get a couch potato attitude. As you pointed out you cannot wish to be in better skiing condition or ski yourself fit and healthy.
    We must get motivated to stay fit and healthy. Your reports will be passed on to a large number of my friends, some are more fit and healthier than I am, they are into their 70’s and 90’s.
    My wife and I also have a low impact exercise plan to start soon. We will be looking forward to more articles from you; and I will try to send you some activities that we are doing. So far we are dieting and improving on that with healthier choices. Low caffeine intake and more protein smoothies. They are better than junk foods.
    Good luck in the following months.
    Yours sincerly.
    John and Joyce Barker.

    • Rose Marie Cleese says:

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with me about this series I’ll be writing through summer and early fall. And thanks too for your good wishes. I just posted Part Two and, as you’ll read, I could be doing better changing my eating habits, but at least I discovered that what my doctor said is true: a robust exercise plan alone is not going to help me shed all those extra pounds I’ve been packing around for several years now! So I now have a more robust plan for my diet in the next four weeks. Stay tuned!

  4. Jeff Stizza says:

    Very inspiring. I’m looking forward to following your progress!

  5. Just what the doctor ordered; someone to inspire me to get up, get moving, get out and will my body to do what it used to do easily. I want the enjoyment of “hitting the ski slopes” without actually hitting the snow pack. Only getting in shape will help me do that.

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