Tonal member Tracy Dingman proves it’s never too late to get started.
By Tracy Dingman as told to Karen Iorio Adelson
I’ve always done things later in life. I got my undergraduate degree at age 40 and graduated law school at 50. Exercise has been the same way for me. Now, at 65 years old, I’m in the best shape of my life, I’m hiking around the world—and I have no plans to slow down.
As a stay-at-home mom with three boys, I didn’t have a lot of time to go to the gym when my kids were growing up. I picked up running in my 50s, but I kept getting injured, so I started strength training to see if it would help me better handle the impact of running. Around that time, I also fell in love with hiking as a way to see new places while staying active.
My first hike was a coast-to-coast trip in England with my husband. It was a great way to see the country. After that, all of our vacations became hiking trips. We’ve hiked in Spain and Glacier National Park in Montana with our kids.
My husband recently started having health issues and can’t hike as much, so now I usually go with a group of women. We’re all in our 50s, 60s, and 70s. When you do hard things together as a group, it’s fun to talk about it afterward. We bond over these shared experiences.
Strength training has made a huge impact on my ability to hike. I used to work out with trainers, but a few years ago when we moved from Austin, Texas, to a small rural community outside Houston, I didn’t have that option anymore. That’s when I decided to buy a Tonal.
After working out with Tonal for a year now, I think everybody needs one. It’s the best for lifting as you get older. Research shows that women need to lift heavy as they age, and Tonal allows me to do that safely, helping me to stay active and avoid ending up in a nursing home.
I love that Tonal lets me increase weight in one-pound increments. I have really strong legs, but I don’t have a lot of upper-body strength. To add one pound on a bench press or an overhead press is a big thing for me. Mentally, it’s easier to think I can add just one pound instead of having to jump from a 15- to 20-pound dumbbell.
I also like that I don’t have to keep up with a coach as I lift because Tonal lets me lift at my own pace. I can focus on maintaining my balance and form during single-leg Romanian deadlifts instead of rushing to keep up with someone on the screen.
Since I started working out on Tonal, I’ve gained endurance, balance, and agility that all help with hiking. I hiked the Georgia portion of the Appalachian trail this spring. I did the same hike two years ago, and I remember struggling to walk on this log across a creek. This time, it was so much easier because my balance is better, and I have more core strength after training on Tonal.
In the past, I’ve felt ready to quit after 13 miles of hiking, but this year, I was able to do 17 miles in a day without feeling like my legs were dragging. I was really surprised that the hike was actually easier now even though I’m two years older. My legs are so much stronger. I was even able to hike Everest Base Camp on my own last November. Now, every time I climb up a step while hiking, I think about resisted step-ups on Tonal.
Hiking over rocks, like I’ve done in Vermont, requires a lot of mobility and flexibility, which I’ve built up in Coach Jared Rodriguez’s mobility sessions. The new recovery weight workouts have also been great for the days leading up to a hike. I like to do those for lower-body lifts with lighter resistance so my legs aren’t beat before I head out to the trails.
My Tonal leaderboard name is LongevityGoals because I still have more I want to do. This year, I have plans to hike Mont Blanc in Switzerland, as well as the Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce. Next year, I’m hoping to do the Camino de Santiago in Spain—that’s my ideal hike because there’s tapas and red wine at the end of each day!
I’m always thinking long term. I tell myself, my race isn’t today; my race is in 20 years. I work out today so I can hike tomorrow. I also work out today so that when I’m 80, I can still bring in the groceries and keep my two-story house. No matter when you get started, it’s never too late when it comes to your health.