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Superhero Senior Sunday: The Colorful Life of Peggy Molnar & Succeeding with Multiple Sclerosis

– by Emma Mattison, NASM-CPT, CNC, SFC


Welcome to our inaugural Superhero Senior Sunday! The first Sunday of every month, there will be an article in which I feature some stories about FANTASTIC mature adults. The goal for the series is to share inspiring stories of exercisers and seasoned athletes over 50. I want people to understand how capable we all are, and how wonderful it is to live a life of regular, enjoyable activity!


I have some really incredible people, with whom I have had the pleasure of working with, that enjoy their lives and exercise regularly – and some of them happen to live with conditions such as fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and different forms of arthritis.


March's Featured SUPERHERO


This month's featured superhero is Peggy Molnar. If you are someone out there who experiences multiple sclerosis or type II diabetes, has recently been diagnosed, or just appreciates the success of others – you will want to read this incredible story!



Peggy is a 72-year-old baby boomer who resides in John Day, OR. Working for 30 years with the United States Forestry Service (USFS) as a Human Resources Specialist, she eventually retired in 2007. Peggy also has three children. That in and of itself is a feat worth mentioning – to any working mothers out there, kudos to you!


To get a sense of her personality even more, she states, "I love the sunshine and anything sparkly and colorful."


She is a courageous, determined woman. I want to start off first by sharing her typical exercise routine:


  • Gym with trainer 2x per week

  • Walk 3 days per week outside (3 miles each day)

  • Yoga 1x per week

  • Balance Training with my BalanceFit program videos 2-3x per week


As a personal trainer myself, I can attest that Peggy's exercise regimen reflects an exemplary training program that people of ALL AGES should be doing (of course, at varying intensities). Her exercise program is incredibly well rounded, including a healthy mix if endurance, functional fitness through balance training, flexibility, and corrective strength exercises specified by her trainer.


To top it off, Peggy even does cool down exercises – a critical step to an exercise program that most people ignore.


Below is Peggy's approach to recovery:


"I do a cool down routine after the gym. I stretch. I drink a lot of water. I rest in the late afternoons as I have limited energy. I take one full day off per week."

I would recommend Peggy's approach to the general population of all ages for functional fitness and improved longevity.


I think it's safe to say from first glance at this 72-year old seasoned athlete and avid exerciser, many may assume Peggy to be in perfect health. While in ways, I would argue that she is in perfect health, read on as she shares a few health conditions with which she has learned to thrive.


"I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) nearly 25 years ago. Luckily, I still have mobility. I’m also a type II diabetic and have a rare eye disease known as Keratoconus*."

*For those curious, Mayo Clinic defines that Keratoconus (ker-uh-toe-KOH-nus) occurs when your cornea — the clear, dome-shaped front surface of your eye — thins and gradually bulges outward into a cone shape. A cone-shaped cornea causes blurred vision and may cause sensitivity to light and glare.



Multiple sclerosis is an incredibly prevalent disease, and is characterized by a degeneration of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves – which constitutes the central nervous system and controls everything we do. According to an article published in 2020 by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, there are now 2.8 million people worldwide who have multiple sclerosis (MS). Furthermore, women are four times more likely to experience MS than men.


Yet, how is it that Peggy continues to thrive? Let's hear from her directly:


"Exercise has saved my life. With MS, it’s critical not only for your physical health but also for your mental health. I truly love exercise as it helps combat MS depression as well."

In an article published by John Hopkins Medicine, it was reported that roughly 50% of individuals who are diagnosed with MS experience MS related depression. It is important to note that, of the individuals who experience MS depression, many will not reflect an emotional phenotype characterized by society as "depressed." Often times, the depression may be experienced as irritability, anger, not feeling like oneself and/or uncertainty about the future.


In light of this challenge, Peggy shares that regular exercise, "...gives me more energy, as MS fatigue can be debilitating. It makes me feel better mentally. It helps me cope with all the stress I’ve endured. Overall, I just have a better quality of life by exercising."



If You've Just Been Diagnosed with MS


For many, the diagnosis of any health condition can seem a sentence of suffering. Many even feel that they don't have control over their bodies. If you have been recently diagnosed with a health condition, I hope that this month's Superhero Senior article gives you the encouragement you need to make lifestyle changes that do have the ability to improve your life.


Specifically, Peggy shares her advice for those who find out they have MS:

"If you’re diagnosed with MS, seek natural remedies as much as possible and immediately establish an exercise program that suits your mobility. Also, eat a healthy diet."


"...Immediately establish an exercise program that suits your mobility." Very well said! Keep exercises challenging, but do-able – with proper form! Don't strive for pain, and don't strive for excessive soreness.


If you are considering starting an exercise program, you may want to try out 1-2 of Peggy's exercise options from her weekly routine, and work up from there gradually. I would even throw in Tai Chi as an exercise form for active recovery days, too. It's important that you enjoy the movement you choose. Peggy loves walking, but especially enjoys personal training with her friend and trainer, Kaidee. Peggy recommends personal training as part of a solid workout plan as it provides vital assistance for form, guidance, and encouragement.


Don't forget a cool down! Always remember that training should be progressive, and intensity or volume should only be increased gradually. Regarding exercise intensity and frequency, Peggy shares that she tries, "...to not overdo it as I don’t want a MS relapse."


So what about a healthy diet? Sometimes this topic can be bewildering. Don't worry, I'll have a separate article on healthy eating for MS that I will link to this article when it is ready. However, always remember to consult with your health care professional about what foods are safe for your own body!



Closing Words Of Wisdom from Peggy


So how can we all be more like Peggy? Approaching a new routine takes commitment and a strong decision to desire change. Peggy shares that the biggest issue she sees with new exercisers or those looking to improve their health is:


"Lack of commitment. Whether you feel like it or not, you must exercise. It’s so important."


When asking this incredible woman what words of wisdom she wishes to share to our readers, she emphasized that,


"Exercise is key. I can’t imagine my life without daily exercise."

Thank you, Peggy, for being living proof to inspire others towards a life of activity, commitment, healthy habits, and sunshine! ☀



Do YOU want to be featured, or nominate someone you know?


Are you 50 or older? Do you know someone 50 or older who you feel is a Superhero Senior? If you want a chance to have yourself or someone you love and admire featured for our next Superhero Senior monthly post, click the button below to be taken to our form! It's a simple questionnaire where you can share the story, and even include photos we can use for their article – if selected!



Only one person gets selected per month, so please do not be upset if you don't get chosen – we read all submissions, but choose by pulling from a hat, to keep decisions unbiased!


 

Interested in Changing Your Life?


If you are 45+, ready for a change in your life – whether you are looking to improve your health through diet and exercise, lose weight, get your balance and mobility back, feel stronger once again, or move freely, easily, and pain free, I offer online personal training & nutrition coaching, and other programs (Online Tai Chi is coming soon!)




The first step in getting started is to book a free 30 min call with me to chat about your goals, and share your health and training history!



You can also email me at info@myzeniverse.com


 


About the Author

Hi! I'm Emma Mattison. I'm a NASM certified personal trainer, nutrition coach, stretch & flexibility coach, pranayama breathwork guide, holistic nerd, and lover of birds & music! I specialize in functional fitness for older adults, and those with conditions such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. Scientific literature is fun to me, and my goal is to make it understandable and fun for you!


I am driven to share knowledge I find fascinating & transformative with my clients, and the world. Everyone has the power to take their health into their own hands!


My love for fitness and true discovery of health started with helping my best friend – who I can now call my husband! Today, I couldn't do any of this as smoothly and enjoyably as I do now without him! Check out our YouTube, MyZeniverse! He literally edits and films everything. He's editing the next YouTube video next to me right now, as we speak! Check it out, and give it a like if it's helpful! 😊😊


 





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