A Woman Who Inspires

By Sheila Cluff / September 12, 2011

In one way or another, I have been working out all of my life. As a young figure skater, it was essential to practice for hours if I wanted to win a competition. Leg power, core power, and arm strength were extremely important. As I was a pair figure skater, I had to help my partner lift me over his head. The word fitness did not exist in the 1950’s—I stayed fit to perform, not for my health.

As a professional figure skater in my teens and a show girl on the ice at the Roxy Theater in New York, we were always putting on shows on the dance floor for the future as we skated four 45-minute shows a day. This was at least five hours of demanding physical movement per day.

Fast track to college where I stopped skating—and came to realize the relationship between movement and fat gain and depression. In six months I went from 95 pounds to 140 pounds on my 5-foot, 3-inch stature. Life was a disaster. What had changed? Workouts, or lack thereof! Right then, I took hold of my life, began skating again, and went to the gym. What an eye opener that was to me! To this day, I believe the weight gain experience changed my life.

After finishing my education, I began teaching junior high Physical Education at D. Ray Kennedy School in Ottawa, Canada. The girls hated PE, so in response, I developed a fun program that I called cardiovascular dance. The girls were working out to music, having fun, and staying fit, and so was I. My healthy body made a rapid recovery, and I was back in a size 4 and teaching fitness.

I have remained fit because I believe the quality of my life and my ability to do what I want when I want is directly tied to my fitness level. Today I lead six-mile walks and hikes four times a week, in addition to teaching five hours of fitness classes a week.

After a 45-year absence, I returned to competitive figure skating when I was 70 years old. I will be 74 in August of this year. I skate approximately eight hours a week, and I also spend approximately 30 minutes every second day lifting 10-pound weights and doing 200 push-ups, men’s style. Never could I be figure skating, ice dancing, or participate in synchronized ice skating if I was not in top physical condition.

Not only do I feel fantastic, but I compete in figure skating at the national level. From a strictly ego-boosting perspective, I know I look good in whatever I wear. There is nothing negative about working hard to look and feel great.

Competitive athletics is a great training ground for business. At a very early age, I developed the skill of time management, discipline, teamwork, and viewing failure only as a learning experience. I have used these skills to build The Oaks at Ojai, our internationally successful spa business.

Fitness is simply a way of life with me. When one gets to that point, it is not something you work into your life, but simply the way you live your life. One additional benefit is self-confidence. When you feel and look good, your mental capacity improves. A positive attitude is of great benefit to help one cope with life’s stresses and setbacks and to enjoy intimacy. The entire mind-body-spirit phenomenon kicks in.

Read More on Sheila Cluff’s Tips on Staying Fit!

Sheila Cluff
Sheila Cluff

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