Body & Fitness

These three Kiwi women prove being over 50 is no barrier to having killer abs

Fifty is the new 20, baby!

These impressive women know how to avoid the middle-age spread.

We talk to a professional nutritionist, a group fitness manager and a yoga teacher to find out the secret to having such an impressive physique at 50 plus.

In the words of one of the women, “Fifty is the new 20, baby!”

Tarren McCall, 59, professional nutritionist

Taunted for being a chubby child, Tarren now teaches mums about good eating habits for their kids.

For mum-of-four Tarren McCall, healthy eating and fitness weren’t things she was taught about as a child. Brought up in a single-parent household, cheap and easy food was the norm, which also meant poor nutrition.

“My mum was quite sickly all the time and we didn’t really have a lot of money, so the food was always filling types like cheese on toast,” says Tarren, an award-winning former body builder. “She’d keep all the crusts and bake them in the oven with marmite and peanut butter, or make things with white flour. I didn’t know anything about food or nutrition.”

As an overweight teen growing up in Auckland, Tarren put off PE and swimming classes at school in fear of being teased. “I comfort ate and got chubby and hated it.”

The toned gran was 16 when she went to the library to find books on health and nutrition. She learnt about calories and joined the gym, enjoying feeling her body transform.

“After I started having kids at 23, I did exercises from the lounge instead,” tells Tarren, who is married to off-roading champion Tony McCall, 57.

“I walked a lot – pushing a double stroller and a kid on my back!”

When The Terminator came out in the early ’80s, Tarren wanted to look like the strong female characters. “I liked their muscles and met a trainer who suggested I start competing in body building,” says Tarren. She went on to win national competitions and 14 world titles.

Now a successful nutrition professional, one of her biggest philosophies is breaking poor food cycles at home.

“It has to start in childhood,” insists Tarren. “With my children, I never talked about ‘fat’ or ‘skinny’ or mentioned diet. I always mentioned ‘healthy’.”

On being in her 50s:

“A lot of women in their 50s think because they’re going through menopause, everything will start going downhill for them. They seem to accept they should look frumpy and I like to motivate them and give them confidence.”

Susan Renata, 50, Group Fitness Manager

From the moment Susan Renata’s mother caught her swinging on the clothesline at six, her family knew she was destined to push her body to the limits. After years of gymnastics, she switched to group fitness in her teens, going on to study physical education and nutrition at the University of Otago.

“I grew very tall and most gymnasts are short so that they can turn,” tells Susan, mum to daughter Grace, 11. When she decided to join the New Zealand Police, the toned brunette went in with a goal of becoming a physical training instructor.

“But they told me I’d have to be a constable first and while I did the recruit training, I fell in love with being a cop,” recalls the West Aucklander.

By the time she ended her 10-year policing career, Susan was part of the homicide squad. “You had to stay fit so when the baddies ran away you could keep up!” she laughs. “I was still teaching group fitness classes on the side, which I loved.”

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The fitness fanatic’s passion led her into a booming career as an international master trainer with Les Mills. When the single mum turned 50 this year, she chose to look at the milestone as a “chance to reboot”.

Susan explains, “Fifty is the new 20, baby! As the years go on, I’ve sunk more into my body and the feeling of being OK with what it is.

“I feel more in tune with my body than I have my entire life.”

On staying fit and toned:

“I don’t do fad diets but moderation is key. No food is bad – it’s just how much of it you’re eating. I don’t have a sweet tooth but I have a wine tooth!”

Suzi Carson, 52, Yoga Teacher

Super-supple Suzi’s been bending the limits for 30 years!

Thirty years ago, Suzi Carson was on a beach in the Coromandel when a stranger approached her and suggested she try yoga. “I was 20 and back from London, where I’d worked in accounts,” says the Aucklander. “I was visiting family over summer and doing handstands on the sand when a yoga teacher came up to me.”

The mum of four boys attended her first Iyengar class in the town’s community hall. “It was so hard but I was hooked and I’ve done it ever since,” she explains. “My friends used to call me a hippie doing yoga, especially 30 years ago!”

She now owns a successful yoga studio in Ponsonby, which she started 23 years ago with two classes and a few mats. She trains other teachers, runs specialist pregnancy and post-pregnancy courses, and hosts an annual retreat in Bali.

“Yoga is strong, dynamic and fun,” says Suzi, whose husband Paul Groom, 57, works in real estate. “I enjoy moving my body in different, gymnastic ways and there’s a major strength component to it.”

The grandmother-of-one credits the ancient discipline for her defined abdominal muscles. “Our bodies are like a machine and our biomechanics need to be well-used and oiled, and moved in the right direction,” she tells.

“My mum started yoga at 62 and now at 73 she can kick up and headstand, do shoulder work and hang upside down on slings.”

Laughing, Suzi adds, “I’m doing the best I can, short of surgery or sticking things in my face. I don’t put toxins in my body, I’m strong and flexible, and I don’t carry a lot of weight. Yoga’s something you can do for the rest of your life.”

On embracing yoga:

“It’s important to start doing yoga before your body shows signs of wear and tear, like aching lower backs, necks and knees. Find a class that’s local because you’re more likely to go if it’s close by, even if it’s once a week. From there, you can do yoga from home free, so you don’t need to leave the house or kids. Yoga really should be a part of everyone’s lives!”

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