That Wise Little Cricket Can Spur You On, Too

By Donna Glanzman

“When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are.  Anything your heart desires will come to you!”

That Jiminy Cricket—what a smart guy he was!  Notice he didn’t say that if you were under age 50 anything your heart desires will come to you.  He just said you should wish.

He forgot to mention that oftentimes a lot of hard work, commitment and planning goes into fulfilling our dreams, but that’s okay because the point is you should never stop dreaming and believing those dreams will come true.

This was the impetus for my crazy dream.  At the age of 50, I decided I wanted to compete in a beauty pageant complete with interviews, evening gowns and, yes, even the infamous bathing suit competition.  What make this all the more interesting is that the pageant I chose had two criteria for participating:  you had to be married—it was the Mrs. Ohio United States Pageant—and you had to be over 18.

Think about that.  I was 50 and could potentially be walking down the runway against an 18-year-old in a bathing suit!  I began to doubt my own belief that what I lacked in youthful skin I made up for in life experiences.

But I did not waiver in my dream.  I set forward on a plan that has been my lifestyle for the past four years.  First, I found a great trainer who helped me change the way I eat.  To be honest, I have always been a sweet freak.  I love sugar and chocolate and have worn it proudly for years on my hips, waist and a few other visible places, but those extra bulges would never do in a bathing suit under spotlights.

I have to admit that after the first few weeks of my new eating plan, I was craving anything I couldn’t have—especially chocolate.  My trainer recommended that once a week, I should take a binge day and have whatever I wanted.

“Think of it as a reward for your efforts,” he said, but then followed with “get right back on the routine” after this respite.

What are the results?  I dropped two dress sizes in 8 weeks.

My trainer also had me on what I described as a torturing workout regimen.  I kept reminding him I was over 50 and couldn’t do what his young athletes could. He ignored me and pressed on.  He knew I had discovered yoga the year I turned 50, and he knew I was an avid golfer with a handicap in the teens and that I had my sites set on becoming a good tennis player.  But his goal was to make me a “lean, mean pageant-winning machine,” so we worked hard those first six months.

I walked—not ran, because I was worried about the knees—for 2 to 3 miles either on the treadmill or outside six days a week.  I did, and still do, a pace of about 4 miles an hour.  We lifted weights to get the flab under the arms.  We did squats, lunges and straddle jumps with a bar that I hold in both hands horizontally and thrust toward the ceiling.  And then there were the memorable “ab” routines! You can try these at home or in your local gym, but be careful when lifting weights that they’re not too heavy.  Ask the trainer in the gym to advise you.

I found time to continue yoga because it compliments the workouts.  Yoga helps to stretch muscles and improve balance, but most importantly it helps to clear the mind and focus on yourself and your body.  It is wonderful for any body type and any age. 

The results of all this physical work were almost immediate.  I have watched my weight and exercised my whole life, but I have never seen such results so quickly.  Instead of scales, I just let the fit of my clothes reward my efforts.

Now working out is a routine for me.  If I am traveling, I find a treadmill.  When I am mentally fatigued, I do a few yoga moves.  And I still take a splurge day for my Graeter’s ice cream and pasta.

There is one more thing that I did to prepare myself—I focused on my mental and spiritual self.  I found 10 to 15 minutes every day to read the Bible or a motivational book.  Sometimes I sit looking out the window for an inspirational moment.  Maybe it’s a rainbow, a tiny ant lifting a twig, a mother bird feeding her babies, or my cat jumping at some invisible intruder.  These quiet moments renew us and remind us that there is a higher power in charge.

This quiet time also allowed me to focus on the volunteer work that I love to do; the impact I want to make on children in need and mental health.

So how have I done on my pageant dream?  I was first runner-up in my first pageant, Mrs. Ohio United States, to a 25-year-old.  The next year, I was first runner-up again—losing by two-tenths of a point—in that pageant and was second runner-up in the Mrs. Ohio America.  This past May I won the Ms. Ohio Senior pageant for any woman over 50 who is married, single, widowed, or divorced.

And the last weekend of September in Tampa, Fla., I was crowned the 2003 Mrs. All American, a national pageant for ladies over 35 and married five years or more.

It has been an exciting and rewarding journey.  What do you want to do?  What is your dream? Go for it, and you’ll feel so young and revitalized.

I truly believe that no one is ever too old to try something new, especially if you pray about it and work hard to achieve it.

Remember the end of Jiminy’s song?  “No request is too extreme.  When you wish upon a star your dreams come true!”

Reprinted from the January 2004 issue of Cincinnati Fifty Plus!