Mike Powers | News-Bulletin photo
Cathy Lee, of Los Lunas, was recognized nationally by SilverSneakers.
Fireball. Firecracker. Whirling dervish. Dynamo. Ball of energy.
Any of those descriptions, and probably a dozen others, could be used for silver-haired Cathy Lee of Los Lunas, who will turn 75 years old in December. Her rapid fire conversation and animated gestures will keep anyone on their toes.
As you watch her work out at Anytime Fitness in Los Lunas, with The Romantics’ “What I Like About You” blaring through the loudspeakers, determination, inspiration, concentration and, yes, perspiration, are words that also come to mind.
Her enthusiasm is no doubt a big reason why Lee was a Top 10 Member of the Year national finalist for SilverSneakers, the popular fitness program for seniors 65 plus.
“I’m an advocate for seniors in my choice of careers,” Lee said. “I like to promote the plus side of aging.”
Her choice of careers for three decades was director for a senior center in southern California. Shortly after Lee retired four years ago and moved to Valencia County, the pandemic hit and the lockdown set in. It was tough.
“Of course, I knew no one, and I’m used to being around 250, 300 people a day,” Lee said about her former job. “I would facilitate classes, core programs like meals, Meals on Wheels, and transportation.”
The nation-wide program helped keep her active during the lockdown with live and On-Demand SilverSneakers classes and videos. Lee would also walk outside with new friends to get through that period, but when life opened up again, she was among the first in the door at both Anytime Fitness and Inspire Fitness of Los Lunas.
“I said, ‘Oh my, I want to exercise with people.’ That was 14 months ago and I haven’t stopped since,” she said.
Melissa Jones, an instructor at Anytime Fitness, certainly noticed.
“Oh, my gosh. She is just so enthusiastic and happy to be here,” Jones said. “Happy to be able to move and do stuff. She gives her energy to everyone. She’s such a joy to have in class. She’s such a joy to be around.”
When Lee arrives for her workout, stand back.
“When I’m in this gym, I am not a quiet gym member. I like to be around people, so I become animated,” Lee explained. “It’s also what I did for a living, being around people for almost 30 years. I can’t hold my energy back when I’m near people because I’m not near people,” like she was before her retirement.
Mike Powers | News-Bulletin photo
Cathy Lee exercises regularly at Anytime Fitness in Los Lunas.
Lee’s schedule means classes twice a week for heavy-duty workouts Zumba and Pound. Zumba generally involves Latin-inspired dance and cardio exercises, and Pound has you “pounding” away on the floor with “Ripstix,” drumsticks designed specifically for the full-body workout. It requires coordination, syncopated rhythm, and perhaps, earplugs.
Also on the schedule once a week are spin classes and TRX — Total Resistance Exercise. All of this is part of her need to work out.
“I like it because it is all ages, high energy. There’s socialization. You are not home alone,” Lee noted.
And she’s not done. On the more mellow side are yoga sessions three-times weekly. Whew.
Her exuberance was evident from the first time Lee connected with Angela Hernandez, the owner of Inspire Fitness and Wellness.
“She believes in fitness for everyone,” Hernandez said. “She’s always telling everyone to get involved. ‘I go here, here and here. So come along,’” Hernandez recalled Lee saying.
When Lee sought out Hernandez as a personal trainer, she was encouraged to try a cycling class.
“Cathy was skeptical about cycling. She didn’t think she would like it,” Hernandez remembered. “But she loved it and is now doing double-time.”
Ultimately, it all leads to feeling better physically and mentally.
“Yes indeed. I get lower than a snake’s belly if I’m not out with people at least five times a week doing exercise,” Lee explained. “Sometimes it’s not easy. It is challenging, but you rise to the occasion when you are with people.”
The local branch of Anytime Fitness nominated Lee for the national SilverSneakers award, and while the top honor went to a Louisiana couple, Anytime Fitness instructor Jones believes there is no better example for staying healthy and active than Lee.
“She’s such a joy to be around. She pumps up everybody around her, ‘you can do this, you can do this.’ So I love having her in class.”
And Lee loves it, too.
“I worked until I was 70. Never thought that I would retire from what I did, but I did,” Lee detailed as she looked around the workout studio. “I moved to a new place. Landed here with, as you can see, a group of people who are going in to do what we do best. And that’s a blessing. It’s a blessing.”
SilverSneakers is a fitness and wellness program offered at no additional cost to seniors 65+ on eligible Medicare plans that helps you get active, get fit and connect with others.
The program is designed for all levels and abilities and provides access to online and in-person classes, over 15,000 fitness locations, and health and wellness discounts.
Mike Powers spent more than 40 years as a television news and sports anchor, mostly in the Albuquerque market. He has won numerous awards including New Mexico Sportscaster of the Year. He covers a wide range of sports, including the Valencia County prep scene.