At 69, Madelon Bolling will make you rethink your fears about the aging process.
She is ridiculously sinewy, has a 240lb barbell deadlift (her goal is to lift double her body weight), and has the posture of a ballet dancer. She is the poster child for how you can safely get stronger at any age.
It’s hard to imagine Madelon five years ago, walking awkwardly thanks to a martial arts-inflicted knee injury, when she passed by the Kettlebility studio on her regular route home from work. At that point, just getting out of bed was a physical struggle, involving bracing and clambering. Madelon was reeling from the results of a bone scan showing she had low bone density (making her more prone to fractures or full-blown osteoporosis). Her doctors recommended medication. Madelon didn’t want to take that path, but knew she had to address the situation (and knew weight-bearing exercise could help.)
“I was in the depths of deterioration,” she says. “I was over the hill and discouraged and kind of losing it.”
She walked in Kettlebility’s door and started training with Kettlebility owner Andrea U-Shi Chang. Kettlebility meets each student/member/client where they are and works to restore healthy movement and build strength that is durable so that at 80 they can keep doing the things they love. Working with Madelon weekly, and gradually introducing her to Kettlebility’s group classes, within one year, Madelon’s bone density was equal to that of a young woman.
A principle called Wolff’s law (named for the 19th century German anatomist credited with uncovering it) states that bone in a healthy person will adapt to the loads under which it is placed. Think of it like supply and demand: Demand the body carry more load and the bone becomes stronger. Kettlebility harnesses that principle (especially effective for those with low bone density or arthritis) to safely and carefully load a person’s body. When students can find a range of movement without pain and discomfort, it can help lower inflammation, Andrea says.
“I’m fitter than I ever was,” Madelon says, even compared to the three-times-a-week martial arts regimen she followed throughout the ‘80s. “They (Kettlebility instructors) say strength has a greater purpose. It does for me.”
Kettlebility works to help students move better so they can get stronger and do the things they love to do at age 80. Some students may have lost mobility due to injury or not moving enough. Some never learned to move well and safely in the first place. Kettlebility tailors instruction to each student so that strength layers on top of healthy movement patterns.
Madelon’s training permeates her day-to-day life outside the studio. Today, she pops up out of bed. If something rolls under the table, no problem, she simply bends down and nabs it. (She says she could never squat before—now it’s a no-big-deal proposition.) Carrying groceries, carrying a ladder: “I don’t need to find someone else to help me.” She relishes the independence.
Madelon says her improved posture has helped her stamina while meditating (something she has practiced since 1968.) “I walk past the mirror at work in the bathroom and I see my head is straight up, not jutting forward like before.” Her colleagues note her strength: At a recent kayaking outing they insisted she take the power position and paddle at the back of the boat. Madelon never thought she’d dare wear sleeveless shirts to garden, or don shape-hugging Lycra workout wear. But she does today.
“I’m immensely proud and happy. And I’m just blown away by the possibility of getting better and doing more, even at my age,” Madelon says with a laugh. “The best part is, it all feels like play to me.”
Kettlebility: Own your movement, earn your strength.