Sitting upright on a yoga mat, Evelyn Piersall held up her right arm and flexed. Smiling from ear to ear, she pulled her shirtsleeve back and pointed to her bulging bicep — a sight that brings delight to her grandchildren, she said.
"This is pretty good for an old lady, yeah?"
Pretty good indeed. The 90-year-old has been frequenting Progressive Fitness in Sherwood nearly every weekday for the past 15 years. According to gym owner David Allen, she never misses a day unless the weather keeps her from driving up from Friendsview Retirement Community in Newberg.
"She is the most dedicated client we have, and she inspires everyone," Allen said. "Everyone else wants to keep going just like her. She inspires by her actions."
Watching Piersall's workout routine, it's hard not to feel an extra sense of motivation. She has been through three total hip replacements, yet moves around the gym with ease.
After a 30-minute, extensive warm-up she heads for the main workout area, where trainers wait to guide her through nearly an hour of exercises. Those workouts include chest presses with light dumbbells, squats while holding onto the sides of a machine and lateral slides with a resistance band around her ankles.
The routine can change depending on the day, but Piersall's dedication remains consistent. It has to be, she said, because this routine is an essential part of her life.
Piersall originally came to Progressive Fitness on the recommendation of a friend. She was dealing with hip problems in March 2004 and needed to strengthen those along with other muscles.
"I knew that I was going to have to have hip surgery, so David felt that I needed to build up some muscle before I had the surgery in order to recover better," Piersall said. "When I had my hip replaced, the doctor sent me home the next day. That's how much of a difference it made."
Her first experience at the gym wasn't a walk in the park, by any means. Over the years, she said, her fitness level has increased significantly, all thanks to Allen and other trainers at the gym who have built her up from her inexperienced beginnings. Those trainers affectionately call her "Ms. Evelyn."
"I really feel that God has gifted him with a special talent to help people," Piersall said of Allen. "I know it bothers him when he can't help people."
Outside of her work in the gym, Piersall – originally from Minnesota – is actively involved in the Friendsview community and 2nd Street Community Church. She founded the Shining Light Ministry at 2nd Street – a program that writes cards for people who are ill.
Piersall is certified to work with those in hospice care as well. When she arrived in Newberg in 2001, her husband was ill with Parkinson's and his situation inspired her to become certified as a nurse's assistant before getting her hospice certification as well.
For two-hour shifts during the night, Piersall and others will sit with those in hospice care and provide help through prayer or simply by their presence. She said being able to give families relief from stressful times is rewarding.
"Sometimes the family is just worn out," she said. "I know people who have sat night and day with their parents or friends. It can take a toll on a person."
Piersall's first husband died less than a year after she moved into Friendsview. Three years later she re-married and her second husband died a few years later due to a cancerous brain tumor.
Piersall has found a sense of community in the people she works with at her church and at Friendsview. Working out at Progressive Fitness added another community of friends and provides her a break from the daily routines in Newberg.
And then there's the health benefits, which have been immeasurable. But working out consistently has been more than just an opportunity to build muscles that she can show off to her grandkids – it's something to keep her going at the pace she's accustomed to, regardless of her age.
"I'm not taking any pain pills, I feel good and I have a lot of energy," Piersall said. "They look at 90 as the start of your last 10 years, but I plan to do this for as long as I can – maybe even longer."
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