Last Friday morning the Edward A. Myerberg Center was all about Mary Shofer.
A day before Shofer’s 105th birthday, the fitness center regulars packed the workout area for a surprise birthday party. There were also family and friends and a variety of desserts and drinks. Countless photos were snapped. A reporter from a local news station even came to do an interview.
A landmark day indeed. But what was Shofer thinking the whole time?
She just wanted to start her workout.
After wading through the throngs of people who came to wish her well — stopping to greet, hug and kiss each one — Shofer finally made it into the gym. She then climbed onto the recumbent bicycle — dubbed by many as her throne — and began pedaling away.
A fixture at the Myerberg for the last six-plus years, Shofer feels as comfortable on that bike as she does in her own home. Coming to the gym is a routine she has embraced. Now, she can’t imagine life without it.
“I love it,” Shofer said of working out. “I look forward to it constantly, and I feel badly when I can’t make it.”
Shofer’s passion for the gym originated out of necessity. In October 2006, at the age of 98, she broke her hip. After successful surgery and several physical therapy sessions, she was told by her doctors that she needed a means to continue improving her strength and balance. She could
either continue physical therapy or start working out a gym.
“She came reluctantly but fell in love with it. The rest is history. This is very much a part of her life,” said daughter Irene Merenbloom, who added that in addition to its health benefits, the gym provides an environment that stimulates social interaction.
Frequenting the gym four to five times per week, her regular routine consists of about 45 minutes on the bike. She’ll then use a variety of the center’s strength machines, including chest press, lateral pull down and leg press.
Nicole Barr took over as the Myerberg’s health and fitness director last November. She was immediately taken by Shofer’s commitment.
Barr marveled that Shofer is not just physically strong, but mentally tough, too. She said that despite a couple falls here and there, Shofer “gets right back up and comes in here.”
“I can only assume she has been doing this for a while because she just has this mentality about her,” Barr said.
Barr is partly correct. While Shofer only developed into a gym-goer after her hip surgery, she has always been active.
Shofer said that she picked up walking as a regular activity after graduating from high school. In her (much) younger days, she would walk to and from her home in Upper Park Heights to her bookkeeping job just south of North Avenue. Now, her cardio is of the stationary variety, but she enjoys it just as much.
Meanwhile, many of the center’s other members simply enjoy watching her.
“The fact that she can get in here at that age and work out on every piece of equipment — I’m lucky if I can work out on three,” said Anita Glick, 81. “She’s a lot of people’s inspiration.”
Shofer humbly shrugs off the notion that her aptitude at 105 encourages others to follow in her footsteps, reasoning that there are plenty of other Myerberg members who defy their age.
However, the numbers don’t lie. Just six minutes into her workout, Shofer’s spirited pedaling had already earned her more than a mile of biking.
“I know it’s good for my health. Maybe it will extend my life a bit,” she said.
Uh, hasn’t it already?
Said Shofer, “Absolutely.”
David Snyder is a JT staff reporter — firstname.lastname@example.org