For nearly eight hours a day, Arlene Tiernan sews non-stop. She and her husband run Tiernan Athletic Co., a small Glendale manufacturer of athletic uniforms for baseball, basketball, football, track and soccer teams worldwide. Arlene specializes in sewing on players' names and numbers.
The work can be stressful, especially when orders back up, Arlene Tiernan noted recently. "Sometimes coaches call and say, 'Where are my uniforms? We have a game on Wednesday.' "
To offset the stress and the effects of her sedentary job--and to increase her strength and energy--Tiernan exercises at least eight hours a week.
Every weekday lunch hour, she walks around the neighborhood by their Glendale shop for about 20 minutes. Two times a week, she joins her daughter, Jerylie Gustin, in a "hard body" aerobic exercise class at Gary Schorzman's Aerobics Unlimited, a gym in the nearby Hollywood-Silverlake area. They use three-pound barbells in each hand while doing low-impact aerobic exercise.
And three days a week, in the late afternoon, Tiernan weight trains at the Los Angeles Women's Gym on Glendale Boulevard, a facility run by her daughter and a partner, Nancy Marie Aranda. "It's wonderful working out without men around," Tiernan said. "I don't feel like a little old lady getting in their way (on the weight-training circuit)."
A former runner, Tiernan has followed her current routine of walking, dancing and weight-training for the last four years. At 5 feet, 1 inch and 111 pounds, Tiernan is a size 7, who admits that weight control isn't a primary motivation for her workouts.
"I really think a person my age needs to do something to keep up her strength," she said recently while lifting free weights at her daughter's gym. "I think I have more energy (due to working out). Plus I enjoy it."
Tiernan also believes that exercise helps to keep her young--in body and mind. "A lot of people my age become sedentary," she said, "and I see them getting old."
Tiernan's belief in the youthful effects of exercise have sprung partly from her 91-year-old mother, Pearl Loy of Los Angeles, who has "never been inactive." Loy watched children, Tiernan said, until about age 85, and these days Tiernan leads Loy in regular exercise sessions. Every day after quitting work at 3 p.m., Tiernan stops by her mother's before her own workout. She helps Loy lift one-pound hand weights and do some calisthenics.
Tiernan's husband, Barney, an avid golfer and former semi-pro football player, doesn't join his wife in the workout sessions, but does offer encouragement and approval.
"I think it's good for her," he said recently. "I think she takes pride in herself and her body, and that means a lot. And I think it gives her a lot more energy."
Kidded Tiernan, who's been married for 44 years: "Barney was the athlete in the family for the first 40 years, and now I'm taking over."
Usually, she finishes working out by 6 or 6:30 p.m. Does Barney have a gourmet meal waiting for her at home? Guess again, she said with a laugh. "No, he lies on the couch until I get home and fix dinner," Tiernan said, not sounding like she minds.
Tiernan makes an effort to cook nutritionally balanced meals and to watch her diet for health reasons. "But I'm a 'sweetsaholic,' " she said, "so it's hard."
She does think her exercise routine and reasonably good dietary habits pay off in health benefits.
"The last time I was at the doctor, my blood pressure was 120 over 70," she said. And except for being a little sore after some weight-training sessions, she has no physical complaints.
Still, sometimes she is tempted to slough off, to go home and collapse after work instead of heading for the gym.
What keeps her going?
"I know if I miss too many times, I'll start getting weak . . . and I'll be sore (after working out the next time) . . . and that's no fun."
There's yet another reason Tiernan rarely misses her gym workouts.
"Jerylie will be here waiting for me," Tiernan said. "She's a ruthless trainer." Gustin denied the charge. "I just make her do an exercise one more time (when she's ready to quit)."
Tiernan doesn't plan to change her routine anytime in the near future, even though she noted that most participants at her aerobic-exercise class are younger than she is. "But they seem to accept me."
Gary Schorzman, the gym's owner, agreed and added: "Arlene's a good role model for other women and men in her age group. She brings in good energy."
Fitting in Fitness
ARLENE TIERNAN Age: 61
Regimen: Five walks, three weight-training sessions, two aerobic exercise classes a week.
Fitness motivation: "A person my age needs to do something to keep up her strength . . . plus I enjoy it."