One would logically assume that Ageless/Timeless Athletes have
trained their entire lives to be able to defy Father Time and the aging process. But that is not always true, and Joan Pagano is proof that it is never too late to get in shape and excel. Joan grew up knowing she possessed exceptional physical prowess. She could outrun the boys in her elementary school and participated in a wide range of activities including: horseback riding, tennis, swimming, yoga, and ice skating. Her athletic endeavors were a prominent part of her life during high school and Connecticut College, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa, cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree.
After graduation in 1968, Pagano moved to New York City and engaged in two separate careers in the fashion industry and restaurant management, neither of which included exercise. Had she been born during the fitness boom, Pagano may have elected to pursue a career and education that embraced her natural athleticism. As Pagano explains, "When I graduated from college in 1968 it was like the Dark Ages for women in sports. Female athletes were stigmatized as being masculine, and there were no professional avenues open to women in sports except to become a gym teacher. That's one reason I became sedentary after college – you just didn't brag about being a female jock!"
A sedentary high pressure lifestyle took its toll upon Pagano, and she began to feel negative effects, both physically and mentally. In essence, she had left the physical domain behind in college and did not engage in that realm during her twenties and mid-thirties. She may never have recaptured her lost passion and innate capabilities had it not been for her friend and business partner, who insisted that yoga would greatly benefit her greatly. With much prodding and perseverance, Joan was finally convinced to attend a yoga class. To her surprise, she was able to perform the postures with far more ease than she ever expected. Moreover, the class was friendly and all participants were more interested in personal development as opposed to competition. Yoga was the catalyst, leading to Pagano's fitness rebirth. Once she experienced the benefits of yoga, she expanded her exercise program to include weight training. Pagano reflected, " I became interested in strength training, figuring if Yoga could tone my muscles, then lifting weights would really sculpt them. I liked the idea of becoming stronger because it made me feel more independent and self-sufficient, like I could really take care of myself."
This reemergence not only paid off physically but also launched Pagano into a new career path, that of a personal trainer, fitness adviser, and author. Her honest approach to fitness was observed by Caroline Kennedy, while Pagano was instructing in a New York personal training fitness center. This led to Pagano becoming Caroline's in home personal trainer for more than five years. When asked why Caroline selected her to provide the training, Pagano responded,"She recognized something simpatico and saw that I was responsible. She had seen me in action and had time to observe me. She could trust me not to betray our relationship. Trust is vital, especially to a family with that level of public visibility." She also provided training to Caroline Kennedy's mother, the former First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Onassis became one of Pagano's role models due to the tenacity and style that she brought to everything she attempted, even during a time when she was feeling her age. She honored Pagano by giving her the nickname "Snake Hips." Humbly, Pagano did not disclose these notable figures as her clientele until recently. Caroline Kennedy approved disclosure based upon Pagano's request, in which she suggested that other women would be inspired by their dedication to fitness.
Pagano exhibits a spiritual approach to her career. She is not a one-dimensional trainer; instead, she looks for ways to help others by using her gifts. For example, she developed exercise guidelines to aid women undergoing breast cancer surgery. She became actively involved in SHARE, a self help organization to assist women with breast and ovarian cancer. Through workshops and blogs, for which she still writes monthly, Pagano keeps her readers informed of methods to enhance their functional fitness.
Pagano's personal exercise routine is a no nonsense approach. She walks to all of her client sessions logging 3-5 miles per day. She also engages in the yoga stretches that she incorporates when training her clients. She lifts weights three days per week and jogs 30-45 minutes, when she can. Having completed seven marathons, Pagano now pursues more moderate exercise in order to protect her joints. She loves to swim outdoors and to maintain a supple physique, she stretches after each workout. There is a meditative quality to her approach. No matter what the routine, she is very aware of breathing and the internal qualities of the movements. Ultimately, all these activities make her feel good and look younger than her years.
Joan's youthful style of dressing also maker her appear younger than her 1946 birth year would suggest. She feels fortunate that her high metabolism and dedication to fitness allow her to maintain a lean physique and wear jeans and tops that suggest an ageless quality. This is not to imply that Pagano is trying to run away from aging. She does not shy away from the senior citizen monicker and will accept the discount when offered. She affirms, " As a whole, we're in denial about aging and stigmatize it. We push 'anti-aging' strategies to defend against the aging process instead of embracing it with an attitude of aging well or 'pro-aging'".
Pagano is a strong proponent of strength training. She offers this advice to those seeking to maintain youth. "Strength training is the key to a healthy aging process. Of all lifestyle factors – including eating well, getting a good night's sleep and stress management – the most important one is exercise, specifically strength training. Strong people are more able-bodied – more vital, active, mobile and energetic." Her philosophy permeates the books that she has authored and exercise DVDs which include:
Strength Training for Women (2004)
Strength Training Deck (2006)
8 Weeks to a Younger Body (2007)
15 Minute Total Body Workout + DVD (2008)
15 Minute Abs + DVD (2009)
Home Workout + DVD (2010), contributing author
All titles published by DK Publishing.
She also recommends these basic bodyweight exercises to build a strong foundation:
She lauds classic exercises and basic nutrition. She eats everything in moderation, including some foods one might consider off-limits. She recommends sensible portions and a variety of locally grown foods prepared simply. She includes these supplements in her regimen: One-a-Day Women's 50+ Advantage multi-vitamin, 1000 mg. magnesium to prevent muscle cramps and constipation. She also includes EPA-DHA Omega-3s based upon her physician's recommendation.
Pagano is proud of the energy and dedication she puts forth in all her endeavors. She constantly challenges herself to achieve, improve, and use her talents to the fullest. Her goals are to continue to pursue good health and expand her athletic abilities to become proficient at tennis. She is grateful that her career allows her to express herself in so many ways, and feels fortunate to be able to inspire and guide others to become fit. As so many Ageless Athletes, she continues to look ahead at ways she can improve herself and help others in the process.