Grandma Julie Ford says she’s determined to look – and feel – as good in her 70s as she did in her 20s.
The 69-year-old does crunches in her bikini and loves to flaunt her toned body in crop tops, saying she refuses to ‘go invisible’ as she gets older.
And as a part-time physical education teacher, she urges other women her age to exercise.
Julie, who is the founder of walking resistance group, Instepp, wants to prove that you can still “look sexy” in old age.
Julie, who lives in Eastbourne with her husband, Jerry Armstrong, 67, says: ‘I did the ‘fabulous 50s’ and the ‘sexy 60s’ and now I’m planning to do the ‘super fit 70s’ .
“I always make sure I look sexy wearing things like frilly crop tops.
“I’ve spent my whole life showing off my body, not because I’m vain but because I feel good.”
From an early age, Julie has always been active.
She says: “I was never very academic at school, I always wanted to run outside.
“From around 11 years old, I knew I wanted to be a physical education teacher.”
But even outside of her teaching job, Julie has always enjoyed playing sports.
She says: “Outside of work, I taught Jane Fonda exercise classes in the 80s to adults, as well as playing hockey and netball, and running, cycling and walking.
“I still run, cycle and walk, but I had to give up netball and hockey a few years ago because I was busy on weekends.”
Having her son, Matthew Armstrong-Ford, 33, and daughter, Kristina Armstrong-Ford, 30, in her 30s haven’t dampened her love of fitness either.
She says: “I continued to work as a physical education teacher, but outside of school I took bodybuilding and dance classes.
“Children would join in or get coached to watch netball and hockey games.”
While Julie loved the “buzz” of exercise, she also found it gave her great body confidence.
“I worked hard to be fit and healthy, so I could look good,” she says.
“I was known as the village lady who rode my bike everywhere with barely any clothes on because I was only wearing shorts and a crop top.”
In September 2016, at the age of 63, Julie was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer, but it didn’t hold her back.
“It was a routine mammogram appointment and they spotted something and called me back,” she says.
“When they said it was stage two breast cancer, I couldn’t believe it because I felt so healthy.”
Undergoing a month of radiotherapy, Julie said she was lucky to “get through” her treatment.
She says: ‘It’s still hard to believe I ever had cancer because I felt so healthy throughout.
“I didn’t want to give up my job, so I scheduled my treatment around the fall semester so I could continue.”
While Julie got through her treatment relatively easily, her attitude towards exercise changed.
She said: “When I went back to the gym I just thought ‘I don’t want to be here’.
“Life is too short and I just wanted to be outside and make every day count.”
Swapping the gym for long country walks, Julie realized she wanted something more and started experimenting.
She said: “I wanted something to keep my upper body strong and toned.
“I tried to use weights, but by the end of the walk I looked like an orangutan because my arms were so tired from carrying the weights.”
“I dug around in the garage and found some rubber resistance tubes and an old wetsuit, and started trying to tie them to my shoes so I could hold them and create tension.
“I went through about 30 different designs over the year until I found the finished product.”
Impressed with her creation, designed to tone and strengthen the body by combining resistance and movement, Julie launched her versatile walking resistance bands in March 2018, named Instepp.
She said: “I was so excited to have done something so good – you can walk with the bands or ride with them anytime, anywhere, whoever you are.
“I’ve used them by the sea in Croatia, or by a cliff in Cornwall, or by a pool in Mexico.”
Julie said her walking resistance bands have kept her in great shape.
“They often say that once you hit 50 you become invisible, but I make sure I’m not,” she said.
“My friends jokingly tell me they hate me and ask me, ‘Why are you so handsome?
“I don’t know if I just got the chance to age well or if that’s what comes of being positive – but I think if you feel good, then you look good.”
As Julie’s 70th birthday approaches in February 2023, she plans to celebrate in style.
She says, “It’s weird to think I’ll be 70 because I don’t feel it at all.”
As well as being named a personal trainer for retirees by Inspired Villages, the UK’s latest living communities operator and developer, Julie is also looking forward to training the next generation of her family, after becoming a grandmother for the first time.
The mega-active grandmother said: “My granddaughter Freyja is only 13 months old at the moment so she’s not quite running around yet.
“But I can’t wait to be able to take her on a bike and for her to be able to walk or cycle with me.”
Visit instepp.co.uk for more information.
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