Encore careers are perfect opportunities for boomers to combine what matters to them with what works for their business, and fulfills their ideal lifestyle. Exercise studio owner Leigh Hometh found both personal and professional transformation through her career reinvention that has provided more meaning and purpose in her life.
Leigh has worn a number of hats in her career. A graphic artist who segued into a career in the publishing business, she reinvented herself as a real-estate developer, buying, renovating and flipping older homes in the Boston area. Leigh was motivated by aesthetics as much as she was by business: she hated to see stately older homes get demolished to make way for formless, cheap new suburban dwellings. When the housing bubble burst, however, demand slowed, financing became more problematic, and personal issues — a health challenge for her mother, plus her own divorce — were taking their toll.
To lose the 50 pounds that she had gained from all the stress, Leigh joined a local workout studio, Get In Shape For Women — a franchise boutique fitness program that offered a unique personalized approach to exercise and nutrition. Motivated to succeed, Leigh dropped the weight and was in the midst of developing business plans for a couple of entrepreneurial ventures when it struck her that the business she should own was the business where she was already a customer.
She asked herself: “What, at 55, can I do where I can give back? I felt at this point that I wanted to give back in some way. If I could improve teens’ lives, if I could help women … anything with the elderly. I didn’t know what it was going to be, as long as I could feel at this point that I was giving back.”
In 2011, at age 55, Leigh opened up two Get In Shape For Women studios in her home town of Brookline, MA. The move has been a big win-win. Opening a franchise has given her the support she needed to start a fully operational business in a short amount of time, and taken care of a lot of the infrastructure issues that might have otherwise distracted her from providing the kind of personalized service she wanted to give to her clients — inspiring them based on her own healthy transformation..
Working largely with professional women over 40 — and many of them over 50 — Leigh has learned a lot by working closely with her clients. Here are her three top tips for boomer women seeking to recapture their vitality:
Log your meals. Accountability is key to eating healthy and changing bad habits. Logging activities is a helpful tracking tool in all transformation programs, and the same is true for diet and weight loss. By charting and visualizing our habit patterns, we create increased awareness of our behavior, which then allows us to make more informed and supportive decisions. As Leigh says, if we’re aware of, say, how much protein we’re actually eating during the day, we can build success by sticking with our program.
Embrace your craving, but don’t give in to it. Leigh works with women to explore the foods they crave — the sweets, the salty snacks, whatever they are — as a way of both accepting them and defusing their importance. Try taking a small bite of a food you crave. Savor it, roll it around in your mouth, really really enjoy it. But stop there. Extend the pleasure and the satisfaction of that one bite into the amount of time it would have taken you to over-indulge yourself. Remember the aroma, the feel, and imagine it in your mouth long after it’s gone. In essence, you can keep the feeling of the craving with you for however long you need it. Decoupling the sense memory from the need to actually consume is an important step in eliminating the craving altogether, and building the confidence necessary to stay healthy. Leigh’s advice: “Before you go and eat that, close your eyes and really envision that you’re having it. I’m trying to get [my clients] to understand food, and the power that food has over you.”
Keep moving. No surprise, here, but there is more and more research indicating that confining our physical activity to defined workout sessions is not the only thing we can do to instill lasting health benefits. We have to keep moving throughout the day. Leigh encourages her clients in a number of ways: park far away from their actual destinations, take the stairs whenever possible, and look for any way they can avoid spending sedentary time during the day. Constant activity helps maintain a higher metabolism, which Leigh highlights as a significant issue for women as they age. Her theory is that at least 50 percent of the women that she sees in her studio have suffered from low metabolic rates for years if not decades.
While Leigh strikes me as someone who has always been driven by success, her new business has become a real mission: “Every day I’m happy to be there. Every day I’m seeing transformations happening.”
She also seems to be evolving into something of a mentor, a development that has surprised her, but one that she did acknowledge in our conversation. “Several women, now that I think about it, have come in to ask me questions. They know I’m an entrepreneur and they know my background … older women who want to get into a business. So, certainly, anyone who wants to ask me questions? I’ll open my door!”