Winnipeg senior has 96 reasons to work out with personal trainer

Winnie Clements, 96, says working out twice a week with a personal trainer has improved her life, and her daughter, 74, says the shared workouts have got them even closer.

Winnipeg senior works out to stay strong and fit

Winnie Clements, 96, pumps iron with her trainer at Valentine's Gym. (Chris Stanton/CBC)

Twice a week, Winnie Clements, 96, gets wheeled through the doors of Valentine's gym on Portage Avenue to work out with her personal trainer.

It all started about a month ago when her daughter, 74-year-old Patricia Clements, decided to lose some weight and get back in shape after a family death hit the two hard. Mother and daughter live together, and wherever Patricia goes, Winnie is sure to follow. 

"It is pretty amazing, but my mother is an amazing woman," Patricia said. "She is a fighter. She has always been energetic. She says she does her best. She always tries. I just take it as a normal thing for my mother. That's the woman she is."

The pair were already exercising and taking classes in the block where they were living, but Patricia says it wasn't challenging enough. She knew she and her mom, a farm girl who worked hard on a farm in Nova Scotia long ago, needed more. Valentine's gym caught her eye when she was taking her mom to an appointment in the same strip mall. She says she felt led to walk through the door.

Winnie decided she would give it a go, too. 

Growing up on a farm in Nova Scotia, Winnie is used to hard work. (Chris Stanton/CBC)

'Amazed at her strength'

It was a first for gym owner and trainer Valentine Payne. Never in his 52 years of body-building and 40 years as a trainer has he ever seen someone so senior come through the door of any gym wanting to pump iron.

Trainer Valentine Payne works with Winnie on building upper body strength. (Marianne Klowak)

"I was kind of cautious at first, well, because she is so fragile. But I was amazed at her strength in the beginning because she has never worked out before," Payne said.

Payne has a routine with Winnie: pulling weights, pushing weight, as well as exercises to strengthen her legs and core. Winnie admits it isn't easy .

"It's something I have to do because it helps Patsy. It gives me strength. Walking is easier. I am eating better. I like chicken," said Winnie. And because she needs to put on weight instead of lose it, she likes being able to eat as much chicken as she wants. 

It gives me strength. Walking is easier. I am eating better.- Winnie Clements, 96, on benefits of gym workouts.

Her dry wit makes others in the gym laugh. Asked whether she likes working out, she replied: " No, I don't think it's fun, ha, ha."

See the Types of Exercises Winnie Does in Her Workout

Winnie and Valentine workout 0:39

Patricia is thrilled to see her mother's appetite improve.

"She has always been a good eater, but I see an increase in her appetite, which really excites me because I want her to put more weight on as well as her strength. And I notice a difference in her sleeping. She is sleeping better and she is a bit calmer. She enjoys the outings and I enjoy taking her," Patricia said. 

Like mother, like daughter, says Payne.

Patricia started running on the treadmill for 15 minutes. She was able to do that after three weeks. Payne says he knows the two are serious about getting in shape and being the best they can be. 

Patricia hopes to run competitively in the future. (Chris Stanton/CBC)

"As a trainer, for me that's the ultimate. It doesn't get any better. Even though I have trained a lot of people for competitions who went on to be champions, these are the two biggest champions every. They are even bigger than me!" Payne laughed. 

Payne says Winnie's spunk and drive reminds him of his own mother, who is also 96. 

"It's like looking at my mom who is alive today and healthy. The goal is to get Winnie walking and put on more weight. She is changing her diet to eat more of the right foods. We are working on her core and legs so she can stand straight and get walking," Payne said.

In for the long haul

And this isn't a momentary flash, according to Patricia. The mother daughter team are in it for the long haul. Patricia has been reading about mature athletes and the amazing accomplishments they achieve later in life. A former runner and jumper, she says she feels her competitive spirit welling up. 

"I want to compete when I am ready. Why not? I am slowly getting myself ready. I want to compete in long-distance running," Patricia said.

She enjoys the outings and I enjoy taking her.- Patricia Clements, 74, on exercise outings with her mom Winnie, 96 

She believes coming to the gym is a way to honour her parents, strong and hard-working people who were always active. Working toward her goal is continuing a legacy of charting new territory and challenging herself as her father did when he moved out West as a train porter to support his family and start a new life.

Patricia says being fit is giving her the energy to care for her mom on a daily basis. And she says the benefits of their time together at the gym has brought them even closer.

Working out together has brought Winnie and Patricia even closer. (Chris Stanton/CBC)

"It always amazes me that my mother will try. She knows what she is capable of. It brings us closer as she is getting stronger. I am feeling better about my ability to take care of her. And I see how she is responding to this. It makes me feel good."

As for Winnie, she jokes about why she is here.

"I have no where else to go!" she chuckles. 

About the Author

Marianne Klowak

Reporter

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Marianne has always had a passion for seeking the truth. She began her career anchoring and reporting at CKX Brandon. From there she worked in both TV news and current affairs at CBC Saskatoon. For the past 25 years Marianne has worked in Winnipeg, both in radio and television. She was formerly a teacher in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.